October 25, 2014

Koh Tells How to Make Children Excited About Church

Linda Mei Lin Koh is on a drive to train Adventist
pastors how to preach child-friendly sermons.

Koh, director of the Children’s Ministries department for
the Adventist world church, said the secret to a child-friendly sermon is to
engage children in the message.

She said it might take a little extra work to make a sermon
accessible to children, but the end result is children who are excited about
God and the church.

“Pastors are not trained specifically to preach
child-friendly sermons, and most of us are used to just preaching to adults,”
she said in an interview. “So a few skills, like being aware and involving
children in thinking about what you are preaching, can go far.”

Koh, whose department is training pastors, said four simple ways
that a pastor could engage young listeners would be to:

  • Assign Bible verses to children in advance and call
    on them by name to read the passages from their seats with their parents.
  • Raise simple Bible questions from the pulpit
    — such as “What happened to Daniel in the lions’ den?” — and ask the children
    to raise their hands with answers.
  • Begin the sermon by identifying a Bible verse as important
    and asking the children to count how many times it is mentioned in the sermon.
  • Prepare a one-page sermon outline with
    fill-in-the-blank spaces that the children mark with a pen as they listen. The
    pastor might pause when he reaches an answer in the sermon and announce, “OK,
    this is the answer.”

“This way the kids are all participating in the sermon,” Koh
said. “But preaching a child-friendly sermon is a skill that we have to learn.”

Koh, who spoke in an interview in her office shortly after
returning from a children’s conference in Indonesia, is compiling a practical guide
on how to preach child-friendly sermons. A Singaporean native and grandmother
of five, Koh has served as Children’s Ministries director for 19 years and might
be best known to Adventist readers for writing a series of children’s devotionals
in the Adventist Review’s print and
online Week of Prayer editions this fall.

Koh said preschoolers are usually too young to be engaged in
the sermon, but they should be included in the church service with a children’s
story that serves as their own mini-sermon.

Elementary school children and teens, however, are considered
old enough to put aside their toys and reading materials to listen to the
sermon—and to get involved in many other parts of the church’s life, including
song service, special music, Scripture reading, offering
collection, and church-organized community service projects.

“It’s a lifestyle and not so much, ‘You’re old enough to do
it when you reach a certain age,’” Koh said.

Children who engage in the sermon and other church
activities from a young age grow up to become compassionate adults with
missionary-minded hearts, she said.

“Tomorrow’s missionaries, tomorrow’s leaders, begin with
today’s children,” she said.

Contact news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected]. Twitter:@ARMcChesney

Related link

"Serving Like Jesus," children's readings for the Fall 2014 Week of Prayer by Linda Mei Lin Koh