Children’s sermons

I do not like children’s sermons. I find them distracting, annoying, meaningless, and insulting to children and to the congregation in general.

The service is flowing in its usual way until the preacher interrupts the flow to invite all the children to come to the front of the church for a children’s sermon. Children leave their families, walk down the aisles of the church, and gather around the speaker. Sometimes the preacher speaks to the children; sometimes another member of the congregation gives the talk. Often the lesson ends with a prayer. Sometimes the children are invited to put their money into a special offering plate. Then they are dismissed to return to their families—or, worse, they are ushered out of the church to a special play space where they will stay for the rest of the service, or at least during the preacher’s regular sermon.

My first objection to this practice is that it informs the children that the rest of the service is not for them. Rather than learning the hymns and traditional prayers of the church as they mature, children are encouraged to think of the service as an hour of pointless noise with just five or ten minutes focused on them. No wonder that a lot of children stop going to church as soon as they are college students or have a place of their own. They never felt invited to take part in the entire service.

Along with this, I am troubled by the interruption for all the worshipers who are not children. Some adults enjoy children’s sermons. I’ve even heard some say that they get more out of the children’s sermon than they get out of the rest of the service. They should be embarrassed even to say such things out loud. The entire service with its hymns and prayers, its Bible readings and sermon, communicates to the minds and also to the hearts of everyone who is present. Even when the preacher has had a bad week and the sermon is below par, the rest of the service still conveys the chief message of the Church: God’s love and mercy and forgiveness for sinners. A good children’s sermon (if there is such a thing) will reinforce the same message, but as such it is unnecessary, since the message is already present throughout the service.

Imagine this trend carried to its logical conclusion. After the children, up to age twelve, have come forward for a five-minute message targeted at them, the teens are then invited to come forward for a teen sermon. Then, decade by decade, the congregation travels to the front of the church to hear a message meant especially for them. By the time the worshipers aged seventy and above have held their golden-age sermon, every member of the congregation has endured seven five-minute messages that they knew were not meant for their ears to hear.

Children’s sermons are cute, which is part of their problem. Entering the presence of God should be awe-inspiring, not cute. Moreover, the typical children’s sermon is an analogy based on one of the Bible readings for the day. In human development, the mind does not understand or accept such analogies readily until approximately the age of ten to twelve—the very age at which children stop coming forward to hear the children’s sermon.

Many adults will disagree with me on this topic, which does not bother me at all. I would like to survey the children of the congregation to learn how many of them really like coming forward in the middle of the service for a talk directed only at them. I would also like to ask some leaders of the congregation: how many children were members of the congregation when we started this practice of children’s sermons? How many children are members of the congregation today? How many of the children who were in church every week when we started the practice of children’s sermons are faithful members today? I think we will find that children’s sermons have failed in their goal to make children feel that they are part of the Church, the body of Christ. The time has come to reverse direction and to teach children that they are part of the Church from the beginning of the service to its conclusion. J.


15 thoughts on “Children’s sermons

  1. I appreciate the fact that neither my current congregation, nor the one I attended in college, had children’s sermons as such. As a child, I remember feeling embarrassed and singled-out having to go to the front of the church and knowing that the whole congregation was watching me and hoping I would say something “cute”. Rather than targeting kids like that, I think that adults can make church “child-friendly” just by encouraging kids to participate in the liturgy. I remember one particular baby whose family used to sit in the pew in front of me who absolutely loved church and took great joy in babbling along with the music of the liturgy. She wasn’t even old enough for children’s sermons, and yet she was old enough to be fully engaged in the entire service and to enjoy every moment of it. As a children’s librarian with some degree of background knowledge in childhood development, I know that the most effective and evidence-based ways of teaching children involve singing with them and following a predictable routine. (i.e. First comes our hello song, then we talk about the Letter of the Week, and then we read our first book. Or first comes the Opening hymn and then comes Confession and Absolution. Or first the pastor says “The Lord be with you”, and then the congregation says “And also with you.”) The liturgy is in fact inherently child-friendly and educational, even for babies and toddlers.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have a unique perspective on this subject. Interesting. I deplore the separation of ages in the churches. I can’t imagine what could have replaced the joyful, loving, outflowing of energy of the older people in the congregation during the time of my childhood and youth. But that was a while back – and that was a Pentecostal church – and those were preachers who were passionate – and those songs told me all the theology I needed to know – and grandma had a can of Red Hots as well as a warning pinch…and learning Bible trivia was a good thing…and being Christian was a life style… and it was a country church where about 70-80% of the kids growing up kept their church ties even after going to the city – even as I have done. Ah … replaced with noise. flashing lights, fake smoke, and one hour (58 min to be exact) of “worship” and bring your I-Pads, Pods whatever to follow along…. That is what is being fed to my offspring. God, please be merciful!

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  3. @Salvageable

    I got a good laugh out of this, but I am not certain of the best solution.

    When I became a Christian, the first church I attended had children’s sermons. I understand why pastors want to do it. They think they are imitating Jesus, and the children’s sermons could be amusing and a teaching moment for the entire congregation. Nevertheless, I never got the feeling the children understood that when they went to their little classes they were being prepared so they could stay for the entire service.

    I tried my hand at teaching children. Not my gift I learned. Takes a certain knack to explain to a child why God died on a cross for us. How do we explain to five-year old why Peter and the apostles almost joyfully accepted martyrdom? How do we explain to a child that Jesus told us the world would hate Christians without frightening them? How do we progress from milk to meat (Hebrews 5:12-14).

    At my current church, parents just take their children to their classes and skip the children’s sermon. That may for the best, but preparing a child for Jesus is no easy thing. Is what they do at Wally’s church better? Since the Bible makes parents most responsible, I suspect it is best that a child learn about Bible either from or with their parents, the people the love and trust the most. So my guess is that children should stay with their parents during the service, but they still need Bible study — as do adults.

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    • I liked that Tom. What i referenced was, in fact, just during the main worship service. For morning as well as evening service, and also Wednesday Bible study, we are broken out by age. We have a Sunday School class for just about any age. So, there they get to learn to their age. Works pretty good I think.

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      • I agree. I can see the difference in our kids classes. We have a good number of kids at the moment, and each age group has enough kids to actually have a class. When we don’t have many kids as in the past, then we have to combine ages and it’s not nearly as good of a learning environment for them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I most definitely agree that Bible teaching begins at home. When I was growing up, Sunday School for children focused on a Bible reading–usually a historical event from the Old Testament or the Gospels. Now it seems that the children only get snacks and craft projects and games in Sunday School–nothing about Noah or Abraham or Moses or David or even Jesus. That’s just flat-out wrong. The wrong is only compounded when the children are taken out of the service or invited to ignore most of it as “grown-up stuff.” Thank you for reading and commenting. J.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yep, yep. I’m with you on this one my friend. For the most part what you see with us is children, even very little ones simply sitting with their families in the regular worship service. For one thing, they start hearing the Gospel very early. They learn how to act like humans for another. And, our preacher says often that if they cry that is okay also, as the sound of an upset child represents the future of our church.

    Very nicely done I say.

    Liked by 3 people

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