by Brent Colby/ December 10, 2015
I made cookies one time and it was a disaster. Everything had been laid out in advance: I downloaded the perfect recipe, gathered the right ingredients, and found all of the kitchen utensils. I mixed and stirred and scooped and baked until the cookies were done. I took a bite and – yuck! What is this? The cookies were disgusting. Where did I go wrong? I had been meticulous… mostly. What is the difference between baking soda and powder? Who needs 10 minutes at 350 when you have 7 minutes at 400? And what dessert item isn’t better with peanut butter? I had the big picture in focus, but a few small details ruined my entire project.
We can do the same thing when we preach to kids. Overlooking “minor” elements of your message can reduce your effectiveness to zero. It doesn’t matter how well intended or passionate you may be: effective communication is intentional, and you must master the basics before adding extra peanut butter to your messages.
Let’s look at the three most common roadblocks children’s ministry leaders experience when preaching to kids.
Our first roadblock is focus. Unfocused messages bring about unfocused results. It helps to have a simple and clear goal in mind before preaching to kids. This is often referred to as the big idea, and you must master how to bring it into focus. Leave your twelve-point sermons in the dust. Pick a point and stick with it. You are familiar with the different learning styles of children. Try to communicate that single idea in a way that speaks to every kind of learner in your ministry. You may ask, but won’t that be repetitive? Yes, it will, and that is a good thing. Repetition is one of the keys to learning. Stay on point and quit chasing rabbits; it’s not cute. Stay focused when speaking to children. Extra stories, or “rabbit trails,” are for amateur hour, and your kids deserve better. Tell random stories later. When it’s time to say something important about God, say something important about God.
Our second roadblock is timing. Your message can be excellent when you become completely focused on a single idea about God. You will also find that you don’t need a lot of time to get your point across. I believe that there is a direct relationship between the length of a sermon and the level of preparedness of the speaker. If you know your stuff, then you can say it quickly. It’s when you have a “fuzzy” grasp on the material that you need all morning to get your point across. Communicate in 5-10 minute chunks. Say one thing and then move on. You can move on to say something in another way or just be done. If you can’t get an idea across within that window, then you need to do some more work.
Our third roadblock is engagement. This generation, more than any other, needs to interact with information. Gone are the days of sitting and listening. Here are the days of participation and influence. Make sure that your message contains elements where the kids can engage with you and with your ideas. Bring up volunteers, ask questions, spend time discussing with a neighbor. All of these things help kids own the material that you are trying to share.
Get focused, nail down your timing, and engage the kids in your church. These three disciplines will help you avoid preaching roadblocks in your children’s ministry. Each of these small details matter. And no matter how good of an idea it may seem to spread an extra layer of peanut butter on everything: resist.
Good. Now I am hungry for cookies.