My goodness, with the kids being out of school for summer the time gets swept away. Sorry to have not written for so long.
You are kind to ask if there are other criteria for making sure your children’s sermon is on track. I mentioned checking what you prepare to make sure it is theologically true, both in its assertions about the Bible and its assumptions about the gospel.
I only have a little time to write today before the kids are up, so I’ll tell you a story to illustrate another crucial question to ask about your children’s sermon: “Is it yours?”
Is It Yours?
I was in a worship service. The young preacher gave a children’s sermon that was primarily a story about her son. There was a set up that connected somehow to her biblical text. Then came the story, in which her little boy made an incredibly witty comment that brought her point home. We all laughed.
The very next Sunday I happened to be traveling. I attended another worship service, more than three hundred miles away. The much older preacher gave a children’s sermon. In this case the focus was on his son. There was a set up that connected to his biblical text. Then came the story, in which his little boy made this incredibly witty comment that brought his point home. Everybody laughed.
Well, not me, actually.
These two preachers told the exact same story, with the exact same gag line from the lips of the preacher’s own son.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I had no idea that they even knew each other. But apparently they had produced a child.
And a witty child to boot.
I kept their secret from the relevant spouses.
Don’t buy your sermons. Find them for yourself.
This, my friend, is one peril of preaching someone else’s sermon, whether you read it in a book or bought it on the internet. Someone might find you out.
Of course you probably won’t be found out. Will that make it okay?
Another risk is weightier: If you present it as your own, you are lying. You are using the Christian pulpit to intentionally lie.
This is a problem for followers of a guy who called himself “The Truth.”
If it were a paper in seminary you’d be failed for plagiarism.
More subtle but perhaps more important, if you preach someone else’s sermon you miss the opportunity to communicate the message of the gospel in a manner that is true to the gospel.
The biblical message is personal. You see in the Gospels that God came in person to deliver it. Churches have, ever since, called their pastors to deliver the message in person on Sunday morning — just as all the members are called to speak as true witnesses to Christ in their real relationships outside the Sunday service.
Don’t buy a sermon, or steal one from a book or website. Find one for yourself.
You will find it by digging in the biblical text and, in a different way, digging into the lives of the people of your congregation — old ones or young ones.
Once you find your own children’s sermon, speak it to them personally. Using a pre-fab children’s sermon means abdicating your responsibility to minister to children.
Have fun out there,
P.S. A colleague once told me about a very famous preacher who had published multiple books of sermons. In his travels he would, more often than you might guess, visit churches where preachers regaled him with a sermon that he himself had written. The source of the sermon was never acknowledged from the pulpit of course. Afterward, in the little line up at the door where he would shake hands with the pastor, introduce himself with a smile, and say, “I was blessed.”
P.P.S. Of course you should spend time reading sermons by other preachers, especially ones you greatly respect. That is how you, the preacher, can find a way to hear the Word of God in a sermon, when so many will be coming from your own mouth. Also it’s like an amateur golfer watching the U.S. Open. You can learn a lot from watching someone with greater skill.
These “Letters to a Young Pastor” are an ongoing Thursday series. I’d love to send each one to you, along with my other new articles and announcements. Scroll down to the black box with the orange button and sign up for my weekly(ish) newsletter and you’ll never miss an entry.