Sunday, November 26, 2006

Teaching young children to listen to sermons

I've passed Cotton Mather's list of a Father's Resolutions around for years, and still find fresh ways to apply its principles with my children.

The latest example is teaching my older three children (8,7,4) to listen to the Sunday sermon. Cotton Mather says to "single out some Scriptural sentences of the greatest importance...They shall quickly get those golden sayings by heart, and be rewarded with silver or gold, or some good thing, when they do it." Here's how I apply this for a sermon.

Read to them on Saturday night the passage to be preached and single out some key portion telling them to listen for what the pastor says about that during the sermon, and that if they can correctly answer a simple question I will direct to them at Sunday evening family worship they will be rewarded with a special snack at dessert time (food is a great motivator for my kiddos).

For instance, today the pastor preached on Col 1:12, "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." Last night I asked them to listen for "qualify" and be prepared to tell me what that word means and how we are qualified. Tonight in family worship I asked each of my older children a question appropriate for their age. For my 4-year old it was a simple Yes or No question. For my 7 year old it was to define qualify. For my almost 9-year old it was to explain how we as sinners can be qualified to receive such an inheritance.

They each earned a special snack and I gained the satisfaction of knowing that even little children can listen profitably to a sermon if the parents are willing to do a little preparation and follow-up work.


Pinky said...

I really like that approach and not sure why we haven't thought or that before!

Thanks for the tip

Tim said...

Kristin reminded me tonight when I tried something similar a couple of years ago. I gave the kids a word (I think it was 'justify') to listen for during the sermon. It turned out that it came up frequently during the sermon and every time they blurted out "I heard it! I heard it!" until I acknowledged them. Not what I was aiming for.