Mack Williams: Children’s sermons
Of course the situation of early Christians, hiding from the Romans in the catacombs to hold service was dangerous and unpredictable enough without the advent (Christian pun humor) of the unpredictability of the “Children’s Sermon,” ( despite Christ saying: “Suffer the little children to come unto me”).
Like the would-be travelers of those rope bridges in the Andes (usually in the “Indians Jones” movies), I’ve seen would-be “children’s sermoners” either successfully “make it across,” or “fall to their doom” in the deep chasm below!
If the Deacon or Elder chosen to give the Children’s Sermon remembers to keep his props simple, (and if his rewards being sweets, are only alluded to when his sermon is at end) he will emerge unscathed (just the sound of the term “Children’s sermon” sets my knees to knocking, like those of the unfortunate ruler in Daniel who saw the hand write upon the wall).
As to “props,” I remember one children’s sermoner who passed around a laser light among his young parishioners, seated with him up on the chancel step. When one of them started aiming the laser at the eyes of those seated in the first congregational row (another reason not to sit on that front row), the Deacon retrieved his small laser light rather quickly.
For some reason, at a later children’s sermon, this same child, on his way back to Sunday school with his cohorts decided to give the church’s harpsichord a good “thump!” Those who know harpsichords, know it seems that even if you look at them the wrong way, they become seriously out of tune. After that “thumping,” it seems he was even more rapidly hurried back to Sunday school than usual. I know not whether after his “thumping” he received a good “rapping,” but I doubt it, considering the way of the legal situation nowadays.
Keeping the children’s sermon short and sweet is of the utmost importance. Opening the children’s sermon up to the responses of those littlest Christians is a laudable thing; but this also opens up the possibility of “uncertainty” and “unpredictability.” Sometimes, a child will take up a “Variation on a Theme by Paganini” and turn it into a symphony of Mahlerian length (if allowed to do so). “Rests” and “endings” need to be observed.
One sweet Deacon of my church (Danville’s First Presbyterian) approaches the children with the sweetness of Christ himself, and she always receives sweetness from those children in reply.
Last Sunday, our interim minister took the novel and creative approach of using a tube of toothpaste and a small bowl in his children’s sermon. He had the children squirt out the entire contents of the toothpaste tube into the bowl; then he asked for ideas on how to get that toothpaste back into the tube. One bright child said “With a straw!” And the minister said “That might work!” (but just between you and me, the muscular strength of the lips’ embouchure required to achieve such a feat would tax the efforts of even the most adept French Horn player).
Our minister was trying to illustrate to his young charges the difficulty of the taking back hateful words said in haste, as difficult to withdraw as putting toothpaste back into a tube.
If I had been he, I might have given the element of his message a different and most dangerous twist. Instead of bringing a tube of toothpaste and a bowl, I might have brought a cat, and a bag, separately!