Sunday, February 12, 2017

The True Meaning of Love

The month of February is synonymous with love. Valentine Day is definitely a favorite holiday of children.  I remember the excitement I felt in my childhood as I addressed cards to all of my classmates.

As a child, Valentine Day was not so much about "love" as it was about "like." It was a time to give friends a card to let them know that I liked them and receive cards from friends to say that they like me too. And of course, I looked forward with great anticipation to those valentines that might come with a chocolate kiss or a heart-shaped lollipop attached.

As a teacher of children, Valentine Day provides us with a great opportunity to teach them about the true meaning of love - the love that we learn about in God's Word. Probably the best definition we find for love is found in the "love chapter" of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 tells us that “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.”

Of course, there are many other verses in Bible that teach us about love.  Here are a few:

  • Hebrews 13:1-2: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers.”
  • 1 John 3:11: ”For this is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another.”
  • John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  • 1 John 4:8: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
  • 1 John 3:16-18: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lie down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
  • John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

It is easy for children, and even adults, to love friends and those who show love and kindness to us. Jesus, however, went much further than that. Jesus taught us that we should love our enemies and those who persecute us.

  • Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

What a wonderful world it would be if we would practice the kind of love that Jesus taught us. The love of true children of the Heavenly Father!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The KISS Principle for Effective Children's Sermons

I am often asked for the secret to a successful children's sermon.  It really isn't a secret at all. We have all heard of the KISS principle — Keep It Simple S*****! No! No! I would never say that! Even small children know that the final word that most people use in the KISS principal is not a word that we should ever use in addressing one another. When I was teaching school, a child came to me one day and whispered, "David said the S word." Even to this child, the word S***** was not a nice word. So, here is my KISS principle: Keep It Short & Simple.

I have heard teachers deliver a great children's sermon only to spoil its effectiveness because they didn't know when to quit. I knew a pastor one time who was famous for his eighteen-minute sermons. When people asked him about it, he explained, "Few people ever hear anything you say after eighteen minutes."  If the adult attention span is eighteen minutes, how long do you think the attention span of a six-year-old is? My guess — about five minutes.

My usual format for a children's sermon is to begin with an object that can be used to illustrate the truth of the lesson. I like to use an object because it is a good way to get the children's attention right off the bat. It is best if it is an object that the children are familiar with because that helps to get the children actively engaged in the lesson.  After the introduction and a brief discussion of the object, the teacher should segue into the spiritual application of the lesson by saying something like, "You know that reminds me of something that Jesus said in our Bible lesson today."

A good example of this technique is a recent lesson called "A Recipe for Happiness." In the first part of the lesson we talk about what a recipe is and actually follow a recipe to create a tasty trail mix treat.  We then segue into the lesson by saying, "Did you know that Jesus gave us a recipe for living a happy life?" The application then is a lesson on the beatitudes.

Finally, it is important for the teacher to be on the child's level. The most common place for the children's sermon is on the chancel steps. If the children are seated on the steps, the teacher should be seated there as well. If you are in a classroom setting and the children are in chairs, the teacher should also be seated. It is also important to use vocabulary that is on the level of the children. We adults sometimes use theological terms that we use every day, but children don't understand.

Sermons for adults often fit into the mold "Three Points and a Poem." A really effective children's sermon should have one main point that you really want the children to take home with them. So, when you meet the children at the chancel steps, remember KISS. KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Change Is Coming in 2017

It seems I have just gotten used to writing 2016, and now, I have to change to 2017!  A friend asked me last week, "Do you know how many Baptists it takes to change a lightbulb?" The response was, "Change?"  It's true, some of us seem to be resistant to change of any kind.

Another joke I have heard is, "The seven last words of the (you fill in the blank) church was, "We've never done it that way before!" We may chuckle at such jokes, but the truth of the matter is that if we refuse to make needed changes, we will be left behind.

So, what changes do we at Sermons4Kids anticipate in 2017?  Well, the first change we will make, after changing the date on our Sermon of the Week to 2017, is a redesign of our website.  "Why?", you ask.  Technology is constantly changing. It has been brought to my attention that almost half of our users now access our website from a mobile device.  The problem is that our current site does not render well on mobile devices.  You can access the site on a mobile device, but a different design for tablets and mobile phones is needed for our site to be fully readable and functional.

The process to redesign our website to make it fully compatible with all types of devices has already begun.  I am telling you about this now so that you won't freak out the first time you click on a link to and see an unfamiliar face.  The same material will still be available, but it will have a little different layout.  Click Here for a sample of what you can expect to see when you visit our newly designed website.

Don't panic!  You will find the same content and the menus will work pretty much the same as they have in the past. The difference is, we hope you will find the site more friendly, easier to navigate, and definitely, more useable on your mobile device. If not, click the Contact Us button and let us know what we can do to help.

Finally, I wish you a Happy and successful New Year in Children's ministry.  I hope that our new website design will greatly enhance our role in assisting you in teaching children about Jesus and his love.