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Preaching Training

Preaching to Children

Introduction to Big Group Preaching:

On Sundays, we preach to children. We preach with a verdict in mind. The message must change their lives. But if we get up and say, “Today, i am going to preach 3 mains parts…” in exactly 17 seconds, you have lost all the children and you are in big trouble.

So we dress our preach up in the form of a story!

“Storytelling” needs a whole new definition! Have you ever wondered why children seem so absorbed and are glued to the TV set when watching the “Lion King” or “The Incredibles”, but when you sit them down on the carpet and tell them a Bible story, they just seem to switch off! By Storytelling, we need to redefine it as meaning to bring the Bible to life! As Aaron Reynolds says, the Bible deserves that! Not sitting with a group of children reading a book but dramatically bringing stories in the Bible to life in such a way that they are deeply impacted by the message and live life differently on Monday because of what they experience on Sunday. The following are some really basic guidelines for storytellers. The best way to grow is to watch someone else in action, but I trust these written guidelines will help.

Props and Visuals

Props and visuals are essential aids (even the simplest prop can multiply your effect). Use a projector if you have one, DVD’s, costumes, anything. I was informed once that children learn 30% by what they hear, but another 30% by what they say. If all you are doing is talking….good luck because you are going to need it! Visuals will also help you to transport the children into the story, making them feel more like they are actually there! The problem is that some storytellers think they are more riveting to listen to than they actually are, and dismiss the importance of visual aids.


Audience Participation

Any opportunity you have to bring the children into your story, do it. Children often love acting, or seeing their friends act, and you’ll have their attention so much easier. But if you do bring children in, make sure you direct them strongly with their role, otherwise they can become a distraction to your story. For example, if you are ending off your story with Jesus’ crucifixion, you don’t want little Johnny who was a Roman centurion in your story, now bored sitting at your feet and tying your shoelaces together. If you use them, direct them strongly, and send them back down if you don’t need them, rather than them distracting from your message. Also, don’t army volunteer; pick those that will be responsive to your instructions. I once picked a girl for the story who, only once the story was in full swing, did i discover couldn’t speak English!


Be relevant

Engage them at their level. Know what kids are watching on TV. What sort of music do they listen to? What technology? What words are cool? If you get up and tell them about a program you watch in the 1980’s, don’t expect to win them over. Or talking about being careful about what music they listen to, and you use Guns ‘n Roses as an example. They haven’t a clue who they are. When you show them that you know a bit about their world, they will respect you and listen to you more.


Know your ‘bottom line

What exactly is your message? Sometimes a storyteller raps on for so long about so many different things, you don’t actually know what the point is. Then they say, thanks and step down and everyone’s thinking, “What was that about?” Now the MC gets up and dismisses everyone into their small groups and the small group leaders have so much work to do, basically having to retell the entire story with the message for that day. Instead, the kids should be running back into their small groups so amped by the story, with so many questions and things to talk about. Comments like, “Did you see that…?” are good indicators that a good story was told. Once a storyteller knows what the bottom line is, I.e Prayer is a 2 way conversation or, your can’t run away from God’s call on your life, it becomes easier to work back from there, creating the message and medium to bst get that bottom line across. I often ask myself what picture best describes the bottom line? Then i will work towards painting that picture, because ‘a picture speaks a thousand words!’ At least then when the child goes home, i have left a vivid picture in their mind of what the story was.



A well practiced story is a pleasure to watch, and so easy to learn from. Fruit of not practicing is doing things like saying, ummmm a lot, waffling, going off the topic, losing the bottom line, frustration etc. Part of that is knowing what your train of thought is from start to finish. Why do you start by telling that funny story? Did it add t your message or take away from it? Also, practice how you will transition from them story to the practical implication it has into the child’s life. You might think that practicing will take away the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Actually, i think it’s the opposite. And don’t think that a practiced story will come across as boring…when you know where you are going and this is the first time your audience has ever heard your story, you will play with them, feeling a sense of power in your delivery, because you know where you are going and the emotions you want them to experience.


Body Language

Use body language and the stage. A good storyteller uses the whole stage when telling the story. Never stand in one place, move around. It’s far more engaging and exciting to watch. They’ll be thinking, ‘what’s he going to do next?’ other good methods are to use your body language to help your message and create the mood you want. It’s no good trying to describe how fast the horses were running, when you are standing still with your hand in your pocket. When you are getting to a more somber part of your message – whisper it. Avoid drifting – that’s where you aimlessly walk up and down the stage or from side to side for no reason and it becomes distracting. If you have a poignant point to convey, stand dead still and speak s – l -o- w – l – y. It will sink in better. My basic rule would be, when you are telling necessary but arbitrary information in the story, liven it up by moving around. If you are telling really important information that drastically impacts your message, slow down, stand still and speak slower. That way, either through your spoken word or body language, you keep them focused and engaged.


Be teachable

Ask others to critique you on how you went. It’s better to do a pre – Sunday critique than a post Sunday critique. Do your story in front of others just as you would do with the children, and let everyone dissect it afterwards. You have go to be tough though! Better to do that before the Sunday and make the improvements, than after Sunda when the critique is too late actually.


Cool flows downward

A lesson i learned through the coaching manual of ‘The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School’ by Aaron Reynolds, was this principle that ‘cool flows downward.’ by this is meant, aim your story to being more cool to the older kids than the younger. If the older kids enjoy it, then the younger ones will enjoy it too, as they look up the the older kids. But if you aim at the younger kids, you will lose the older kids because it will be childish and uncool. I realise that pupper shows are only effective for the 3 – 6 year olds; from 7 upwards, the kids feel like they are being treated like babies. You also have to be careful that you don’t speak in a childish or babyish way, OK little boys and girls, come together now and let’s read a nice little story, will not be cool. But, alrighty then, listen up you funky people! Come parke here in the front because i have got something totally awesome to tell you, will go a lot further. And the 5 year old and 13 year old will love you equally…


I came up with a basic guideline for our storytellers, in terms of how their time on the stage should start, and all the way to when they get back down. After looking at the different important elements, i came up with an acronym: HASTA


H = Hello

This sounds really basic, but it’s so important and so often i see storytellers leave this out! Your shouldn’t get up onto the stage and begin with, OK, this is the story for today… what happen to a good old fashioned greeting? I would prefer to start of with something like, ‘Hey there everyone, how you all doing today? Great! Cool, i’m feeling great too!’ Feel the difference? I’m connecting with them. Look and talk as if you like them and like being with them.

A = Anticipation

Once you have greeted them, don’t launch straight into the story. Build some anticipation first – wet their appetite. Say something like, ‘Well guys, i am soooo excited to be here, because today’s Bible story must be the most BODACIOUSLY AWESOME story ever! This whole month of learning that God is our Father has been amazing, and i’m just so amped to tell you something else about our awesome Father God….(drop your voice) so listen up carefully…because you are not going to want to miss this…’

S = Set the Scene

I know you want to tell the story but wait! You need to set the scene first. Don’t start telling the story in the same posture – move to  different part of the stage, or sit down; anything different. By doing that, you are showing that we are no longer just here talkin, but a story – no wait – a BODACIOUSLY AWESOME story is about to be told. You want to set the scene, so don’t just tell them no about David and Goliath. Put the stor into context: a long time ago the people of God, the Israelites stood facing their enemy – the Philistines. The Israelites knew that God had promised them the land of Canaan, but right now – on that very day – something was going on that shook the foundation of their faith. And it was on THIS day, that the Bible records a story that would be told for generations…

T = Tell the story

Now, having pulled the excitement and anticipation back like the rubber of a catapult, you let loose on them with this BODACIOUSLY AWESOME story. Make the children feel as if they are seeing the whole thing really happen before their very eyes. Don’t get too caught up in the details; stick to what is important to get your bottom line across at the end. I have seen storytellers tell the lesson when they haven’t even told the story! It’s not the time yet to tell them what the lesson is, just tell them the story! It’s important that the children know that this lesson is not some half – baked thing we dreamt of one day. It comes from the BIBLE! And the Bible is not filled with fairy tales, but carefully recorded stories of real men and women who experienced God in so many different ways.

A = Bring Application

So now you have your story. Wow, it was amazing. The children are almost dripping with perspiration from all the excitement. Yet you could nearly hear a pin drop; the atmosphere is electric. Now, the dreaded trap a storyteller can fall into: ‘OK guys, wasn’t that amazing? Thanks for listening to me, see you next week…’ Talk about plummeting from the top of Mount Everest into the depth. What happened there? You didn’t bring the point home. The point of listening to the story was not to hear a good story, it was to impact the children in that electric atmosphere at the end, when you can almost hear the person breathing in front of you, you change body position again, coming back out of the story and back to real life, and talk straight to the heart of every child listening. Bring it home. Little Johnny is not going to face a 7 foot Goliath when he goes to school tomorrow, but he might be confronted by a bully or the news of his parents getting divorced, or the test he just failed, and its in those moments that you want Johnny to remember the story he heard of David and Goliath, so that he knows that he can overcome this ‘giant’. If little Johnny knows that he can face his giant, because of what you told him on Sunday, guess what storyteller, you did your job.




The ‘rise and fall’ of your voice. Thinking about pitch, helps us not sound boring. We must be careful of:

  • Sounding monotonous
  • Sounding like we are on a fun – fair ride.


The expression of mood or emotion in your voice. You can say one sentence in many different ways expressing different emotions.

“The army of soldiers was fierce and strong”


This often goes hand in hand with tone to express your emotion, i.e. Angry = High volume, scared = low volume

We can use volume as a tool to capture the audience:

  • When we want children to listen closely, you can drop your voice a bit
  • It can be used to change the focus from a peak moment to application

A range of volume is vital for a good story!


Timing is extremely important for a good story. We must think about:

  • When to pause (key in bringing across the point of a story/application of the biblical concept)
  • When to talk quickly (to build tension)
  • When to talk slowly (to build suspense, or too add to the emotion)

Stage Placement

The area you have can be used for many different things. You can use different spaces to represent different things, different people or different emotions. Use your placement on stage with the above to create a picture.

Planning your story from a Script

Every week at uptown you are given a script – but how can you make the text come alive for the children?

We need to identify the nuggets, peaks, valleys and then send them home with a good application.

The Nugget is the main part of the story, the crux of the issue and the central idea or principle that we are trying to get across to the children. Read the story a few times and get a good feel for it.


Once we know the main reason for telling the story, we know what to emphasize, where to apply and how to use tone, pitch, pace and volume to highlight the main idea.

The peak moments in a story are those we should look to build to with our voice and actions, creating suspense/tension and getting to a point where the audience are dying to know what happens next.

This is often accompanied by high volume and fast pace and is often the best place to put a pause.

The valley moment are the opposite of the peaks (surprise!) these can also be a great place to bring in your application or to change the tone of what is happening.

The Application is obviously the most important part of the story, and WHY we tell the story. This is where we explain:

  • The biblical concept of the story, i.e giving the children the understanding of what the Bible says.
  • How this applies to them, i.e can you go home and implement this today?

Some things to remember when planning your application:

  • Don’t sound like a teacher! You may do an awesome story and lose the kids when you turn on your teacher voice at the end.
    • It is so important for the kids to know how does this affect me? Give examples they can work with and are relevant.
  • Cool flows downhill (aim your examples at the older kids, the younger kids will latch on)
  • Keep it short and simple. This should be the part of the story you have rehearsed the most and have thought about the most.
  • Practice it on someone.

Tips for your audience:

If you have a wide variety of ages in your meeting every week, this takes more planning. Some points to remember:

  • Cool flows downhill, and if you keep your older kids engaged with your language, the younger kids will focus for longer.
  • Keep younger kids involved with the visual part of the story.
  • Ask questions that are relevant not rhetorical…use funny/ridiculous questions to get their focus.
  • Do not rely on the kids to give you an answer to keep your story going.
    • Know the answer you are looking for and give no more than 3 kids a chance to try and answer.
  • Do not give attention to a disruptive child.
    • Usually by not reacting to a noisy/naughty child they stop.
    • You can walk up the child and just put a hand on their shoulder.
  • Kids will shout out random things
    • Keep to your plan and don’t try and address every comment.
  • When using audience volunteers, give them specific instructions and remain in control.
    • Be wise about who your choose to help you.

Handles for MCing meetings

These are not a list of must do’s but rather my thoughts (and advice from some of the other elders). Remember we are all trying to partner with and hear God’s voice for our corporate meetings and during our corporate meetings. Take risks; be prepared to fail, but always willing to learn. Smile. Remember we want to create an irresistible environment where kids want to come back – they have loads of fun, they make friends, they feel safe, they connect with leaders and they encounter God and Biblical truths which shape their lives.


  1. Prepare well, but hold it lightly during the meeting
  • MC should know the memory verse for the month
  • MC should be familiar with the Bible Story for the day (having read it a few times before the Sunday, asked God for a revelation…)
  • MC should be able to and should recite the bottom line at least 3 or more times during the meeting
  • Come with some relevant research of your own around the topic and keep it in your toolbox (you may need it, you may not – at least you’re prepared if need be, example some stories that illustrate the bottom line)
  1. Ask God for purposeful instruction days before the meeting (what is He wanting to do and say through us). Pray for the meeting, worship, story, group time. Pray for the children.
  2. Be in Charge – be confident, be the front foot, be purposeful.
  • Lead the children into worship. Ensure kids are engaged in worship. Point them to Jesus by getting in front and reminding them, or sharing a quick story which helps them refocus their attention back on Jesus and to enter into worship.
  • Lead the band (they’re looking to you for instruction)
  • Stand up near the front so the band leader can see you (not at the back)
  • Speak well into the microphone
  • Take the lead at the pre – service meeting
  • If kids are distracted you may need to get up and refocus their attention on Jesus (kids are always energetic, but if there is a general disconnectedness with God then bring focus, point them to Jesus)
  • Ask yourself: if you had a word would you be unsure who’s the MC and who to bring it to? Remove the doubt from people right upfront as it makes people feel at ease when someone is leading strongly.
  • Be short and concise, not rambling on for ages, get to the point.
  • Just talk with the kids (don’t feel you need to have a teacher pose, and manner of speech…just hang with them, but be firm and strong in you leading)
  • If words are brought always ask what the appropriate response is (should we be still and listen, or pray, or give a victory declaration shout, invite children to respond by kneeling or sitting quietly with eyes closed and wait on God etc etc)

Remember the basics

  • Smile
  • Tithes and offerings
  • Welcome visitors (make them feel special)
  • Fun icebreaker or game (create the irresistible environment)
  • Celebrate birthday
  • recap/remind previous topics covered (memory verse, bottom line)
  • If God has not redirected the entire meeting by breaking in and children having encounters with God then keep to the time within reason.
  • Always bring application to the story if the storyteller hasn’t (answer the “So What?” question the kids might ask)


Note: Don’t feel you have to “get through the program” for the sake of getting through the program (worship then story the activity etc). If the Holy Spirit wants to do something then take courage and partner with Him. Don’t get hung up on always having to follow the program at all costs. If in doubt communicate your thoughts with another strong leader during the meeting.

  1. Connect with the audience – Just talk, don’t try and be a teacher when communicating with them. Make them feel they can relate to you as a friend, not a mom or dad, or a scary teacher from first grade! Be real to them. “Hey grreat to see you at the movies on Saturday Jenny – wasn’t that a great movie…” or “Hey guys, i did some bad stuff this week, but God was so good in making me see…” versus “children we shouldn’t be unholy…”
  • Smile, wear cool clothes that don’t make you look like a hillbilly. Look funky. Spike your hair if you feel you need too. Wear an earring, dress different.
  • Be wild, not weird!
  1. Don’t try and be too holy and spiritual – Jesus is on the throne. Smile.
  2. Be situationally aware – during the meeting you should be think 10 minutes ahead of everyone else. Are the kids still very distracted after that great game they just played and need to get some focus before worshipping?
  • Bring the adjustment needed to get kids to enter into worship and not waste 15 minutes and spoilt it for others.
  • What’s coming up next and how best can i facilitate that?

Facilitate words that are brought by leaders or children. Smile.

  • You don’t have to release every word all the time (it is not possible time wise). Smile.
  • If you prepare well (and with experience) you should know what line to take. Even if words are spot on you can just confirm them from the front that a few words have come saying this and i believe God wants to do this etc.

Communicate (I would recommend talking the day before the Sunday meeting in case anything needs to be done, arranged, or someone arrives a little late and it throws you etc)

  • Speak to the storyteller before the meeting begins (what are they doing, how do they want the MC to follow up etc)
  • Speak to the sound guy or computer person – do they have everything they need for the morning (pictures, sounds etc)
  • Has the band given the song list to the projectionist to display the song words?
  • Speak to the person on the spotlight – give instructions.
  • Speak to the worship leader before hand. Smile. Let them know what you’re feeling or think should happen during the meeting (they may not always be able to play a specific song, but it’s good they’re kept in the loop).
  • Speak to the other leaders during the meeting – ask them what they feel God is saying. We are a TEAM and we do TEAM so we should be there for each other and willing at all times to be prepared.
  • Bring conclusion/summary/landing to the story (don’t just say “okay that was a great story go to your groups now.”) Maybe the storyteller touched on something that you feel needs to be explained or expanded. Or maybe something wasn’t perfectly clear and it’s your job to take that baton and complete the race and run the message home, bring applicability. Ask yourself this question, “how should we respond to this message we just heard?” and then facilitate that response from the children.


  1. Try and make the meeting as seamless as possible. The gear changes between events (welcome/worship; worship/story; story/application etc) should be as smooth as possible (for example the band/actions team should be ready and run on directly as the MC says “Let’s worship!” – there shouldn’t be 2 minutes of trying to find the mic, song sheets, projection/sound not working etc – these should be ready to go at all times.)
  2. Make sure you know when it is appropriate to talk and when it is best to leave something as is (needless addition of talk talk talk makes the meetings very boring and dull for the kids – they zone out)
  3. Know before your Sunday meeting who is doing what during your meeting. Never wait for 15 minutes before the meeting to find out who is doing the story, who is leading worship, where’s the props, can you do this or do that – last minute chaos is very poor leadership. People will follow organized, intentional leadership. Make it your role to ensure everyone is in their key positions for Sunday. Smile.