Children’s Sermons

Russell Saltzman has an article up over at First Things where he examines the dreaded dreadful children’s sermon, pharm and how most of them are merely moralistic exhortations.

But object lessons are easy, view too easy. They are almost always “law, site ” an important distinction from “gospel” for a Lutheran guy like me. They end with exhortations to be better, do better, practice hard and study well and keep their rooms clean, and get along with other people. Take this one from a real children’s sermon: “And I want you to remember not to fight with one another, not to be ugly, and to do as God asks.” Tell you what. Tell the adults first. Maybe if they get the hang of it, it’ll have a better chance of filtering down.

So how does a pastor do a children’s sermon well? My favourite piece of advice from the article:

If a pastor isn’t good talking with kids, and some aren’t, don’t talk. Show them things in the church instead. These are the only objects fit for use. I invite children to come and watch every baptism and I’ll pick a kid to be my book stand. I explain what baptism is, what is happening and why, and show them how to make the sign of the cross so they can remember their baptism every morning and evening like Martin Luther said to do in his catechism.

Read the whole thing here.

  • At the church in which I grew up, we had “Stump the Pastor.” I’ve forgotten how frequent it was, but the idea was that a random kid got a box (with question marks painted on it) to take home. The kid was supposed to bring the box with some object inside it, and the pastor would gather the children at the front of the sanctuary, open the box, and improv a lesson from the object.

    Maybe this is what happens when you force pastors to think on their feet, but somehow the lesson almost always ended up being some variant of “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” Put a roll of duct tape in the box? “Duct tape is sticky, and our sins are sticky too, no matter what we do they don’t come off, which is why Jesus died on the cross for our sins, because he loves us very much.” Put a comic book in the box? “Superheroes can do amazing things. Jesus did amazing things too. He loves us so much that he died on the cross for our sins, and then rose three days later.” Put a tea-cosy in the box? “Tea cosies keep teapots warm. Our hearts need to be kept warm too. They can grow cold without the love of Jesus. You know how much Jesus loves us? He died on the cross for our sins.”

    • I think this is what I appreciate about the church we’re going to now. Instead of a children’s sermon, the children come forward, the pastor prays for them and send them on their way to Godly Play.

  • That guy does not know what he is talking when it comes to children’s sermons.

    He obviously has never seen me give one.

    • So how do you give children’s sermons?

      • Correction:

        How DID I give children’s sermons?

        Well, I actually used a variety of ways, I did it through story (narrative approach), and mixed it up sometimes with song or image, as well as object lesson and/or moral exhortation. Nothing wrong with “Law” otherwise you are just promoting cheap grace that does not require responsibility.

  • I taught a kid’s sunday school class ONCE (and never again). That was tough. I can’t imagine doing a children’s sermon.