Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Children's Sermons

I have always been wary of children's sermons. At my old church, we had problems with a children's minister who managed to show an abhorrent level of insensitivity towards a pair of girls whose mother died young. Since that string of incidents, no church I've been a part of has had children's sermons. However, I had an interesting experience a few months ago that made me think.

While visiting a friend, I attended her church, a relatively small Methodist congregation. They have a children's sermon every Sunday and apparently everyone in the church absolutely loves delivering the children's sermon—there's a long waiting list just to be able to do it. The particular Sunday I was present, I listened to a late-middle-aged woman deliver a completely incoherent children's sermon that focused solely on the Canada goose.

Jesus was never mentioned. God played no part in her story. Even the environmental tack I think she was trying to take was weakly developed and unclear. Those kids probably walked away having no idea what was said.

But you know what? Any church in America should get down on its knees and thank God for a congregation like that, where the adults are literally lining up to be engaged with the children and youth of the church. The same can be said of a pastor who wants to be a tangible presence in the life of the children there and not just a "pontificating" figure in the pulpit.

Today I see many large, well-established churches suffer for want of youth volunteers and children's Sunday School teachers. If a children's sermon can discourage the sort of age-class silos that are shored up around the children and youth in our churches today, then I will happily listen to a children's sermon on geese if it shows that the adults are taking a genuine interest in the younger generation of believers.

3 comments:

Mike Boone said...

Really? You'd happily settle for any sort of pandering to children even if it isn't remotely based in the Christian faith? Really?

Mike Boone said...

What I mean to say is that showing a genuine interest in younger BELIEVERS is different from showing a genuine interest in younger PEOPLE. Lots of adults want to see children succeed and grow up happy, healthy and wise, but the Church has to be strong enough to remind even the most earnest adults that children don't need anything more than they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even geese.

Sarah said...

I agree. I'm not suggesting that the Canada goose is the paradigm for adult interaction with children. But if you have a church where the adults are genuinely interested in engaging with the kids, you can do things to educate the adults about, well, Christian education--the problem in this case isn't, I don't think, that they're interested in kids as kids and not as Christians, but that these people simply don't know how to think about and prepare any sort of spiritual instruction. I think this church in particular is an oddity because I get the impression that a lot of the members are people who came to Christ late in life or have had some sort of break with the church in the past. Anyway, you can have people who know how to put together a Sunday School lesson but have no interest in using it to reach out to the younger people in the church. It's hard to do formation when people won't be engaged in the first place.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Children's Sermons

I have always been wary of children's sermons. At my old church, we had problems with a children's minister who managed to show an abhorrent level of insensitivity towards a pair of girls whose mother died young. Since that string of incidents, no church I've been a part of has had children's sermons. However, I had an interesting experience a few months ago that made me think.

While visiting a friend, I attended her church, a relatively small Methodist congregation. They have a children's sermon every Sunday and apparently everyone in the church absolutely loves delivering the children's sermon—there's a long waiting list just to be able to do it. The particular Sunday I was present, I listened to a late-middle-aged woman deliver a completely incoherent children's sermon that focused solely on the Canada goose.

Jesus was never mentioned. God played no part in her story. Even the environmental tack I think she was trying to take was weakly developed and unclear. Those kids probably walked away having no idea what was said.

But you know what? Any church in America should get down on its knees and thank God for a congregation like that, where the adults are literally lining up to be engaged with the children and youth of the church. The same can be said of a pastor who wants to be a tangible presence in the life of the children there and not just a "pontificating" figure in the pulpit.

Today I see many large, well-established churches suffer for want of youth volunteers and children's Sunday School teachers. If a children's sermon can discourage the sort of age-class silos that are shored up around the children and youth in our churches today, then I will happily listen to a children's sermon on geese if it shows that the adults are taking a genuine interest in the younger generation of believers.

3 comments:

Mike Boone said...

Really? You'd happily settle for any sort of pandering to children even if it isn't remotely based in the Christian faith? Really?

Mike Boone said...

What I mean to say is that showing a genuine interest in younger BELIEVERS is different from showing a genuine interest in younger PEOPLE. Lots of adults want to see children succeed and grow up happy, healthy and wise, but the Church has to be strong enough to remind even the most earnest adults that children don't need anything more than they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even geese.

Sarah said...

I agree. I'm not suggesting that the Canada goose is the paradigm for adult interaction with children. But if you have a church where the adults are genuinely interested in engaging with the kids, you can do things to educate the adults about, well, Christian education--the problem in this case isn't, I don't think, that they're interested in kids as kids and not as Christians, but that these people simply don't know how to think about and prepare any sort of spiritual instruction. I think this church in particular is an oddity because I get the impression that a lot of the members are people who came to Christ late in life or have had some sort of break with the church in the past. Anyway, you can have people who know how to put together a Sunday School lesson but have no interest in using it to reach out to the younger people in the church. It's hard to do formation when people won't be engaged in the first place.

 

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