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.