008: The Children’s Talk
For as long as I’ve been going into church (all my life), there has been during the morning service, a children’s talk, sermon, address, message (whatever you want to call it). I’ve done hundreds of them over the years (training as a youth and children’s worker has helped with this).
The children’s talk is that 5 minute (plus or minus 2 minutes) slot in the service that is dedicated to communicating to children, often prior to them going off to Sunday school. They seem to have been a feature of services for over 100 years, both in the UK and USA. Alexander Macleod in 1880 suggested that “every morning service, for one ten minutes out of the ninety, let the minister be in direct contact with the souls of the children.” J.G. Merrill two years earlier had published a collection of five minute sermons to children. Henry B. Robins writing in 1918, “The children’s sermon is an established feature in many an order of service, the children under twelve being dismissed at its conclusion, with the hymn just preceding the regular morning sermon.”
For a time I stopped including them in the morning service at Banstead Community Church (they are not an essential element of worship), but now are more convinced of their value, as I have ever been.
Firstly, it is a way of communicating to children that they are an important part of church life, they are valuable to Jesus, and that they can know and understand God’s Word.
Secondly, it is not just for the children, it is for the whole church to learn together. Maybe the children’s talk is better described as the church family talk or all-age talk. I haven’t come up for a better name for it, yet.
Thirdly, with a number in the congregation at church being elderly and no longer able to focus (or in a few cases stay awake) for the whole 30 minute sermon, the children’s talk has become their sermon.
Fourthly, it can be used to teach topics that may not fit easily into the teaching programme of the church.
Finally, if they are decent, the adults generally will enjoy them and engage with them.
So, I think there are good reasons to include a clear and concise 5 minute slot, aimed at the children but for all the church, in the morning service. But what to do in them?
When writing a kids talk, I have two words in mind: Grab and Hit. I am to grab the children’s attention by asking for answers to questions or giving them something to look at; usually it is both. After this I look to hit them with the truth found in God’s Word, before closing with a short prayer.
Here are some ideas of subjects for kids talks that I’ve done over the years with outlines (more than 300 kids talks) that can easily be adapted to individual contexts.
- Overview of the Bible Story – I’ve done a series called The Big Bible Adventure (for a school assembly) which tells the story of the Bible in 104 talks.
- Summaries of each book of the Bible – I’ve done a series that does this called The Big Read which has 51 talks.
- Doctrinal Series – I’ve got two of these on the go Big Words that End in Shun! (11 talks) and Big Questions (22 talks) which is based on the New City Catechism.
- Discipleship Series – on the Apostle’s Creed, 10 Commandments, and Lord’s Prayer. So far I’ve done the Lord’s Prayer in 13 talks.
- Heroes of the Faith – biographical talks on famous figures from church history. My Superheroes of the Faith series has 16 talks in it at present.
- Hymn of the Month – using the children’s talk to explain the words of a well-known hymn. I’ve done 3 talks on Hymns so far.
- Special Occasions (Advent, Christmas, Easter, Harvest etc).
- Other ideas would be talks that either introduce what the children will be learning in Sunday school or which preview the passage that will be preached on.
(Photo: Julia Joppien)