Consider Preschool Before the Pulpit

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes—and often one of the hardest things for a novice preacher to do is find opportunities to practice their skills. One place they may want to consider:

Children’s ministry.

Since the fall, I’ve been teaching in our children’s worship service, usually once a month. After songs and prayer, I teach a short message before the kids aged 5-8 are dismissed to their individual classes—and for me, at least, the experience has been extremely helpful. Here are three things I’ve been reminded through the experience:

1. Teaching children requires you to focus.

Whenever you’re teaching kids, it’s important to remember one thing: You have almost no time to get your message across. Teachers in our program are allotted around 20 minutes.

I aim for ten. And sometimes, I even hit it (I average between 10-15 minutes).

This is not a lot of time, and because kids often have short attention spans, it means I really have to focus. I need to make sure the message is easy to follow, the points are clear, and the application is super-concrete.

Which, by the way, is what we should be shooting for when preaching to adults, too. Adults need just as much clarity of thought and focus as children. There’s nothing worse than listening to (or preaching for that matter) a scattered, rambly sermon—one that has great content, but you can’t follow the flow or find the application. When we’re unfocused in our teaching, we lose our audience.

But if you can get a point across in 10 minutes, chances are you can do it in 40 if needed.

2. Teaching children requires you to be flexible.

Kids are awesome because they’re funny—but they’re also natural hecklers.

If you ask a question like, “Why did Jesus die on the cross,” you might get an answer that makes sense, or you might learn what they had for breakfast that morning. And if you’re not ready for it, you’re going to get flustered.

Teaching kids helps you to learn flexibility and forces you to rely not too much on your prepared notes and more on your preparation.

3. Teaching children requires you to be interesting.

One of the hardest things to do is keep a child’s attention, especially in a really wide age range. One of the best ways to keep a kid’s attention: be interesting. One of our teachers uses props pretty regularly (he often dresses up in costume). Me, I’m not a big prop guy, but I do my best to be fun and funny in a way that fits with how God’s wired me.

In all honesty, though, keeping the kids’ attention is always going to be a challenge. They’re the easiest audience to read in terms of whether they’re paying attention or not, and when they’re all in, you can tell. Ask questions, do something silly, speak directly to them whenever you can… all of this helps you genuinely engage them.

Brothers, the point is this: if you’re feeling called to preach, consider preschool before the pulpit. Your church has a prime training ground for you—it’s called children’s ministry. Serve in a place where God has already placed you and in a ministry area sorely in need of volunteers—and do what God has called you to do: make disciples.

Whether they’re big or small, it doesn’t matter.

Read more from Aaron here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Armstrong

Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty (Cruciform Press, 2011). He is a writer, serves as an itinerant preacher throughout southern Ontario, Canada, and blogs daily at Blogging Theologically.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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