I am very familiar with this feeling. Looking at the roster then the feeling of dread coming over me. What? I’m on children’s talk this week? What am I going to say? What am I going to do? Where did I put the balloons?
Writing kids talks is always a daunting, primarily because of the audience. You don’t have to wait til after the service to get feedback, they will tell you right away. It can be frightful to say the least.
But have no fear, I have failed many times before so you don’t have to. Here are some quick ideas on how to give a great kids talk.
Start with the Bible.
Before you get to any great idea, or exploding what not, or hilarious gag, first look at the Bible. Find out what you are saying, and what your main point will be. If you think of the gag first (and I have done that… many times), you will end up finding a passage, or reading the passage with the gag in mind, rather than letting the Bible speak for itself, and then finding an appropriate way to teach it.
Spend time with God’s word, catch up with your minister, or someone you trust. Read the passage with them, and determine what it is about. Try to figure what it is saying, and work out the main point. When you get that. Think about 2 things. What is this passage teaching us about God? What difference will this make to my life (and ultimately the children’s lives) tomorrow.
Once you have your big idea, and your application you are then able to step think about the how.
When telling the story, or teaching point, work out how it will be visual. We are all aware that kids love screens. Some kids like them more then others, but it’s the visual that is the key. Now PowerPoint presentation or pictures are a good first step. But instead of using pictures on a screen, try printing them out, and showing the children up close. They will tend to respond much better than looking at a screen. The screen is far away, and very much normal for them. But if you come out with pictures, that they can look at closely, or see it will work much better.
If you have time, and you are using pictures to tell a story (kids love narrative) get the pictures printed A3 in colour! Share the story with them that way, and they will respond.
If you aren’t using pictures, then find an object, or even better a number of objects to help tell the story. Move from one object to another to help tell the story. Just having one is ok, but not helpful.
‘This is my favourite thing… children you are God’s favourite’. Although this is visual, it isn’t teaching much, isn’t holding the children’s attention very well. Teach the Bible, be visual.
Ground your explaining in the children’s context.
This one gets a little harder. I have heard many times (and I have used myself) analogies that work well with adults but not with kids. Talking about jobs, or working is an easy example. Talking about money is another. This one gets a little contentious only as some children understand what it means to save, and others don’t. Children understand school, they understand parties, they understand friends, and they understand play. They understand home life in its various forms. When we explain things, make sure we explain them in contexts that children understand.
I have been there, when I have only looked at the roster the night before a service, and only then realised that I am on children’s talk the next day. I’m not going to lie, both some of my best talks, and some of my worst have been written the night before. But one thing remains consistent, and that is my inconsistency at preparing good material the night before.
To do the Bible work takes time. Thinking creatively about how we deliver the message takes time. I would take a pure guess and say that most sermons last from the 20 – 30 min mark. When I was at a college, ministers said they spend a whole day (and people who are learning to write sermons… much longer) writing and working out their message. That’s for a 25 min talk, that uses the same or similar method each time (not to downplay that in the slightest). Let’s say that takes them 10 hours to do. If our talk goes for a quarter of the time… yet we still have to spend significant time in the Word of God to determine the same things that the minister does (Big idea and application), and then we have to think creatively, and then we have to deliver it in a way a 7-year-old can understand, I think we should expect that this will not happen quickly.
Preparation is key! And here are some prep tips from someone who has made all the mistakes.
a. Catch up with your minister 2 weeks before your kids talk. Go through the passage together, and together learn what it is trying to say.
You have no doubt heard of ministers having their thunder stolen by the kids talk. This is purely a lack of communication where one could most certainly help the other. The best kids talks teach the children, and warm up the adults with some initial ideas to help them understand of the deeper message aimed at them through the minister.
b. Think of a number of creative ways to tell the main point / teaching
I have often found out; my first idea is not my best. Though it still works. I am usually too quick to settle for ideas, and tend to run ahead and just go with my first thought. Think of a couple of ideas, then see how they work out, then think of a different one. This will only make your stronger as a communicator for children.
This is never the fun part, but a good talk is a practiced talk. Then practice again!
Kids will always respond when someone is having fun or enjoying themselves. Enjoyment is contagious. Show that you enjoy what you are doing. Try to relax.
We have a wonderful privilege of teaching children. We get to see them grapple with questions, wander about who God is and what he has done through his Son, and we get to see them have fun learning about God’s Word!
I pray these help you as you teach children faithfully.
Stephen Urmston is a full time puppeteer and performer that shares the good news of Jesus all over Australia. He has 18 years of experience in children’s ministry and has been a children’s and families minister in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. Stephen loves Jesus, and loves being creative, and especially loves when his two loves combine, turning into some kind of super powered passion!
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