I always get a kick watching the children’s pastor on Sunday mornings…15 minutes into service, 15-20 kids ranging in age from three to eight are called up front for a brief message especially for them. Usually, the message ends with a treat, so it’s a fairly popular event with the kiddos. The adults love it, too, as inevitably a kid will say something worthy of Readers Digest…it’s your basic cute-fest.

Besides the entertainment value, the “kid sermon” also serves as a great reminder to anyone in the position of communicating a message to others. Like teachers, the youth pastor is given a ridiculously challenging audience to engage. At any given time, the audience may actually stand up and walk away ~ there’s a formula for success, some of which no doubt includes all or some of the following:

  • Know your audience ~ Today’s message included an actual Star Wars action figure and a reference to Looney Tunes. This is my kind of church.
  • Be relevant ~ You have a far greater chance at success if your audience remembers what you said. Examples of a sibling driving you crazy rings true with this group.
  • Use stories ~ Our kids love stories. Fact is, everybody loves a good story. We’re conditioned to anticipate a resolution or epiphany of some sort, so we listen for it. Stories make a message cohesive and emotional. Powerpoint decks make people drowsy.

“Smile? You mean like this?”

  • Be likable ~ I give this piece of wisdom to people in all sorts of manifestations; selling, interviewing, dating, apologizing, basically any situation where it’s incumbent upon you to have people not be repulsed by your very presence. How does one “be likable?” Don’t over think it ~ smile. Ask questions. Be open and welcoming. Think of the most likable person you know – why are they so damn charming? It’s probably easier to define than you think.
  • Keep it Simple ~ Albert Einstein said “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Me & Big Al are on the same page here – complicating the message or diluting the message only serves to confuse or disengage the audience. We’ve all been in presentations where the explanation begins to have negative returns on the goal of the message.  Don’t be that guy.

Truth be told, more adults are probably engaged in listening to the Kid Sermon as well. It’s like getting a fun little Cliff’s Notes version of what’s to come; certainly there’s a lesson in that, right?

One last tip, just in case you start losing the audience:

  • Whenever possible, have candy ~ Don’t think for a minute that a reward isn’t a good incentive.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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