As a pastor I often get the question, “Do you have any advice for helping my kids to benefit from the sermon?”

This is a question that I really appreciate because it recognizes the importance of the preaching of the Word of God and our reception of it. It recognizes that even the children are to hear, and to best of their ability, understand what is being preached.

What follows are some things that I have done as a Dad and also as a pastor.

Parents before the Sermon

Read the Passage as a family before Sunday morning. This is easy and so very important. They hear the passage read by Dad or Mom and see your commitment to the Word of God. This goes further than you can imagine.

  • Ask and answer questions about the passage. As you read it ask questions that help them to see connections and other important features.
  • Highlight key themes.
  • Make particular notes about the context. A good study Bible is helpful here (my favorite).

Pray for the pastor and those who will gather in the morning. After reading take some time to pray for the pastor and the service. Beg God to showcase the beauty of Christ and strengthen people’s confidence in the Bible.

Ask the kids (especially the little one) to listen for one key point. If they can hear one thing and really get it then you are winning.

Pray before you leave the car. After driving to church take a brief moment to pray as a family. Pray that you would hear, heed and love God’s Word.

Parents during the Sermon

It is very important to not only train your kids to sit “still and quiet” but also to be attentive to the preaching of the Bible. As parents we don’t simply want well-behaved quiet kids but rather Bible-loving, gospel-saturated, promise-claiming, world-changing, kids. This starts with preaching.

  • Provide the kids with paper, pencil, and a Bible.
  • Restate important things during the sermon.
  • Point to verses in their Bible.
  • Smile –don’t just give them the stink-eye, it’s not a root-canal!
  • Be engaged yourself. You undo all of your work if you are nodding off, checking Facebook, or the scores of the game.

Parents after the Sermon

  • Look at their notes (or doodles).
  • Ask follow-up questions.
  • Help to make personal application.
  • Pray for gospel growth.

Pastors before the Sermon

  • Provide the sermon text a few days in advance. I know this is extra work, but I have found it to be very much worth it. We post the outline and text a few days before Sunday and encourage folks to read and prepare (here is an example).
  • Provide the sermon outline in advance. See above.
  • Highlight some “words for kids.” In one sermon you might note: “Holiness, Endure, Discipline” in another it may be “Grace, Sin, Faith.” You get the picture.
  • Pray for the children and young people in your church.

Pastors during the sermon

  • Remember that you are preaching to a wide variety of people, including young people. This helps in preparation and prayer.
  • Address them. Recently I tried to make a point that all of the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). I talked about how they were tied to his finger so to speak. I used the example of Curious George having all of the balloons on his finger and all of the promises, like balloons are connected to Christ. As he goes so go the promises. Adults may laugh but kids seemed to get it.
  • Try to make big points sticky. We can say things a lot of different ways. If you can put your point on something they already do (Legos, Elsa, sports, heroes, etc) then you are helping them to understand.

There are many other things you could do, but this is just a list of items that we have found helpful in our family and church. Perhaps you have others; feel free to list them in the comments so that others may benefit from them.

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18 thoughts on “Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon”

  1. Lawrence Mach says:

    I really like your approach. I have to admit I need to be a better example for my son and encourage him more during the service and before service – instead of just giving him the glare. I know he loves God but sometimes he is just fidgety during service.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      There you go Lawrence. Replace the glare with an encouraging look.

  2. Chuckt says:

    As a child, they had rules against children under 12 being in the service.

    The best thing that helped me in Sunday School was to read the chapter and then we had fifty five minutes left to think about it, read it and that was all we did.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      I’ve not encountered rules like that. Interesting.

      Reading it will definitely help. That is another aspect worthy of discussion; many churches do not read the Bible aloud (at least larger sections of it). This is commanded and very profitable.

    2. Lawrence M says:

      When I was younger the church I attended also dismissed children 12 and younger. I think we missed out on the importance of listening to the Word during service. My current church dismisses the kids from the main service and has a children’s service that encourages kids to ask questions. This is not Bible school because he still has a class after his service. You can never get enough of reading the Bible.

  3. Tim Stephens says:

    As a pastor and father of 5 young kids and with many other children in the service I’ve recently started making handouts that are age appropriate. These have a fun graphic and a number of questions (multiple choice, true/false, and personal applications). The children bring these to me after the service so I can commend them. Many adults also enjoy them too :)
    Here’s a sample for Jephthah

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Great stuff Tim. You are more creative than I am!

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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