Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Follow Friday: Dollar Store Children Sermons

Me leading a children's moment at Peakland United Methodist July 2013

Me leading a children’s moment at Peakland United Methodist July 2013

I have a confession. I don’t always come up with my children sermons on my own. I know, I know, what a disappointment. Sometimes, though, the well is just dry! Yeah, there are books and some websites that are helpful. But, I have found one blog that has been incredible. I may not always do what this blog suggests, but it does help get my creativity flowing when that well is dry. I may not use every idea on it, but it is so creative that it may inspire one of my children sermons.

I’m talking about Dollar Store Children Sermons.

It’s video blog by Pastor John Stevens. John is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, ELCA in Oregon City, Oregon.

The blog began about a year – January 2013. John shared with me how the blog got started:

One of my hobbies is sleight of hand magic, and so using that, I created a blog called Magic316, back in April of 2011. I would use a magic trick and connect it to the lectionary texts, much like Dollar Store Children Sermons. It was a fun idea, but as you can imagine, limited to its audience.

It was doing the Magic316 blog that John began to think about how he could still have fun and reach a larger audience. He was in a Dollar Tree looking for something, like cheap candy, when he noticed a luggage tag. The tag read, “I’m Not Yours.” As he recalls, “It seemed like a perfect fit for a children sermon, crossing out the ‘Not’ and going from there. That was the beginning.”

John uses things you can find at a typical dollar store to be the object lesson in a children sermon. Oh, and for all the preacher types out there, it is lectionary based. I wondered how often he is at a Dollar Tree in preparation for the blog. “About an hour or so, give or take,” he told me, “When I first started the blog, I would spend more time in the Dollar Tree.”

crayons_8477cSometimes the ideas come from being in the Dollar Tree and sometimes they come from the lectionary texts themselves. When he first started, John would buy about $20 worth of stuff from the dollar store, which, let’s face it, is a lot! But, John learned something quick about the Dollar Tree. The store “turns over a lot of its stock,” he said. “For example, I have a very cool ‘Message in a Bottle’ that has a children sermon all over it, but I didn’t use it in time, and you can no longer get it from them.”

As a result, John keeps his prep for the blog to about a month in advance. If he finds a seasonal item (like the Funky Glasses children sermon), he will use the item on the blog as soon as he can.

After he got going with it, he would spend a morning looking through the upcoming lectionary texts and writing down one word themes. Then, he would brainstorm objects that might connect to the one-word themes. And from there, he goes to the Dollar Tree to find objects that might work.  “Sometimes,” he tells me, “I will see something that just says, ‘I am a children sermon,’ and I pick it up for later.”

One of the coolest things that has happened to Dollar Store Children Sermons is that it is now linked to textweek.com (special thanks to Jenee!). Because of this connection, which is where most people get introduced to the blog, John keeps at least a few Sundays ahead of the game. “As of this interview,” he said, “I have videos posted up through February 9th.” He will typically do three to five videos in one sitting and they get posted in that day.

So, my preacher friends, for those who are looking a few weeks ahead or the night before, you can find a useable children sermon at Dollar Store Children Sermons.

You can follow John on twitter at @RevJohn29 and like Dollar Store Children Sermons on Facebook here.


  1. Really nice! Like how you always give credit to others for some good ideas. Hope they do the same for all your talents!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Jason, thanks so much for the great article, and the opportunity to be interviewed! Blessings on your ministry! ~ John

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