Worship for Kids: November 19, 2023

October 3rd, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

All of today's texts deal with serving God.

Old Testament: Judges 4:1-7. This is the only story from Judges included in the Revised Common Lectionary. When only verses 1-7 are read, we learn simply that Deborah spoke for God to call the people to battle against King Jabin, who had oppressed them. Given both these facts, the text is worth expanding.

If you read through verse 16, the point is the point of all Judge stories: When the people sinned, God disciplined them by letting them be conquered. When they were ready to repent, God gave them another chance under a strong God-loving leader.

If you continue through verse 22, the focus is on heroism. War was supposed to be the business of men. But it was a woman (Deborah) who delivered God's call to battle. And it was a wife left behind in her tent (Jael) who won the day. Barak, whom one would have expected to be the hero, on the other hand, hesitated. Heroes and heroines are therefore ordinary people who do what needs to be done where they are.

Some (mainly adults) are offended by the violence of Jael's action. (Strangely, many of those folks find the wholesale slaughter of an army less of a problem than the capture and murder of one general by a woman, who used the only weapon at hand.) Children, especially when hearing the story shortly after Halloween, tend to admire Jael's willingness to do something as gory as pounding a tent peg into an enemy's head. Her name, Jael, wich means "Yahweh (or Ya/Ja) is Lord (Elohim or El)" indicates that she killed the general because she felt it was what God wanted.

Psalm: 123. Older children who understand the relationship of slaves and masters can hear this as a prayer the Israelites might have prayed under the cruel rule of King Jabin. It is, however, too removed from today's realities to be of much significance for them.

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. This text continues last Sunday's emphasis on preparedness. But last Sunday's parable of the bridesmaids addresses the issue in terms that make more sense to children than does this apocalyptic warning. Images of dark and light, women in labor, armor, and drunkenness lead children to think concretely about those things, rather than move through them to Paul's point.

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30. Many church children are familiar with this parable. Once they know what a talent is, they easily follow the story and grasp Jesus' point that we are to make good use of the resources entrusted to us. Because they are constantly comparing themselves to others and being compared to others, children appreciate the fact that the first and second servants, though they were working with different amounts, received the same reward for their work. The point for both the five-talent and the two-talent children is that God appreciates those who try.

The third servant's harsh comments about the master, and the master's apparent agreement with that assessment, confuse children who do not yet have the mental facility to interpret allegory. They need to be told simply that the master in the story is not like God. The master may have been interested only in the servant's profit, but God is more interested in the servants. If the first two servants of a harsh master were willing to risk losing their master's money by investing it, we, who are servants of a loving God, can surely take risks to invest the resources God has entrusted to us.

Watch Words

Judges in Bible times sometimes settled arguments between people, as judges do in courts today. But most of the time, they acted more like military or government leaders.

Talent is an Aramaic word for an amount of money that was equal to about three years' wages. Older children can understand and enjoy the "confusion" that resulted when translators had to leave this old world untranslated in English Bibles. Knowing that a talent is money enables children to understand Jesus' financial story and make connections to our use of our other resources, including our abilities (our talents).

If the parable of the talents leads you to talk about being stewards, describe the function of a steward. The only steward many children have met is a man who serves drinks on an airplane. Young children who know a person named Stewart are equally baffled.

The word resources is not in any of today's texts, but it is worth introducing as a word that stands for all our God-given abilities, money, and advantages (like a good education to prepare one to serve God as a doctor or plumber). After listing such resources, speak of using our resources and being resourceful servant.

Let the Children Sing

"I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" is first choice for singing about heroic living. Though the language of "For All the Saints" makes it difficult for children, the stirring music and repeated Alleluias make it an acceptable second choice.

Stewardship hymns children understand are hard to find. "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated," in which we dedicate the resources of our bodies, is one of the best.

The Liturgical Child

1. Invite the children to sit with you at the front. Explain that today's Old Testament lesson is a story about heroes who were like Davey Crockett and Paul Bunyan. Then tell selected parts of the story in your own words, using your best storyteller style.

2. The parable of the talents can be pantomimed easily by four young children as it is read. The talents can be represented by grocery bags, stuffed with newspaper to look like big money bags. The Ten-talent servant may need a wheel-barrow, and the four-talent servant a big bucket, for their appearances before the master. Simple costumes help.

3. Invite worshippers of all ages to draw or write lists of their resources, including their talents, money, strengths, and so on. Adults (and children) can write in the space provided for that purpose in the bulletins. Younger children can work on their Worship Worksheets. Near the end of the service, pray about these lists. Offer such prayers as:

Creator God, thank you. We thank you for all the abilities and talents you have created in each of us. We thank you for families, and schools, and money to use. Hear all our prayers of thanks. (PAUSE)
Lord of the Universe, it is easy to be selfish with everything you have left in our care. . . .

Sermon Resources

1. Recall some of the costumes the children wore for Halloween. Compare the heroism of Deborah, Jael, and current costume heroes with the timidity of Barak, to explore what makes a person heroic.

2. Tell of the heroism of some children who defended ten Jewish children hidden in their French school during the Nazi occupation. Claire H. Bishop, in Twenty and Ten (Penguin, 1978), tells of their brave response to soldiers who came while their teacher was gone.

3. The Balancing Girl, by Berniece Rabe (Dutton, 1981) describes how Martha, who happens to be in a wheelchair, makes $101.30 for the school carnival, doing what she can. What she does is set up an enormous maze of domino trails and sell chances. The winner gets to push over the domino that will set off the chain reaction.

Adapted from Forbid Them Not: Involving Children in Sunday Worship © Abingdon Press

comments powered by Disqus