To The Pastors Who Are About to Preach With Kids in the Room

Many of our “normal” modes of operation have greatly shifted over the past couple of months. Pastors have not received the credit they deserve for how incredibly flexible they have been. Almost overnight they had to transition from everything that was routine and completely revamp. Whether they previously had an online presence or not, all pastors had to figure out how to best minister to their congregation via screens. Pastors have had to lead their staffs virtually. They have had to figure out how congregational care happens in a season of social distancing. Pastors receive much credit for working extensively to still proclaim the Word of God in a time when it is most needed.

Now as we begin re-opening, another shift must occur. Nothing is going to be normal quickly. The majority of churches that I have talked to are beginning with worship and no kids’ ministry. I believe this is wise as the requirements for social distancing and safety are beyond what is feasible for kids’ ministry leaders and volunteers.

Jana Magruder, Director of Lifeway Kids, tweeted this:

Pastors, as you prepare (maybe for the first time) to welcome children of all ages into your services, remember the words of Spurgeon, ‘there should be part of every sermon and service that will suit the little ones. It is an error which permits us to forget this.’ No, this does not mean you have to have a “children’s sermon” portion, but it does mean you need to “speak as to be understood by a child!”

Pastors, let me join Jana in challenging you to think differently about your worship services which now include your entire congregation.

  1. Adding the kids is a blessing, not a burden. I know, I know. They will be noisy. Some will cry. Some will be distracting. It may seem like adding kids will take away from the “excellent experience” you strive for. But what if this is an opportunity to create a different kind of excellent? What if in this case the excellence is the beauty of every age group worshipping the same God? What if the excellence is a modern picture of the scene from Mark 10 when Jesus receives the children? I’m sure it was loud. I’m sure it was not “perfect”. But it pleased Jesus. I love this picture that helps me re-envision what that scene might have looked like.
  2. You aren’t preaching in spite of the kids. You are also preaching to the kids. My goal is not to increase the burden of the weight that I know you already feel when preparing sermons, but just to remind you that the kids in your congregation are growing disciples too. Our best plan is not to just give the kids some things to keep them busy so that they don’t distract the grown ups. Our best plan is to ask God provide messages that engage as many age groups as we can.
  3. Everyone has to adapt. You have to adapt the service for families. Families will also have to adapt to being together in the service. Make your service more family-friendly, but at the same time families will have to adapt to having their kids with them. You’re both making sacrifices. Cheer families on for being there and make it as easy on them as possible.
  4. You can get away with some things you maybe have wanted to try. You likely experienced this during this quarantine season. You’ve probably had more freedom in ministry because everything is so different. With kids in the room, you still have a lot of flexibility to be creative. What can you do differently that can engage kids, but also can add some new creative elements to your services?
  5. Choose songs the kids might know. Coordinate with your children’s ministry and identify songs that kids will know. You can also put out playlists each week for parents to help prepare their kids for worship.
  6. Keep sermons short. Your greatest challenge is going to be taking the awesome word that God has given you and keeping your words condensed. I know it is hard. Include illustrations that make your point clearly. Cut out anything that is “extra”. Anything that you can leave out and your point can still be made, do it.
  7. Don’t be boring. You will never engage every kid in the audience. (Most preachers don’t engage every adult either, but we won’t talk about that.) Think outside the box.
  8. Don’t sacrifice deep truth for entertainment. The flip side is that in an effort to be engaging, sermons become heavier on entertainment and light on truth. Kids can handle deep truth, but it just has to be shared in simpler ways. Kind of like most adults.
  9. Evaluate what this means for your church going forward. I believe you will find value in families worshipping together. I think you will also more deeply appreciate the availability of children’s ministry. What is the right balance for your church? How is God using this time to change and shape your congregation?

After twenty years in ministry, I honestly never envisioned a time where the majority of Sunday morning children’s ministry would be put on pause. I cannot wait to see what God does through this in both our churches and our families.

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