United Methodist Reporter: Kids’ stuff – The tricky art of the children’s sermon
... Now, some United Methodists are asking whether children’s sermons need to go.
“A noble effort but an unfortunate strategy” is how Bishop Will Willimon (now retired) characterized the practice on his blog a few years ago, adding that he had two objections to children’s sermons: “They are not for children and are usually not sermons.”
Melanie C. Gordon, director of ministry with children for the General Board of Discipleship, isn’t high on the idea of children’s sermons either.
“Personally, I’m not a fan of them, and I’ve gotten a lot of flak for that,” she said. “I’ve seen some wonderful children’s moments, and I’ve seen some that are painful.” ...
... But children’s sermons in Sunday worship seem to have really taken off in the 1970s, as mainline churches, taking cues from Vatican II, experimented with creative models of worship. In a quick survey of materials in GBOD’s archives, Ms. Gordon couldn’t find evidence of children’s sermons in worship until the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Now, churches are rethinking children’s sermons as part of a broader consideration of what creates vital worship and vital congregations. Dr. Phillips says that many of his students want to discontinue children’s sermons at the churches they serve, because children’s sermons interrupt the flow of traditional worship or seem too old school for contemporary worship.
Ms. Gordon, too, sees churches debating over whether to continue them.
“Children’s moments fall under that umbrella of a bigger conversation, about what it means for children to be present in worship,” Ms. Gordon said. ...
... Do it right
Bottom line: For churches that do choose to offer children’s sermons, it’s important to put time, effort, preparation and prayer into getting them right.
“Never underestimate the importance of the children’s sermon,” Ms. Foster said. “What you say makes a spiritual impact on the lives of those gathered.”
And to Ms. Gordon, the test of excellence definitely applies.
“If you can’t do them well, don’t do them,” she said.