Preaching Story to Children and Adults

As I was sharing about preaching Bible stories recently a friend jumped in and exclaimed their encouragement.  “What you are describing as an approach to preaching to adults is what we do in the school ministry with the children!”  What I had suggested was a basic outline from which to build.  Here’s the outline:

  1. Tell the Story
  2. Make the Main Idea Clear
  3. Apply the Main Idea

In a bit more detail, here’s my suggested “default” starter outline:

Introduction – whatever is needed to make people want to listen to you and to the passage and message.

  1. Tell the story – tell the story so people can imagine it happening.  Tell it accurately, tell it engagingly, tell it with energy.
  2. Main Idea – make it clear what we are supposed to learn from this story. What is the main point the author is trying to communicate?
  3. Application – take some time to describe the difference this idea could make, should make, to our lives.  Be specific.

Conclusion – review the main point, encourage application, stop.

So here’s a question from Philip on this site the other day: What differences should their be when preaching narrative passages to an audience of children as opposed to an audience of adults?  Will the differences be in the manner the story is told or taught?  Or only in the truths the story teaches?

Difference in Manner?  I would say not especially.  While we might feel the need to be more exaggerated and “hyped” to keep the attention of children, I suspect they can be gripped by a well told story minus excessive clowning from us.  On the other hand, perhaps we need to utilize more energy and motion in our story telling to adults!?

Difference in Truth?  I would say not especially.  We might state the truth more simply to children, but a story has one main idea.  That is the main idea whoever the audience.  A story isn’t theologically loaded for adults, but a simple moral instruction for children.  What changes is how we present and apply that specific truth.

Difference in Application?  Yes, this would be different.  We don’t need to help children imagine trusting God’s goodness in the face of employment challenges.  But the same truth is needed in their school and home experiences.

Difference in Awareness?  Yes, this is the main thing that comes to my mind.  Children don’t have the same historical and geographical/spatial awareness that adults tend to have.  We need to beware of assuming too much knowledge with adults too (in an increasingly biblically illiterate society), but I think details in a text that may be fascinating to adults can be confusing to children.

Same passage, same truth, but differing levels of detail, and differing specifics of application.

What do you think?

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