Monday, July 16, 2007

Sean: More Thoughts on Children's Sermons

Our resident hot Lutheran posted some more good thoughts on children's sermons that might add some additional clarity to our discussion at Eric's post.

Here is his Hot Lutheran on Hot Lutheran Action post in its entirety:

Childrens' Sermons and Regular Sermons

The childrens' sermon comes from a philosophy that would say "we must target and minister to groups individually and specially if we are to be effective or if we are to do the will of God". The Church, rather, ministers as Christ instituted it: Word and Sacrament ministry, which is targeted at everyone and is effective on everyone. It is not subjective to various groups, but objective for all groups. We all have the same problem: we are sinners.

It's ironic, but in the attempt to make someone feel included, doing "special" things for "special" people actually makes them and everyone else excluded.

To tell someone "pay attention, this part of the service is especially for you" also inherently says "the rest of the service is not especially for you".

The liturgy IS for children. Hymns ARE for children. The lection IS for children. The sermon [proper] IS for children. The prayers ARE for children. The confession & absolution IS for children. Baptism IS for children. As is evident by numerous debates in Church history, the Supper IS also to be for children, even if the details of how we are to practice that belief are not agreed upon.

The point is that the WHOLE service is for the WHOLE congregation.

Let us not tell the children what they will not like, what they will not understand, what they will not appreciate, or what they will not benefit from. I have little doubt that children frequently learn more, understand more, appreciate more, and practice more than their elder brothers and sisters in Christ, who lack an excuse for their inability to pay attention. *cue Luther rant about dogs and the insolent German people*

One pastor was thinking out loud one day to me about struggling with a coming service. It was pentecost (therefore a longer service), confirmation, a Divine Service, and there were many announcements to make also. In order to keep the service under an hour [sic], "cuts" needed to be made. This pastor considered out loud how "Well, I certainly can't cut communion, and I don't want to skip these special liturgical elements that I have decided to use... and I won't cut the children's sermon." In the end, the ingredients [double sic] he chose to cut were parts of the ordinary, propers, hymn stanzas, and prayers.

Instead of cutting "special" things meant to target specific people, perhaps it would be better to keep more of the objective and primary parts of the service. PERHAPS, if anything is to be cut down, it should be the sermon. Many pastors seem to think (and indeed say) that the reason people come or don't come to Church is the sermon. I am not so sure that the sermon is the most important part of the service. Certainly, as they say, no one goes to the parking lot singing the pastor's sermon.... Even if you have heard a dissapointing, long and boring, or confusing sermon, you still have everything else: God's Word in the lectionary, liturgy, and hymnody. His Word of forgiveness pronounced by the pastor. His precious life-giving Body and Blood put in your very mouth.

Liturgy and hymns are concise. Nothing is more concise than the sacraments (all three, if you will). Peter's sermon on Pentecost was certainly concise, and definetely effective.
As a related plug, I would strongly recommend Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance by Os Guinness. Sean's points on doing things special, in addition to making me think of the Dana Carvey's Church Lady, also made me think of what Os Guinness said in this fine little book: By attempting to be so very relevant, the church has become completely irrelevant. You can listen to his 2004 Issues, Etc. interview on this book HERE.

And here, of course, is the very finest example of 'cultural relevance' in Christian worship services -- compliments of the Simpsons:

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