Book Review: Captivating Children’s Sermons by Beth Edington Hewitt
Written by Janene Lewers, Children's Ministry, Youthworks Training
What is the main challenge for those of us who minister to children?
I once asked this question of a children’s minister, and her answer was... coming up with new and interesting ways to present the Bible to children. If that is a challenge for you as well, then this book might be just what you are looking for.
'Captivating Children's Sermons' gives 50 very practical ideas for talks that can be used in a church service, and outlines the reasons why it is important to cater for children in the service.
When church was not for children
Beth Edington Hewitt has a MA in Christian Education and is a specialist in children’s ministry. She is a preacher’s daughter and has sat through many church services where she was meant to be seen and not heard. Church in her early years was an adult place. Today, church is much more child friendly and she points out that ‘we know a lot more today about how children grow and develop than we did 30 years ago’ and ‘society is full of child-sensitive environments and products’ (p19). Edington Hewitt suggests that ‘church needs to get with the times not just because society demands it but because Jesus modeled it’ (p20). Jesus said ‘Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’ (Mark 10:13-16).
Why are children's sermons important?
The first 50 pages of the book concentrate on the reasons why children’s sermons are important and the next 130 pages are given to 50 examples of children’s sermons.
The first chapter deals with a very important question - why is it important for children to be included in ‘Big Church’? Edington Hewitt says that ‘children bring a freshness of faith, an excitement about life, and a glimpse into the future that invigorates an entire church family. Children have an important place in the pew with adults. It is our responsibility to make them feel they belong’. (p24) Many young people leave church because they do not feel like they belong. Building a community of God’s people that is welcoming of all ages and engages with all ages may be a step towards young people staying in the church community and not drifting away from the Lord.
The next chapter helps us to see that when we include children’s sermons in our corporate worship we are getting two for one. The children’s sermon does not just speak to children it speaks to the adults as well. Edington Hewitt says that children’s sermons appeal to adults for 3 reasons:
1. They are easy to remember: 1 talk = 1 point in about 5 minutes
2. Children’s sermons reconnect adults with their own childhood
3. Children’s sermons model spiritual training for parents who are in the congregation.
Practical advice and sermon ideas
The next few chapters deal with how to come up with ideas for a talk and the preparation for the talk. Very practical advice for those entrusted with the opportunity to teach children in the church service.
I love Edington Hewitt’s desire that the preparation and delivery of children’s talks not just be another part of the ministry job but an opportunity to worship the Lord. She feels ‘responsible for teaching children God’s Word in a way that is pleasing to Him’. So ‘beyond all the colourful props, crazy costumes, and creative techniques, great children’s sermons are about glorifying God.’ (p52)
Part Two of the book is then broken up into Story-Driven, Concept-Driven, Prop-Driven, Event-Driven and Series-Driven Children’s sermons.
The Series-Driven sermons are for the lead up to Christmas and Easter and can be used over a number of weeks building up to the event.
The event driven sermons deal with events that come up throughout a year like going back to school, going to the doctor, losing your teeth, having a birthday and my favourite - ‘I-want-itis’, a talk that is directed to our consumer culture and the greed that we need to guard against.
There are a number of talks on the Bible in the concept driven section and the story driven section has 10 talks including a talk on Joseph and His Brothers on kindness even when others are unkind to us.
These talks will translate very easily into an Australian context as they are short and easy to remember with simple props and they are fun for children and adults alike.
A good resource I highly recommend ‘Captivating Children’s Sermons’.