Object lessons for children’s sermons
“Object lessons for children’s sermons” is a frequent Google search that brings people to the Illustrated Ministry website. And I’m sure that in the past, I probably searched for the same thing when it was Sunday morning and I needed to quickly put together a children’s sermon or children’s moment.
But object lessons for children’s sermons just don’t work. And yet, many pastors and church members continue to use object lessons for children’s sermons when they sit down to work on their children’s sermons. I don’t blame them; I have certainly done my fair share of object lessons for children’s sermons in the past. Most likely it’s because when I didn’t know a lot about children’s ministry, it seems like the thing that was the most accessible online.
If you search for anything related to object lessons for children’s sermons or object lessons for kids, you will find websites dedicated to having 20 Fabulous Biblical Object Lessons for Kids or Free Object Lessons to Teach Biblical Truths. And it’s not just Google; Pinterest is full of them as well. There are also plenty of books available that offer complete libraries of object lessons, including the book entitled The Giant Book of Children’s Sermons: 260 Children’s Object Lessons.
But Object Lessons for Children’s Sermons Don’t Work
So it’s no wonder that people often default to trying to use object lessons for children’s sermons. But when we use object lessons with the kids who come up for our children’s sermons, we do them a great disservice. Most of the children are at a developmental stage where object lessons both aren’t helpful and are just confusing for the children.
Carolyn Brown, author of many books about children and worship, and the blog Worshiping with Children, had a great post from a few years back that I think is spot on when it comes to people using object lessons for children’s sermons: The Problem with Object Lessons. She writes:
The only problem with this is that it requires the mental ability called transference, the ability to transfer a quality of one thing to another. This is a problem because human brains do not develop this ability until early adolescence. So, the adults get the connection and may laughingly tell the preacher that the children’s sermon was the most memorable part of the message for them. Children on the other hand don’t get it. (link)
And an anonymous commenter left a brilliant comment that makes this point so clearly:
I watched a pastor on Easter show the children a butterfly mounted beneath glass and talk glowingly about how the butterfly is a symbol of resurrection. One child pointed to the butterfly and astutely observed, “But it’s dead!”
Carolyn’s blog post is worth reading, and you can do so here.
Children Love Stories, So Let’s Tell the Stories!
My son Caleb is 5. The little dude loves stories: listening to stories, illustrating stories and making them up and sharing them with me. Kids love stories, and in the Bible, we have some of the greatest stories ever. So let’s just tell the stories!
This idea of telling the stories was the impetus for the beginning of Illustrated Ministry. I was sick and tired of children’s sermons in churches. Since I had served three churches as an Associate Pastor, I was never in a position to get rid of them – so I just had to do them. When I would get together with colleagues in ministry, if we ever got onto the topic of children’s sermons, I would say that most of my friends agreed with me: Children’s sermons HAD TO GO!
However, at some point, I just started telling the Bible stories, and it was so freeing. I didn’t have to worry about coming up with some fancy props or a compelling object lesson. I just told the Bible stories to the kids and shared an illustration of the story with them. When I did that, it worked so much better and helped me to connect with the children better. That’s when I realized that there might be something to this whole idea. In entrepreneur lingo, having to create children’s sermons was a pain point for many who worked in children’s ministry – a problem that needed a solution.
Check Out Our Illustrated Worship Resources
I don’t believe that Illustrated Ministry and our Illustrated Children’s Moments are THE answer – but I think they’re a pretty good one. It’s been fun to hear about churches who have used the Illustrated Children’s Moments and had great success with connecting kids to the biblical stories in new ways. And I still remember parents at the last church I served saying that their children would continue talking about the story during the following week, or that they would point out something about the illustration that they put on their refrigerator.
If you are interested in trying out our Illustrated Children’s Moments, please take a look at our Illustrated Worship Resources. You can order the Illustrated Children’s Moments by themselves, or you can also get our Children’s Worship Bulletins (we like to say that we create Children’s Worship Bulletins that don’t suck). You can also get samples of all of our Illustrated Worship Resources to try out with your community. Also – don’t forget to grab your EXCLUSIVE PDF here.
What have you found works best for children’s sermons in your community? Share with us in the comments below.