I looked with great pleasure at the graduation pictures of the oldest Sunday School class. In a small way their lives are about to change and it can be one for good or bad. In the next few months parents have a grand opportunity to help their sons and daughters be an active participant in the worship service during the sermon.
First a quick history lesson. The current order of the service was not how we functioned on a Sunday. At 9 am we would have Sunday School for all ages, including the adults. Then we would have a full worship service where all the people stayed for the whole service. In fact I liked that and believe it is a good thing.
There were several thoughts that contributed to the current flow but the primary one was purely missional. As you befriend a person who has children and they come to the service it can be almost impossible to have them sit through the hour long sermon with a child who has never sat an hour for anything but a video game. For the sake of the gospel we moved it to what you see now.
Now that you will have your young man or woman sitting in the service how do you help them learn to hear sermons rather than just zone out for an hour? The following short points are my suggestions born from what Kim and I practiced and learned when ours were young.
- Saturday Preparation: Getting to sleep at a proper time. Don’t be surprised when your son sits zombie-like in service, ears closed to the gospel and wisdom, when then didn’t go to sleep until 3 or 4 am. Kim and I regularly turned down events that we knew would take us too late into Saturdayevening.
- Sitting: Sit first with the parents. They won’t die and it is a way to help prevent the small groups of teens gathered together where a lot of silliness and sin can occur. Sit with proper posture. The bored, slouching posture should not be tolerated. By now they should be easily able to sit still for an hour.
- Listening: Expect them to listen. If they are off on another side of the service you will never really know. Look for their reaction during perhaps a random joke or mistake that prompts a laugh. Did they? The next suggestion will help in this.
- Bible: They bring it, always. They open it and find the passages and follow along. That includes cross-references. If they can’t find their way around their bible then you need to have bible drills at the dinner table or something, where you call out various places in the bible and they try to find it first. Give them a real reward and make it fun.
- Notes: This is huge and is usually the one that I find is most resisted by both parent and son or daughter. Have them in their own writing (not electronically) make notes of key points and what they learned in simple sentences. There should be the normal flow of all my sermons — Introduction, Main Point, and Conclusion. One page at first is excellent. An example of how I take notes in a sermon can be seen here.
- Accountability: After church you don’t all scatter to the four winds. Gather the notes right after the service and then talk to them about the sermon. Use my sermon notes I post to show them how they did. What stood out to them? Why was that one boring? Did they disagree? That is good, find out why. But what you want to do is seek to engage your children as their spiritual leader. They will miss things all the time but here is a chance to talk about subjects that may never normally be raised in your home. Oh, and try to make it a positive event, where you are cheer-leading them. Rebukes are only when they willfully resist and complain. But even that is good for it gives you a glimpse into their hearts so that you can shepherd them.
There they are, six simple things that can help you children move into the main service and do well. And they don’t have to be a Christian to do this. Being human is enough. The Sunday School teachers labored for years to prepare them theologically and with the gospel to be able to enter the service well. It is your responsibility to now help them grow up in hearing and receiving the preached Word.