Our church has a play every year featuring our children. Almost as soon as they can walk, the youngest ones become barn animals at the birth of Jesus. Our daughter is a natural introvert, so our first experience was somewhat traumatic. Stomach aches and tears peppered the couple of days before the performance. Her first thirty seconds on a stage took as much parenting energy as teaching her to drive.
Fast forward almost fifteen years. Our introvert is getting ready to compete nationally in a public speaking event after placing first in our state. Although she will probably always be a little more nervous than an extrovert would before speaking, she now hops up on the stage and can speak comfortably with audiences of various sizes.
Public speaking is not necessarily something we encourage our children to pursue. If they are exposed to public speaking, it is usually in high school or college. At that age, fears or bad habits are already firmly established. Many schools don’t provide enough public speaking opportunities for every child to participate. Yet, business leaders will tell you the ability to speak well in public is essential for many upper level jobs.
Business reasons aside, public speaking is a necessary part of Christianity. God calls us to share His good news with those around us. Whether we are teaching a class, preaching a sermon or sharing our faith with one person at a time, following God’s command means speaking in public to audiences of various sizes. Our children need to be able to speak comfortably to others about the Gospel and their faith. So how can we train our children to share their faith with a variety of “audiences”?
- As we learned with our daughter, early exposure to speaking in front of people allows children to grow through their fears and become comfortable speaking to an audience at a relatively young age. Short of becoming a stage mother, take every opportunity to get your child on some sort of “stage”. Church plays, music recitals, Lads to Leaders and talent shows give your young children an opportunity to get up in front of people and have all eyes on them. The constant exposure will eventually wear away any initial fears of being in front of people.
- Try to limit early stage experience to events in front of family and friends. Church members are usually very supportive of their young people when they do anything on stage. The positive reinforcement will encourage your child to get up on stage again the next time there is an opportunity.
- Allow your children to make mistakes without fear of your disapproval. Young children should only get positive reinforcement for going through with the process of performing on stage. Now is not the time to nitpick at the performance. If they do make a mistake and are upset about it, point out how supportive the audience was. Remind the child that everyone knows how hard it is to get up in front of people and do something and are sympathetic rather than mocking of any mistakes.
- As your children get older, try to find opportunities for them to give speeches, make talks, teach lessons or participate in any event which requires them to speak clearly and work on stage presence, articulation and eventually writing and speaking to share important ideas. Bonus points if any of the opportunities encourage your children to find ways to share God’s Words with others.
- Find ways to read the Bible and converse with your children regularly about God’s Words. They really need to know their scriptures well in order to share their faith effectively with others. Encourage them to start making a mental note every time they see God working. Scriptures along with personal testimonies are what draw people to God. Your children need to become comfortable sharing both and that comfort is easier if they know their topic really well.
Having trouble finding opportunities for your children to practice public speaking or sharing their faith? In my next post, I will share with you some resources to help you on your search. In the meantime, how about an informal family presentation? Have your children research volunteer opportunities in your community and the scriptures that ask us to serve those people. Have each child give a two minute speech to your family on the opportunity to serve they prefer. If you have older children, you can give them more time and then have them answer questions from the audience. Let me know how it goes in a comment below. I would love to hear what your children had to say!