Do You Desire To Bring Your Child Into The Kingdom?

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Problem Of The Week - Boring Sermons

Photo by subcircle

Each week I’ll pose a question, a problem that any typical Christian parent might face that makes teaching a child about God and His truths a challenge. How would you answer that parent? What advice would you give? Are you struggling with the same issue? What does the Bible say about it?

Here’s this week’s question:

Your child thinks Sunday morning sermons are boring. The pastor is just another talking head, like all those grown-up shows with political pundits. His body language shows it. You think the pastor is right on the money - he’s biblical, he’s topical, and he has a decent presentation.

What’s the deal?


IndyChristian said...

If the goal in preaching/teaching is LEARNING (God's Word) and knowing how to apply it this week, then might we consider how learning is best-achieved in other settings?

Christ astounded the crowd with His awesome grasp of the scriptures, yet He was very often dialogical... interacting with his listeners.

And yeah, that's hard to do with a crowd of 4,000 or 5,000 on a mountainside, but how many 'mega' examples do we read about in the NT? Not many. And how many happened only on the Sabbath? Most interactions were as He walked and talked among His small group of disciples regularly.

What might we learn from His example, as we hope to get our children engaged in learning?

How do we encourage daily Bible-study? Maybe by sync'ing it up with the Sunday learning-topic? Maybe we reinforce it with online video clips especially made for kids (not to mention those of us who also enjoy 'kids sermons' and 'object lessons'. *wink*

Maybe we re-orient our services to have a time of smaller-group interactions... even amid the larger Sunday service. One pastor I know moved his service to their fellowship hall so that people could circle-up chairs in small groups to interact after some instructional-type preaching. [And of course, some people left the church. *rollingeyes*]

But LEARNING was enhanced. And people became more tightly-knitted as they dialogued... and not just spectated on Sundays.

Any teacher knows that 'lecture' has the lowest rate of effectiveness, when it comes to promoting learning. And yet the church often uses it as their main learning tool. And it shows... Barna Research says that only 4% of American Adults hold to a 'biblical worldview'.

Something has to change. And that something is us. The Church.


Marc Carrier said...

There are two sides to this situation: The child and the sermon.

First, the child. If the child can't sit still for an hour to enjoy the reading of God's Word, the question is why?

If parents are doing family devotions daily, and children are hearing an adult engage them with the Word while sitting quietly, they will be trained to do the same on Sunday without an issue. If they are starved from the Word all week, they will likely resent being forced to hear it on Sunday. Likewise, if a child is bombarded with high-impact entertainment such as television and video games all week long, and can't sit still and just enjoy reading a book or talking, they will have attention span issues. What appetites are we feeding our children and what habits are we reinforcing?

On the other side, the question is: where in the New Testament does it suggest that a single leader is to give a lecture from behind a pulpit to a bunch of spectators in pews? If church was organized more like the NT model described in 1 Corinthians 14:26 (interactive), children as well as adults would be much more engaged.

Family integration within the gathering is the ideal. With some proactive conditioning on the part of the parents, and some cooperation on the part of the church, it is achievable.

Deb Burton said...

Neil , Marc, thanks for commenting. It's interesting how you both touched on the same issue - making 'church' more interactive with the congregation. Thinking outside the box tends to be risky (going against tradition)but the shaking of things up tends to help people reevaluate their definitions of things. Interesting comments.

Norma said...

You know, I don't suppose it really matters whether the sermon is "entertaining" or not. God's Word is God's Word, living and active, always. Of course, if you are in a church where the sermon doesn't mention God's Word, that's an issue.

We are blessed with a group of pastors whose sermons rarely leave us at a loss for a connecting point with our kids. Our connecting TIME is almost always around the dinner table. Sometimes it is at Sunday Dinner, right after church. Other times, it's one evening later in the week. God has been to gracious to give us teachable moments during the week, almost every week.

I think those moments of tender accoutability enable ALL of us to glean something each Sunday at church.

Laheela Hargest said...

To be honest, if the pastor seems really boring to kids, take a look around the congregation. You will usually find mostly older people there, few kids. A dynamic pastor that people of all ages can enjoy is a very good asset to a church. But if it just isn't so and you aren't leaving the church, I think an effort should be made to at least get together a Sunday School class or a youth group with an adult that can really get dynamic so the kids enjoy him.

You could try telling your kids to listen for one thing they think God is trying to say to them during the sermon.
Or you say you will test them about the sermon afterwards, giving "points" or rewards to those who remember the most. That'll probably get them to listen. Plus, it's a great lead-in to family devotion.

Tamara Thompson said...

I personally don't see two sides to this. I would address the child in this matter, not the pastor.

After reading the comments, I immediately thought of Jonathon Edwards and his powerful preaching of God's Word. He is known as an amazing Biblical thinker that boldly preached the Word of God. He isn't known for creativity to engage those of all ages. Honestly, I thank God for that, I'm thankful that he was a man that stuck to the Word. His teaching of the Word of God is still monumental for my kids today!

As parents, we need to teach our kids about the Biblical role of the pastor/elder in our church, and how he is using his spiritual gift(s) within the body. The earlier this is taught the better so it can become the child's mindset.

I would also recommend that the child keep notes. Of course, depending on your child's abilities, this would take on different forms...younger children could draw things that they are hearing and older kids can keep more organized notes.

Follow up after church as a family. Go over those things that you suspect may have went over your child's head. Use this time to not only teach your child more about Scripture, but how to be a thinker, as well.

Above any of my suggestions, you need to get to the heart of the issue. If the child is seeing the pastor as "just another talking head, like all those grown-up shows with political pundits" then I think you need to address how the child views adults as a whole.

Bruce Sabin said...

I'd recommend John and Noel Piper's article on this topic:

Geoff Youngs said...

The purpose of preaching the word of God is not so much to impart information as to encourage transformation.

Perhaps your pastor/preaching team should be encouraged to remember that children are sinners/people too and the biblical world needs to be clearly related to the world they live in - which is actually more useful than making the sermon entertaining or interactive. (Although you don't have to wait for your pastor to change to start asking your kids about the sermon/passage/topic over lunch and working through applying it with them.)

Most of all you need preachers who care deeply about young people - and therefore spend time interacting with them and seeking to understand their world and its worries/pressures/fears/aspirations - and who then show how God addresses and redresses those issues (and others) in scripture. Far too much preaching is only interested in addressing adults - just like the talking heads - and kids can tell.

Deb Burton said...

My guess is that everyone who has left a comment has done so based on their relative experience with the churches they've attended, at least in part. As with any problem, however, there is never just one solution. I really appreciate the various perspectives because you add a lot to the thought process involved with this issue. I also appreciate whatever resources people might want to share, so thanks Bruce for the link. Going over to hear what they have to say right now!

Anonymous said...

If as you say, the preaching is biblical and on target, "the deal" is that the child is an idol worshiper. The fallow ground has not been broken up yet.

Kathie Thomas said...

Our church has children’s church so there are always activities and lessons happening at their own level, rather than making them sit in church with the adults.

Through the year we have periodical services that include the whole family, but for the most part, the children are celebrating, worshipping and learning in an environment that was designed for their particular age group and understanding.

In fact, most of the churches we've attended as our children were growing up had a similar way of operating. I believe that children really need to have the lessons of God come to them in a way that has meaning for them and allows them to interact with others of their age group and grow together.

David said...

The problem is 3 fold.

-1 Most churches expect us to be spectators, and not participate.
-2 What I think is "deep" is not always what God is trying to teach me.
-3 Kids need to be taught how to engage God in a sermon, or worship, or any other activity in church.

I once heard David Walters captivate about 100 listeners aged from toddlers to adults for 6 hours of conference sessions and a evening meeting! There was no drawing, toys or sleeping. The answer is anointing, style and "timely" topics. His meeting was interesting, and he communicated with the kids, sometimes giving them personal attention. He presented a simple topic, such as prayer, and then had a 4-year-old do it. it was amazing.

I think that we need to rethink what and how we are teaching.