Worship for Kids: August 1, 2021

June 23rd, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a. When it is dramatically presented, children follow the story of Nathan's confrontation of David closely. They are as outraged as David at the actions of a rich man who steals a poor man's lamb. However, they need help in digging through Nathan's symbolic language to identify David as the thief and God's punishment for him: There will be violent fighting instead of peace in his family, and his wives will one day be stolen by another man. This punishment looks fair to children. David will experience all the pain in his family that he has inflicted on the family of Uriah and Bathsheba. With help, older children can understand that David's punishment was a natural result of his behavior. He had led his family into selfish sin, and eventually they all would be hurt by one another.

The Good News Bible offers the easiest translation for children. If its use of intercourse in verse 11 is a problem, try The New Jerusalem Bible. The New Revised Standard's heavy use of symbolic language, and its phrasing God's accusation against David in terms of "despising me" rather than "disobeyed my commands" (Good News Bible) or "displeased me" (New Jerusalem Bible) make it a last choice.

Psalm: 51:1-12. Because few children sense their own sin as keenly as the man who composed this psalm sensed his, they need to encounter this psalm first as David's prayer. They can understand why David would feel so guilty about what he had done, and they learn the prayer's meaning for David. As they mature, recognize their own sinfulness, and use parts of the psalm repeatedly in congregational worship, they will claim it as their own.

The rich imagery of the psalm makes it hard for children to follow. It is probably best to focus attention on verses 1-2 and 10-12, and expect children to catch some of the remaining phrases.

Epistle: Ephesians 4:1-16. This is a rich, complex passage. It may be helpful to focus on only one part of it, to avoid overwhelming children.

Children need to hear specific examples of each of the four abstract qualities urged on Christians. Patience and gentleness are the easiest for them to understand and claim. Humility that puts oneself in a secondary position goes most against the grain of children trying to develop their talents and master their world. Humility is best explored in relation to using one's God-given gifts for the good of the church (see vss. 12-13).

If alerted in advance to listen for them, children enjoy identifying the seven "one" things that hold the church together. Most make immediate sense. "The one hope of your calling," however, needs to be paraphrased as "We all share one goal." With this background, children are ready to identify both the gifts Paul names and the other gifts they see people bringing to their church. (Consider omitting Paul's aside in verses 8-11 to avoid confusing children.)

In exploring verses 14-16, speak of "babies" rather than "children," to preserve Paul's meaning and avoid offending those who have no choice to be anything but children. Paul offers children two important signs of growing up. First, people are growing up when they know right from wrong and cannot be talked into doing what they know is wrong. Second, people are growing up when they do not think about themselves all the time. Instead of demanding that they be the constant center of attention, people who are growing up know how to be a member of a group or team, and are willing to work hard for the group.

Gospel: John 6:24-35. The sixth chapter of John is about the bread of life. Last week's lesson was the story of Jesus, the powerful supplier of food. This week's text describes what the bread of life he brings is not. First, the bread of heaven is not all the free food you want. Children, who do not worry about providing food, easily interpret this literally and laugh at the misunderstanding of the crowd. They will need help to understand Jesus' real point that we often are looking for and working for things we think we need to live, but which are not that important. The children are helped most by examples of things people of different ages misguidedly think we must have to live or be happy.

Talk about seals and manna in the wilderness is beyond the understanding of most children.

Watch Words

This is a good opportunity to explain words your congregation uses frequently in confession, but not in everyday conversation. Transgression and iniquity are old words for sin. Mercy and merciful are words about God's forgiving love and kindness. Remember that for most children, offense is the team with the ball.

Today, bread stands for what we need, or think we need, to live.

Let the Children Sing

Be careful in choosing penitence hymns, most of which are filled with symbolic references to Jesus' blood which make little sense to children. Sing "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy" again, if it was studied during sermon last Sunday.

Sing "Be Thou My Vision," to focus on what really "feeds" us. Save the "bread" hymns for the next two weeks.

Substitute Paul's characteristics of Christians (humble, gentle, patient) in the verses of "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian."

The Liturgical Child

1. Continue to display a basket of bread or a banner featuring loaves and fish in the chancel.

2. While a worship leader reads the confrontation between David and Nathan dramatically, two adults pantomime their interaction. Three additional actors may take the parts of the people of the assembled court, responding to what is happening. Actors should wear either biblical dress or dark slacks and shirts, with a crown for David.

3. In a responsive Prayer of Confession, the congregation responds to the leaders' prayers with, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."

4. If you regularly use parts of Psalms 51 in your prayers of confession, highlight them today, pointing out their connection to David and explaining their meaning.

Sermon Resources

1. Like the crowd that followed Jesus, children are often mistaken about what they "gotta have" to live and be happy: "I gotta have a Playstation 4!"; "Everyone else has a purple polo shirt. I'll be no one unless I have one too!"; "If we don't win this year, I'll die!"; "I just gotta go to . . . . Haven't you seen it on TV? It's AWESOME!"

2. To illustrate the difference in being a "baby" and growing up, point out some truths about babies: (1) Babies pay attention only to what is directly in front of them. Therefore, they are easily persuaded. If you want a baby to stop playing with a toy, you can simply replace it with a different toy. (2) Babies think only of themselves. They see themselves as the center of the world, with everyone and everything arranged around it to meet its needs.

3. Turn the sermon into either a "locker-room pep talk" or a "recruiters speech" about church membership. Describe the church as God's team, focusing on the seven "one" things that hold the church together. Then point out the qualities of good church members and that it is important for them to use all their gifts for the good of the "team." Use the direct language of a coach.

comments powered by Disqus