Monday, November 14, 2011
Children's Sermons Today Begins!
Over twenty years ago, I wrote a series of books of children's sermons entitled A Time With Our Children: Stories for Use in Worship. published by the United Church Press. I have shared and listened to hundreds of children's sermons since that time, and the tenets I expressed in the Introductions then remain true to me today.
First, children's sermons must be for the children, and not used as entertainment for, or an additional chance to drive home a point to the adults in the congregation. This means using story-telling methods that relate to the age range of the children involved. It also means not setting children up to be embarrassed.
Second, providing a specific time with our children within the context of congregational worship does not let planners off the hook for the remainder of the service. Children should be considered and included in all aspects of worship. Further, children should be invited to share their gifts of leadership on a regular basis, and not just on Youth Sunday once a year.
Some church leaders have expressed concern regarding whether or not children's sermons are effective or appropriate in the context of worship. Some have said that at worst, they can even be harmful to our children's experience and understanding of God and the church. (See William Willimon's Blog, for example.)
I agree that children's sermons can be poor, as can any sermon. My preaching practicum teacher, Rev. Warren Lee, used to tell his students, "You can always preach your worst sermon." How true! Of course, who is to say that with proper preparation and an ear for the stirrings of the Spirit, that the next homily you deliver won't be a true reflection of God's Word to the people of God? Likewise, with proper preparation and God's grace-filled guidance, I believe children's sermons can be a useful tool to nurture the youngest among us in Christian faith and practice.
The purpose of this blog is to offer help to those blessed with the ministry of sharing A Time with Our Children, whether it be for one Sunday or on a regular basis. It will include children's sermons, tips and general ideas for children and worship. Use the stories as a starting point to develop your own ideas. Adapt them to your own congregation and the needs of the children of your church. Have fun! And please share your experiences in the comments section of this blog.
God bless you and the children you serve.