Children's Sermons: Idea for March Madness

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3-Point Challenge:  A Children’s Message

This children’s message was originally written for an Awana group of 1st – 6th graders.  It draws parallels between basketball shooting techniques and the Christian life with multiple Bible verse references.  What I’ve written below would be a 10-15 minutes presentation, but you extract the main points for a children’s sermon on Sunday morning. You could also add some additional content for a children’s church lesson.
Materials: (all optional)  basketball hoop and basketball ( I used our son’s plastic little tykes set); your favorite college team shirt, sweatshirt, or hat;  a basketball jersey or uniform
Do any of you know what is going on now in college basketball? That’s right!  It’s called March Madness!  Raise your hand if you have a favorite college basketball team.  (Call on a couple students to name theirs.)   Great!  Well, my favorite team is ______________ and they are/aren’t in the Big Tournament this year.
Here’s how March Madness goes. There are 64 teams.  Then they’ll be 32.  The next rounds are called Sweet 16, Elite 8, and then the Fnal 4.  Making it to the Tournament at all is a big deal.  Any team can make it, which is what makes March Madness fun.  People predict who is going to win, but anything goes!  Little college basketball teams can upset big ones and everyone goes crazy!
Of course, with all of these teams at the Tournament, there is only one National Champion. Only one school takes home the prize.  The Bible actually has quite a lot to say about competitions you know.  So if you like sports, dive in!
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 it says, “Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
There are a lot of things you need to have a winning team. Some of those include:  hard working players, a good coach, humility, teamwork, and strict training.  Basketball is about all those things, but it’s also about the basics and fundamentals:  dribbling, passing, defense, and shooting.  Today we’re going to talk about how to make a great three point shot, not only on the court but in life as well.

If you’re going to make a great three point shot, first you have to:

Focus on Your Goal: (Have the children point to their eyes.  Model with the basketball hoop and ball if available.)  In basketball, your goal is to get the ball in the hoop.  You look at the hoop when you shoot.  You focus.  You aim for the box right above the net.
In the Christian life, our goal is to become like Christ:  to love God and others like He did. Hebrews 12:2 explains this well.  It says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Do you think we often focus on becoming like Jesus? (No.)  What things in life do we focus on?  (School, friends, clothes, money, video games, sports, music, etc.)
How can we remember to focus on Christ? (Read the Bible, ask questions, go to church, pray, obey His word, have a relationship with Him, etc.)  Proverbs 4:25 says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”
No one is making baskets if they’re not looking at the net. You can’t win like that.  None of us are going to become like Jesus if we’re not focused on Him.  Focus on your goal, which is Jesus.

If you’re going to make a great three point shot, secondly you have to:

Square Up: (Have the students draw a square in the air.  If you have the basketball hoop and ball available, demonstrate visually.)  In basketball, if you want to get the ball in the hoop, you’ve got to get your body facing the goal:  your feet, hips, shoulders.  You get things right, balanced and steady.
In life, “squaring up” means to make things right. You can’t follow Christ and do whatever you want to do.  You’ve got to have a clean heart and a clean mind and get to work with your hands.  A section of Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Just like running down the court with suitcases would be a bad idea for a basketball player, it’s a bad idea for us to let sin get in our way. Don’t answer this question out loud, but what gets in your way?  What sin in your life hurts the heart of God?  What sin do you need to get rid of?  Is it disobeying your parents, lying, making fun of boy at school, talking back to our teacher, fighting, spending all our time with video games?
We all have to get rid of sin, every moment of every day. We’ll never be perfect, but we aim for it.  2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) says, “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal.  Be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Aim for perfect.

If you’re going to make a great three point shot, last of all you have to:

Follow through: (Have the students make a shooting motion with their hands in the air and demonstrate with the basketball and hoop if available.)  In basketball, coaches always say to follow your shot.  That means that after you shoot, you try to get the ball back again for a rebound just in case you don’t get it in the first time.
In the Christian life, you’re going to need to follow God every day. It’s a commitment, a challenge, and the greatest reward.  But it’s not going to be easy.  You’ll make mistakes, but you never stop trying.  Never.  You keep shooting anyway, just like a basketball player on the court.  We might see a basketball player make 7 shots out of 10 in a game.  But that’s because they’ve missed 25,000 times before then.  If you miss, you shoot again.  If you sin, you sincerely ask for forgiveness, and you learn to do what is right.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
We want our daily (everyday) life to win the respect of outsiders – people who don’t know Christ.  We want them to be able to say, “What’s different about her?  Wow, that kid is amazing.  What makes him stand out?  There’s something special about him.”
We want other people to know Christ too and to ask questions about Him. People will notice if you’re working your hardest to love Jesus and love others.  They’ll notice the love, peace, joy, hope you have and they’ll want it for themselves.
Let’s review. (Use the hand motions to help trigger memory.)  To make a three point shot, we focus on the goal, square up, and follow through.  We do it in basketball.  After lots of practice shooting, we’ll get that ball in the net.  Hey, we may even score the winning points for our team.
In the Christian life, we focus on Jesus. We square up, get things right with God, and get rid of sin.  And we follow through.  We keep following God no matter what.  And we try and try again.
Even harder than a three point challenge in a basketball game, is the three point challenge in life. But it’s worth it.  It’s so worth it!  And you can do it!  I believe in you.  Your teachers/pastors believe in you.  Christ believes in you.  And He is your biggest fan.  I wonder if he’s applauding now.
(Close in prayer.)

Need More Ideas? Try this children’s ministry game that ties into March Madness, or find a craft idea to expand this lesson for Sunday School.

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