Worship for Kids: February 21, 2021

January 7th, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: Mark 1:9-15. For children, this text might be titled, "How Jesus Got His Start." Children, because they are at such beginning points, are interested in what great people did as they began their careers. From these three brief stories, they learn that Jesus began with a personal decision. His baptism was like signing up to be on a team or going to a first club meeting. He decided to give himself to God. Apparently he was not sure what that would involve, but he went to be baptized as a way of saying that he was ready to try. God approved Jesus' decision by speaking to him. (Some perceptive children wonder how Mark knew about a voice that only Jesus heard.) After this decision came a time of disciplined preparation in the wilderness. Then Jesus began to preach. He called people to change their ways because the kingdom of God was coming. And he told them to trust God's love.

Epistle: 1 Peter 3:18-22. This passage, which puzzles scholars, overwhelms children with its profusion of unfamiliar concepts. The comment on Christ's preaching to the already dead raises for literal thinkers unanswerable questions about a peripheral Christian doctrine. Older children can begin to see a similarity between Noah's family, which floated through the flood waters to new lives, and Christians, who come through baptism to a new life in God's family. With adult help, children can connect the overview of Jesus' mission in verse 18a with his baptismal commitment and wilderness preparation. But a case can also made for simply reading this text for the adults.

Old Testament: Genesis 9:8-17. Children are fascinated by rainbows and love to draw them. Most church children are familiar with Noah's story. The story and the rainbow tell them that God loves and cares for us. Perhaps because of the way the story is generally presented to children, their attention focuses on the people and animals who were saved, rather than the people whose drownings were God's punishment or the innocent animals who died with them.

Psalm: 25:1-10. Children enjoy the alphabet format of this psalm when it is pointed out. The New Jerusalem Bible makes this format especially clear by starting each phrase with a word that begins with the sequence of letters in the English alphabet: "Adoration," "But," "Calling," and so on. Unfortunately, the psalmist's meaning is not as clear in that translation as in the New Revised Standard Version or the Good News Bible. With some help, children can sense the psalmist's dependence upon God's care and forgiveness.

Watch Words

Do not expect children to recognize the word Lent. Remember that it may sound like fuzzy lint. The derivation of the word interests worshipers of all ages.

Commitment is a big word that means to decide to do something. Discussions about such decisions are easier for young children to understand. If you do speak of commitment, begin by describing commitments to meet a friend for a movie, to play on a team, or to be a good club member.

If you focus on Jesus' preparation for his ministry, define ministry as a task to which God calls a person. Point out that every Christian, not just the professional minister, has an important ministry.

Let the Children Sing

Recall Jesus' time in the wilderness and begin the season of Lenten disciplines with "Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley."

To sing your commitments, "Here I Am, Lord" (even nonreaders can sing the chorus) calls worshipers to make commitments similar to those Jesus made. The new hymn "Whom Shall I Send" can be sung by fifth-and sixth-graders, especially if it has been explored during the sermon (perhaps with hymnals open). But hymns such as "I Am Thine, O Lord," filled with difficult words and abstract ideas, do not reflect the experience of children and should be avoided. "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" is probably the best commitment song for children.

Praise Noah's God with "All Creatures of Our God and King" or "All Things Bright and Beautiful."

The Liturgical Child

1. Begin worship by removing the white paraments of Epiphany or the green paraments of the pre-Lenten weeks and replacing them with the purple paraments of Lent. Some students from an older children's class could process in to receive the old paraments as worship leaders remove them, while other students process in with purple paraments to give to the leaders. During the change, a worship leader can describe the change of season in simple language. When the change is completed, the Call to Worship is given:

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. But Jesus did not stay a baby. He grew up. He became a teacher, a preacher, a healer, a loving friend, and our Savior. During Lent, we celebrate his ministry, and we try to do a better job with the ministries to which we are called. Jesus is our Lord! Let us worship God.

2. If you focus on Noah's story, ask a younger children's class to prepare paper rainbows to arch over the sanctuary doors. Draw rainbow stripes with pencil on nonglossy shelf paper, which can be cut into sections to fit the doors. Children then paint the rainbows with tempera paints and large brushes.

3. The format of Psalms 25 suggests two presentations: (1) To emphasize and enjoy the acrostic, ask an older children's class to present the New Jerusalem Bible translation. Each child, in succession, says one letter or holds up a poster with one letter, then reads or recites that phrase of the psalm; (2) Use the psalm as the Prayer of Confession. Invite the congregation to read and pray verses 1-7 in unison. The worship leader then reads verses 8-10 as the Assurance of Pardon. Use the Good News Bible or the New Revised Standard Version.

4. After preaching about Lenten disciplines that prepare us for ministry, challenge worshipers of all ages to write or draw on a slip of paper one discipline they will try during Lent. Invite them to place the paper in the offering plate as a sign of their commitment. Promise confidentiality and instruct the ushers to respect it.

Sermon Resources

1. Compare Jesus' time of prayer in the wilderness to: (1) the discipline of a sports camps, with early morning exercises, practice sessions, and classes; or (2) the orientation during which new missionaries learn about the country where they will go, learn a new language, worship together, and prepare for the work they will do. Finally, describe some of the activities of your congregation that prepare people for ministry at home, work, and school.

2. Lent is traditionally the time for baptism and confirmation preparation. Especially if such preparation is beginning in your congregation, speak to the congregation of its meaning and significance. Link it to Jesus' preparation for ministry. Speak specifically about what is involved, so that younger children have something to grow up toward. Spend time on big unfamiliar terms confirmation, commissioning, and profession of faith.

3. A three-point sermon on "How to Keep Lent," based on today's texts about Jesus' preparation for ministry, could urge worshipers of all ages to commit themselves to one or more disciplines or changes they want to make during Lent, remember God's love every day, and share the good news with others.

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

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