Getting one of your youth or children to read the passage is a good start: so good in fact you could use it in any service where the kids are in during the reading. However, while it’s great to get kids up the front it doesn’t help understanding. For narrative an easy solution is to have a narrator reading from the Bible and the roles played by the congregation: no need to rehearse, just have pre-prepared lines to read, maybe some easy costumes i.e. scarfs for headwear and a leader who can roughly direct actors to where they are supposed to be. (We have heaps of narrative scripts lifted word for word from the NIV on this site).
Another good way to engage even your younger readers is to have a powerpoint with pictures as the reading is read. Again easy enough for narrative sections, find a children’s bible and scan them or draw your own. For letters/wisdom books/prophecy pick out some key words and picture those. These may also double up as pictures on worksheets!
Worksheets and powerpoints are your friends here!
The church I go to often splits a sermon into two or three (depending on where the sermon naturally breaks) with a song or other time of response in the middle since most children find it hard to sit and listen for half an hour at one go. If your church regularly has 10-15 minute sermons this is less of an issue.
Put references for verses on the screen, you want the youngest to be able to know that it’s okay to check what a speaker is saying against the Bible. Pictures on screen aid your memory, if you’re a visual person, and give an easily distracted person (like a three year old) something to look at.
Props! Can you have physical examples of something – a toy lamb, a globe, a lifebelt etc. representing some common Biblical themes.
Here’s an example of a generic sermon sheet we provided for our teens to help them to focus and think through what is being taught and here’s one that’s a bit more child friendly.
It is better however, if you can make a more specific worksheet for an all age service. Here are some ideas of what you can include:
- Ask the preacher for their main points – the kind of thing that gets displayed on a powerpoint, if you take a key word out here and there you’ve got an ongoing activity for which listening is a pre-requisite.
- A key verse, in bubble writing to colour in, maybe with a few extra words thrown in that need to be crossed out.
- A picture to colour. This will obviously need to be different depending on the passage. Ask the preacher to supply an idea – maybe something he’s putting on the powerpoint as a background.
- Draw a picture of [something relevant to the application]. For example an application of any of Psalms 146-150 might be to praise God whatever your circumstances. So have two boxes with these captions: Draw a picture of a time at school when you can praise God. Can you think of another time when you could praise God? Examples given by the preacher might be “at work or at school we can praise God by putting all our effort in to what we’ve been asked to do even if it’s not something we enjoy. In the rest of our lives we can praise God for the good gifts he gives us, families, tasty food, music, beautiful scenery etc. We should acknowledge that the God who made them is even better and thank him for them.
- Room to write a question they would like to ask the preacher about the passage.
- A prayer they can say with their parents at the end.
A pre-recorded news report can be a fun way to help contextualise a passage – people would have been shocked at Jesus saying ‘before Abraham was, I am’ as it’s a claim to be God himself and that was considered blasphemy. Here’s an example of part of a report about Noah.
I love these videos for explain things in a kid friendly way while still leaving enough room for a sermon to expand on details and add more specific application. I often screen shot the video for stills to accompany a talk on powerpoint or a worksheet too.