Preaching to Kids
Often when we think of preaching, we imagine a congregation of adults sitting quietly listening to the minister’s sermon. However, children can and should experience sermon time as well. Because I am a children’s minister, most of the times I preach, it is to children. However, there are times when I have the opportunity to preach to our entire congregation. When that happens, the children are usually present, and they are very accustomed to hearing me speak. As most ministers do, I have been known to ask, what many would consider, a rhetorical question during the sermon. However, there is a sweet little boy that always yells out his answer! His excitement makes many people smile. Preaching to kids is different!
I love preaching to children because they receive the message with such honesty. When presented with the gospel, you do not have to convince children that they are a sinners. They know it. As adults, sometimes we try to justify our actions, our sin. Kids usually just nod when I tell them, “All have sinned…” They get it. They’ve told a lie. They’ve been disobedient or mean. But just as easily as they accept the fact that they have sinned, they also easily accept God’s forgiveness. Too often, as adults, we hold onto our justifications or guilt when Jesus just wants us to come to Him and deal with that sin and then more forward in His love. In fact, it was Jesus who told us that we should have faith like a child.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed the (Mark 10:13-16, NIV)
It is clear that Jesus loves and values children. He values their faith. As adults, it is our responsibility to train, teach, and yes, preach, to children to help them grow in their relationship with God. While preaching to children will look a little different than preaching to adults, never underestimate a child’s ability to understand a sermon and respond to God’s call. So how can we preach a sermon that children will understand and will impact their faith?
First, be authentic and real. If preaching about forgiveness, admit that it is hard for you to forgive sometimes. In age appropriate ways, be willing to tell children how God has helped you overcome a struggle in your own life. I love to tell children stories of times when God has moved in my life or in the lives of people I know. So many of our struggles span generations, and children need to know that the truths of the Bible will apply to them all the days of their lives, not just as children.
Next, always share a Bible truth, not just a Bible story. The stories of the Bible were written to teach us about God’s plan of redemption and how to live. It’s not enough for children to know the story of Noah and the Ark. Children need to recognize that it is possible to live holy in an unholy world, just as Noah did. If we want children to learn to be kind to their enemies or forgive others, we can preach using the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers, while focusing on the truth that God wants us to behave in that same way. By presenting a Bible truth, along with a Bible story, children begin to recognize that the Bible isn’t just a collection of fun stories. It also applies to their lives today.
During a sermon for children, be very clear about what you want to convey. Children have not yet developed the ability to think abstractly, so a sermon about Jesus being living water or the bread of life may not be the best choice. Instead, children can understand the idea that Jesus supplies our needs. When you add in the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000, as well as a time when God met a personal need for you, children will see God at work. However, in your excitement to preach and share with children, remember that they can only listen for a limited time, so be brief. This might not be a bad idea when preaching to adults as well!
Finally, give children an opportunity to respond to the message. Too often we preach to children without giving them an opportunity to act on what God is speaking to their hearts. How many times during a sermon have we felt God’s conviction or calling and needed to spend time in the altar praying? Our children need those moments as well. There are many ways you can give children the opportunity to respond—invite children to an altar to pray; allow them to draw their prayers on paper; play quiet music as they talk to God. Regardless of the method, help your children experience God in prayer. I was a young girl when I knelt at my chair in Sunday school and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins. That significant moment happened because my Sunday school teacher didn’’t just tell me the story of Jesus, she allowed me the opportunity to talk to Him.
The greatest part about preaching to children is when you realize that they really understand. Children will squirm with guilt because they recognize their sin. They will nod when they admit that they’re struggling with the topic that day. Most importantly, children will bow before God asking for His help. It is an honor and a privilege to play a small part in what God is doing in the lives of children.
Why does investing in the spiritual lives of children matter? The majority of people who accept Christ will do so between the ages of 4 and 14. By the age of 13, most individuals’ beliefs systems are set.  Let’s preach to children at a time when they are most open to hearing God’s Word and responding to its message.
by Melissa Minter, children’s pastor at Central Community Church, a Church of God of Prophecy congregation in Chatsworth, Georgia. Melissa is a member of the International Children’s Ministries Advisory Team.
 George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions (2003, repr., Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016), 35-39.