Worship for Kids: July 25, 2021

June 17th, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 11:1-15. The story of David and Bathsheba is not one most people would choose to tell children. David's key problem, however, was not adultery, but a willingness to break the rules to get what he wanted, and that willingness is something children understand. In early childhood, children assume that the most powerful people (the grown-ups, the teachers, the biggest kids) have the right to make the rules. So they learn from David's story that even the greatest king is subservient to God's rules. Many older children are realizing that rules can be negotiated for the good of the group. This discovery changes their attitude toward rules. As they begin living with negotiated rules, they empathize with David's temptation to ignore those that did not work to his advantage at the moment and are reminded that rules are to be obeyed.

Most children do not understand David's maneuvers in verses 6-13, but they do understand David's murder of Uriah. Therefore, consider reading either the entire chapter or verses 1-5 and 14-15, instead of 1-15. The Good News Bible uses the most "delicate" vocabulary in telling this story.

Psalm: 14. If the psalm is introduced as a poet's response to disobedience like David's, children will catch occasional lines condemning those who break God's rules. A child's paraphrase of "There is no God" is "I will not be caught" or "What I do will not matter."

Epistle: Ephesians 3:14-21. Children will understand little of Paul's message as it is read from any translation. But if the passage is compared to the wishes expressed by families in wedding toasts or on birthday cards, they enjoy exploring Paul's prayer-wishes for Gentile Christians. His wish is that they (and we) will experience and recognize God's great love and will feel God's presence, giving us inner strength.

The images of being rooted in God's love and built on a foundation of God's love need to be illustrated with everyday examples for instance, a person who knows that God made her and loves her will be disappointed, but will not lose all hope in herself when she loses a championship. Sermons which cite such examples help children build self-esteem, based on the love of God, who created them.

Older children in the middle of sports-oriented summers also benefit from descriptions of the inner strength (rather than the physical strength) that Paul wishes for his friends.

Gospel: John 6:1-21. Most church children are familiar with the feeding of the five thousand. They tend to associate it with Jesus' care of people's needs and take it as an indication of Jesus' willingness to take seriously and use a child's contribution.

When it is pointed out to them, older children understand that John was less like a historian telling us exactly what Jesus did, and more like a person telling us who his best friend is by relating stories about what that friend did and said. They will, however, depend upon the preacher to point out what John is telling us about Jesus in these two stories that Jesus had great powers (he could feed thousands of people with five loaves and a few fish, and he could walk on water) and that Jesus came to feed or nourish people. The next four Gospel lections tell what it means for Jesus to feed people.

Watch Words

In David's story, sin is breaking the rules. His adultery was stealing someone else's wife.

In John, bread is a code word for what we need to live. Sometimes we call money "bread" because we use it to buy what we need to live. Use bread carefully. Children are easily confused when a word is used both literally and symbolically.

Let the Children Sing

"There's a Wideness in God's Mercy" is a good hymn to explore phrase-by-phrase in a sermon about God's great love. Though it includes many unfamiliar words, it also includes some vivid images of the vastness of God's love.

Imagine yourselves among those Jesus fed while singing "I Come with Joy" (whether or not you celebrate communion).

The Liturgical Child

1. Display a basket of small loaves of bread on the chancel table, or hang a banner featuring several loaves of bread and some fish. (The banner might be a summer project for a children's group or class.)

2. To create a Prayer of Confession based on Psalms 14, a worship leader describes a series of ways we rationalize our disobedience. The congregation responds to each one with, "We say it will not matter, but it does. Forgive us." For example:

Lord, you instruct us to be honest, but we lie when we think we can get away with it. We tell only the part of the truth that makes us look good. And we answer only the questions that are asked. (RESPONSE) Lord, you instruct us not to steal, but we . . . . Assurance of Pardon: There is a God. What we do does matter. But God, who insists that we live by the rules, also loves us and forgives us, and gives us the power to try again. Thanks be to God!

3. Before reading the Gospel, invite a crowd of worshipers of all ages, perhaps the front rows of people, to sit with you on the steps. Describe the similar crowd that had gathered around Jesus. Read John 6:1-15 from a Bible held in your lap. Then without announcement, a second worship leader in the lectern (away from the crowd) begins, and reads verses 16-21.

4. Feature intercessory prayer (prayer for others). Describe your congregation's practice of praying for others just before that time in the service. Compare your practice with Paul's prayer for the Gentiles. Consider asking the congregation to identify groups for whom they would like the church to offer prayer-wishes this morning. Then be especially careful to pray with language and sentences simple enough for children to follow.

Sermon Resources

1. Children's explanations of why they disobey rules reflect what David might have thought:

"But the big kids (or name a specific bigger kid) always do it. And I'm in fourth grade now, so "

"But it's my birthday!" (And I thought the usual rules would not apply on my birthday.)

"But I wanted it so much!"

"I knew it was wrong, but I didn't think anyone would mind just this once! I won't do it again, I promise."

2. Jesus said he came to feed us. Many professions are, or can be, feeding professions teaching, medicine, social service. By identifying specific ways these professionals "feed people," children begin to understand what Jesus meant when he said he came to feed people.

3. Corrie ten Boom was a Christian imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews. After the war, during a service at which she spoke about forgiveness, a man she recognized as a cruel prison guard came to shake her hand. She did not want to touch him and felt no forgiveness for him, even though she knew she should. She willed her hand to meet his, but it would not move until she felt a power from beyond her travel from her shoulder down her arm toward the man. With that power, she was able to not just shake his hand, but to really forgive him. She knew that that power was Christ's love.

comments powered by Disqus