There I sat, gazing at the children clustered around me. Of course, their eyes were locked on my hair. Several were giggling, and a few pointed. It was time to begin the children’s message. I leaned over to a child sitting beside me and commented (speaking in a loud whisper into the microphone), “Everybody down here seems to be staring at my hair!” The 3-year-old nodded her head solemnly, leaned close and whispered, “Yowah hayah is vewwy, vewwy wed, Miss Kaffy!” “Oh, dear, you noticed!” I replied in mock despair. “I am afraid I put a hair color on it last night, and look what happened.” Laughter followed. “What a mistake and one that will take weeks and weeks to correct!” Several young heads nodded in sympathy.
“Have you ever made a mistake?” I asked. Many of the children replied, “Yes!” We listened as two shared. I opened my Bible. “The Bible has lots to teach us about mistakes. Today, we are going to look at what God has to say about some brothers who made a very big mistake.” I turned to Genesis 37 and 42 and proceeded to tell the children the story of Joseph and his brothers.
After the story, I summarized these points:
Like Joseph and his brothers, we all make mistakes.
God will forgive us, if we ask Him.
We may still have to live through the problems we caused with our mistake.
We can ask God to help us, even with these problems.
I ended the children’s message with a brief prayer thanking God for teaching us, through this Bible story, about mistakes.
Sharing the children’s message is one of the most important things you will do as a children’s minister. You may feel challenged by the time constraints and even experience concerns about where to start. Here are a few suggestions to help you as you build your skills in preparing and delivering the children’s message.
Take time to ask God for direction and look and listen for His answers. Praying will make a difference in your children’s sermons. God can use everyday experiences to guide you as you prepare. One morning as I drove to church, I was running through the children’s message once more. The Bible concept was on sharing. At a stoplight, I looked up at the telephone wires and noticed a group of birds. Little did I know God was getting ready to teach me a lesson about sharing. As a bird would fly in to land on the wire, the other birds on either side would sidestep to the left or to the right to make room for the new arrival. I watched as the birds shared the wire space over and over. If God could program a bird’s small brain to remember to share, then there is no doubt He expects more from us. I took God’s idea with me and told the children about my experience. We even practiced scooting to the left and scooting to the right to make room for each other. The children loved it!
Watch the Time
Every detail in a worship service has to be carefully planned. This takes a sensitive and cooperative spirit on the part of all who share in the planning. Most children’s messages are five minutes or less. Time yourself as you practice so you make the very best use of your time with the children.
Have a Focus
Of course, I do not recommend you dye your hair red for a focus. It just so happened God showed me as soon as I caught sight of myself in the mirror that I was indeed going to get to wear my mistake to church the next day. Focus items may include small objects related to your topic, a Bible-teaching picture, a relevant cartoon, magnetic letters on a wipe board or other items that catch the children’s interest and help them connect their world to the Bible story. After you have gained focus, place the item behind you or under the Bible in your lap so the children are not distracted by it. This will help them make the transition to the Bible story and how it applies to their lives.
Be Age Appropriate
Choose a topic that is relevant to the preschool and school-age children in your group. Avoid big vocabulary words, unless you are using a word as your focus and you plan to define it with the children.
Do not talk down to the children. Children appreciate the respect you give them when you use your normal voice.
Check with Your Pastor
Find out the sermon topic and Scripture reading for the worship service. Avoid trying to summarize what the pastor will say before he has a chance to say it. Your message should be a separate story, relative to the children, related to the Bible-based theme of the worship service.
Fine-tune Your Presentation Skills
Practice in front of a mirror, and develop a relaxed, natural presentation style. Do not read your message to the children. This is a learning experience you are sharing. What a shame to miss it because you are unprepared and have your eyes locked on your notes instead of the children!
Never use the children’s message as a time to communicate something to the rest of the congregation. These five minutes are designated for children. Be sure to focus only on the children. Don’t be surprised, however, if adults come to you later and share how God spoke to them through your message.
Next Sunday it’s your turn. Don’t panic. Be thankful you do not have to use freshly dyed red hair as a focus. Try using the guidelines from this article. Seek God’s direction as you plan. Practice frequently as you time your message. Most of all, remember to give God the glory as you follow His guidance and present a memorable message to His children.
Use Let’s Worship magazine. Every issue contains children’s sermon suggestions and PDFs of corresponding reproducible children’s worship bulletins.
Check your LifeWay store for books on children’s messages.
Google “children’s sermons.” Of the 2 million listings, many are free.
Pray for God’s perfect guidance as you prepare. Be receptive to His answers.
Ask parents for their preferred teaching topics.
Seek out another minister as a mentor while you are learning.
Try this general outline for time management:
Focus: 1 minute or less
Bible: 3 minutes
Summary : 1 minute
Prayer: 30 seconds
Kathy Collins is the editor-in-chief of Bible Teaching for Kids: Kindergarten and is a member of First Baptist Church, Dickson, Tennessee.