George Burns once said, “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good opening and a good ending and to have the two as close together as possible.” Burns may have been thinking about children as well as adults. Until recently sermons for kids were not given much thought.
These days, many churches are looking for ways to create kid-friendly sermons, either in the congregation during regular services or in Sunday school sessions so that kids get a chance to practice for longer sermons later. These six tips will help if you want your sermons to be more appealing to children:
1. Quality over Quantity.
Always remember, when it comes to a sermon, measure its duration by the ancient proverb, “More is a bore, brief is a relief.” Here’s a lesser-known fact about attention spans: A kid’s age will generally determine the number of minutes he can listen before his mind starts to wander. A three-year-old will listen for three minutes. Adults themselves generally have a 22-minute attention span—that’s it! Performers consider the saying, “Always leave them wanting more,” as sacred as the Golden Rule when it comes to a presentation. Old as that statement may be, it’s still as powerful as ever.
2. Humor: Make ‘em laugh!
Remember that familiar quote, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” It’s interesting to see how a congregation relaxes when the minister injects something to make the congregation laugh at the opening of his sermon. Be it adults or children, you can read their body language while they laugh or sit back with a smile that says, “Okay, you got my attention, and I’m ready to listen to what you have to say.”
3. Don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel!
Humor, however, is a gift and an art form, and unless you have had a funny experience to share, go to the experts for a source. Fortunately, the Internet has an endless supply of humorous material from the sermon experts, and it’s yours for the taking. This is one case where stealing is not a sin. Those experts consider it a compliment to be copied and quoted, and that’s why their jokes are for sale in books and downloads.
4. Avoid sarcasm: Kids just don’t get it.
One pastor asked a third grader what she wanted to be when she grew up as part of the sermon introduction. When she said an astronaut, he replied quickly, “I guess that means you’ll be a spacey adult!” When the congregation laughed, she thought they didn’t approve of her dream and was embarrassed. Kids love a good pun (what do cows do on weekends? Go to the Moooooo-vies!). But they are literal in their thinking, don’t get irony, and will not understand if you say the opposite of what you mean. Keep it clever but not ironic or sarcastic!
5. Find opportunities to make the Bible real to them.
Children find it hard to take the events that happened to people centuries ago, who wore robes and sandals instead of jeans and athletic shoes, and make them meaningful in today’s world. Each and every event as well as every scripture applies to life now as well as to life then, and sermons can bring Bible heroes to life. Unless the children understand the lasting values and basic truths of the Bible, you have wasted your time.
6. Include them!
Kids listen better when they feel a part of things. Use sermons as a time to ask questions, take polls, and herald all answers from children. Some of the answers will be priceless (and if you don’t laugh the congregation will stop short of it). Minutes used involving children directly are minutes you can erase from the minute-per-year attention span statistics.
Making kids feel essential is an important part of worship. Schools are increasing their hours. They are also tightening up on the adults that are allowed on school property and the places therein that adults are allowed to go. One of the downsides is that kids’ exposure to adults is greatly diminished in this generation. Kids always learned to become adults by copying adults, admiring adults and listening to adults. Let the church be at the forefront in helping kids mature in Christ, and a great area is kid-friendly sermons!