Creating and Leading Children's Sermons
A Developmental Approach
by O. Suthern Sims, Jr.
Many people who present the children's sermon in the Sunday morning worship service struggle with using appropriate and significant homilies. Creating and Leading Children's Sermons contains relevant information on human growth and development theory and how such relates to the preparation of sermons and other religious discussions for children.
In an effort to learn more about the use of the children's sermon during morning worship services in mainline Protestant churches, a study was conducted during the 1997-1998 academic year. The primary purpose of this study was to investigate, by use of a survey, the extent to which the Episcopal, Presbyterian USA, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist denominations in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia use children's sermons in the Sunday morning worship service.
Following a section on preparing children's sermons according to developmental guidelines, sixty (60) model children's sermons and homilies are presented: forty (40) general topic sermons, thirteen (13) "church words" sermons, and seven (7) homilies for special days. With the possible exception of some data from research results, the material is presented in easy, reader-friendly language.
O. Suthern Sims, Jr., is Professor of Developmental and Educational Psychology in the School of Education, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.
Excerpt from Creating and Leading Children's Sermons: A Developmental Approach
by O. Suthern Sims, Jr.
As a preacher's kid growing up in the deep South, I spent a lot of time in church. In those formative years my father was my religious hero and the best preacher I ever heard. But, if I am honest, I have to confess that as a child, I really did not understand much he said from the pulpit. I did, however, gain a great deal by "just being there." The congregation affirmed me, and I knew I was loved and accepted by that community of believers. My faith foundation was constructed during those years. Out of this life experience I developed an empathy for children in church and a desire to make church meaningful and appropriate for them. This book is an attempt to satisfy that goal.
The children's sermon, an established time during the Sunday morning worship service devoted exclusively to children, is a practice that has grown and expanded into virtually every Christian denomination during the last 30 years. A special time for children during the Sunday worship hour takes many forms and involves different age groups depending upon the needs, purposes, and objectives of a particular church. Not everyone has endorsed the practice, however. Ferrol Sams writes.
I was reared in an era when children should be seen and not heard.
Nowhere was this more evident than on Sunday morning in church. It
has been a trifle difficult, therefore, for me to adjust to the interruptions
of ritual throughout our land called Children's Worship.
Unfortunately, too many persons responsible for making presentations in "children's church" know little about how children develop physically, cognitively, and socially. They also lack an understanding of the historical place of children in the culture and have an inflated confidence in the American culture's current acceptance of the value of children.
...For a few brief moments every Sunday morning the church can minister to children in a way that can significantly impact their growth and development. By choosing developmentally appropriate materials, words, stories, and illustrations, the children's sermon presenter can share with children God's love for them and, in return, the congregation's acceptance of them as the children of God and the children of that fellowship of believers. Presenters of children's sermons should emphasize love, joy, sharing, forgiveness, peace, hope, security, safety, and cooperation. If presented in the language, context, and experiences children understand, children's sermons will effectively teach these and other concepts and attitudes of the church.
The purpose of this book is threefold. The first section gives guidelines for preparing children's sermons that communicate with children of various ages based on their physical, cognitive, and social development. The second section provides 60 model sermons developed according to the principles discussed in the first section, emphasizing general topics, "church words," and special days--all of which lay a faith foundation. The third section furnishes child development information and theory, children's sermon research survey results, and references that give credence to the importance of using appropriately developed children's sermons in worship. The material discussed in the third section is applied in the first two sections of the book.
Chapter 1. Connecting with Children:
Chapter 2. Types of Sermons:
Chapter 3. Practical Considerations
A) Model Children's Sermons:
God Loves Everybody
Taking a Field Trip
A Boy and a Giant
Sleeping at the Wrong Time
Love Your Friends, and Love Yourself
Loving Your Enemies
Light for the Darkness
Another of God's Rules
What Pictures Tell Us
Making Good Use of a Pencil
Being a Friend
How Old Is Love?
Little Things Mean a Lot
How Do We Learn from God?
Butterflies Are Beautiful
Being a Good Friend
The Lost Sheep and the Good Shepherd
The Magic of Music
The Complaint Box
Who Is Your Neighbor?
What Is God Like?
Saying Thank You
Our Church Family
Trees in God's world
What are Band-Aids For?
Going Around in Circles
Living Like Jesus
What Do Mothers Do?
What Do Fathers Do?
All Work Can Be God's Work
A Special Baby
Contexts for Development
Faith Development Theories
Discussion and Summary