Thanks for your note. Yes, I do often say things like
When you are done preparing your children’s sermon, look at what you have written.”
Actually I was wondering when you would notice. I’m not entirely surprised that you objected.
Why should I write out my children’s sermon?” you ask. “The kids are going to be bored to tears if I sit there and read it to them.”
I’ll set aside the point that children actually love to be read to. In fact you are right. The children’s sermon is not something to read to them.
But your children’s sermon will be much better if you write it out in full.
Why Prepare Your Children’s Sermon?
I could make the argument of simple equity or respect for the task. You’ve learned to do serious preparation for your sermon to grown-ups, whose world you know personally. How does presenting the faith to children, whose world is a deeply foreign territory, require less of you?
In your preaching class in seminary you were taught to write out your manuscript in full. You had to show your professor that you were doing good exegesis, framing it in sound theology, and speaking it with the heart of a pastor in words that communicated powerfully to real people.
On the one hand, if you didn’t have it in writing, the professor couldn’t mark it and grade it.
But on the other hand, writing it out clarified your thinking. Once you’d written it all out, even if you preached from note cards or from memory, you had good words waiting inside your head when you had to stand up in front of the congregation and preach.
But still, the children’s sermon? As you put it,
I count on my preparation of the main sermon to back me up. When it’s time for the children’s sermon I just sit down and chat with the kids. I suppose you could say I wing it — and I think most preachers do the same.”
And I suspect you are correct.
Here’s a little secret: That is one key reasons so many children’s sermons fail.
Success by what criteria?
Fail?” you say. “How can you say my children’s sermon failed when after the service people came up and said it was great?”
Well, the people who said it was great were grown ups. They don’t count.
Sure, if your children’s sermon has one straightforward point about your text some adults will say
You know, pastor, that children’t sermon was the one thing I actually understood.”
But it is the kids who are the measure of your success.
Of course kids never come up to thank you for your children’s sermon.
The question is whether the kids get your children’s sermon. That’s where lack of preparation takes its toll.
The challenge of communicating with children.
Most people are afraid of any public speaking. Maybe they’ve had the experience of trying to give a speech, or even just talking in class with everyone’s eyes on them, and getting all tongue tied.
Why prepare your children’s sermon? When you talk off the top of your head, those fears come back and anxiety goes up. Even if you don’t consciously feel anxious, your sentences start to ramble on.
If you are a grown up, you are used to listening to
- sentences that go in circles,
- or sentences that go on, and on, and on
- or sentences that stop halfway through a thought,
- or sentences that switch direction midstream.
When you are a kid you just lose the thread. You probably keep listening, maybe nodding amiably — you want to please the grown-up.
But if the kids lose the thread, because your sentences are long and convoluted, you aren’t really communicating the gospel.
I could say more about this, but that’s the main point: If you speak off the top of your head, the kids stand a very good chance of missing the point. Prepare instead.
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