A New Book for Children's Sermons
Feasting on the Word: Children’s Sermons for Year C by Carol A. Wehrheim is hot off the press. Whether you are clergy or lay, staff or a volunteer, this book is for anyone who who leads children’s sermons/messages every week, once a month, or even on occasion.
Personally, I am a Lutheran who uses the entire Feasting on the Word series: preaching commentaries, worship companions, and Sunday school curriculum. So I am already a Feasting on the Word fan, mainly because of the diverse voices within the material, and the creative language and thoughts expressed in them. This new volume, Feasting on the Word: Children’s Sermons for Year C, is somewhat unique in that it is written by one author, Carol A. Wehrheim, general editor of Feasting on the Word curriculum. Furthermore, the book has a very specific focus: crafting children’s sermons through Biblical storytelling.
Wisdom for Telling Stories with Children
The book starts off with a short introduction serving as a treasure trove of wisdom for telling Biblical stories in a children’s sermon setting. Whether or not you use the stories in the rest of the book, these initial few pages go a long way in helping to lead stories, with tools for how to tell them well. Also in the introduction Wehrheim makes it clear that the focus of the book is in retelling the sacred stories such that children can engage with them in an age-appropriate manner. She writes, “...perhaps we ought to think of the time when children come forward as a time to tell the Bible story in worship rather than a ‘children’s sermon’ or time with the ‘children.’ The story is for everyone present; it’s just that the children get a front row seat.’” (Introduction xviii)
Some might see the children’s message a little differently, but Wehrheim wants to emphasis the story that is shared within the whole community. In fact she offers tips for “Writing Other Bible Stories to Tell to the Congregation” that are not included in the lectionary, so that the user isn’t limited to any appointed text.
Lectionary-Based Stories for Each Sunday
The book covers the entire lectionary Year C. Each children's sermon is titled according to the lectionary such as "Fourth Sunday of Advent." Below that title you'll find a brief subtitle (ex: Two Babies) and the Biblical citation (ex. Luke 1:39-45). Immediately following is the text of the suggested story for the preacher to use for a children's sermon/message. Each story lasts about a page and a half, and concludes with a short prayer (one or two sentences).
As the author explains, "Each story is about five minutes long. To prepare to tell one of the stories provided here, read the Bible text that inspires the story as well as the story itself. Adapt the story so the style and the words or phrases are comfortable for you. Don't try to memorize it word for word. You are telling the story, not reciting it." (Introduction xix)
Focused on the Bible Story
I find it a huge plus that this book follows the lectionary week for week, and that it is therefore easy to find each week’s recommended story. Personally I have too many children’s sermon books on my shelf that have cute titles, but take more time to figure out which Biblical text the sermons line up with, or what day to use them. I also have thematic children's sermon books that organize their contents by themes such as “bread.” Feasting on the Word: Children's Sermons is not that kind of book. There are no dollar store items to buy, or connections to topics such as “service ministry.” Instead, the reader finds Biblical stories for children. Preachers certainly have different preferences in terms of what they want the children (and adults) to get out of the children’s sermon. If you are clear that you want the children’s sermon to emphasis the Biblical text, then this book is for you.
This book could be used by anyone wanting to share sacred stories, whether for children and adults in worship, during Sunday School, or to inspire folks at a special service or event. Note that the author includes four additional stories for special Sundays, such as an ordination, stewardship, or mission trip commissioning. In a day and age when all ages could probably use help hearing and better relating to our sacred stories, this children’s sermon book delivers. As Wehrheim reminds us, “Enjoy telling the story.” Indeed, this is how the Good News is shared with children and 'all who have ears to listen.'
Guest reviewer Janelle Rozek Hooper is a writer, wife, mother, pastor and daily walker currently serving as Program Director for Ministry with Children for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She is author of “Heaven on Earth: Studies in Matthew” by Augsburg Fortress Press. You can find her on Twitter @ELCA4KIDS.