For all of us who minister to children, we see first hand the challenges the kids in this generation are facing. There are so many things coming at them from all directions in this fast-paced, high-tech, unfiltered culture…and their parents are facing the same pressures. We also hear the toll it is taking on kids when we pray with them on Sunday mornings. The requests are weighty, deep and sincere… “pray for my Aunt’s cancer” and for “my Mom and Dad not to get a divorce”. How can we make the most of the limited time we have with these precious children and point them to Jesus? How can we come alongside their overstressed and overwhelmed parents and help them teach their kids about Jesus in their homes?
I believe one of the most powerful ways to teach kids about Jesus is to help them learn truth by singing, not just songs of worship, but by singing God’s Word. The great worship leader King David sang these words in Psalm 119: How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When we plant seeds of God’s Word in young, fertile hearts, we help them find the path of purity in the midst of a lost culture.
I have had the privilege of being in children’s ministry for over twenty years and have been leading worship and singing God’s Word with kids for over seventeen years. Through these years, I have become even more convinced music is one of the best tools God created to pass truth from generation to generation. We see it over and over insignificant moments in the Bible…songs springing from the hearts of Moses and David, as well as Mary the mother of Jesus. Music is woven into the fabric of our souls and God often uses it to prepare our hearts to receive wisdom from the Holy Spirit. The songs in the Bible themselves teach us this. For example, Psalm 145:4-7:
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
Jesus talked about the power of children’s praise when He quoted David from Psalm 8, as the religious leaders were criticizing the children for praising Jesus in the temple courts:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
It makes me laugh as I write, because it is hard to believe (but it is true!), that I have been doing this long enough to see a generation of young people become young adults. They often stop me at worship events and share that they are now teaching their own kids the same songs they learned when they were kids! They are one generation of parents passing down God’s truth to another.
Sing God’s Word, Know God’s Word
At Seeds Family Worship, we are passionate about sharing God’s Word through worship music. When people ask us to sum up what we do, our quick response is ‘we help families sing God’s Word.’ This is our consuming passion because we believe kids who SING God’s Word, KNOW God’s Word. There’s something about singing that locks the message of a song deep in your heart unlike anything else. And when you regularly sing God’s Word, those songs and verses will most likely stay with you the rest of your life. How many song lyrics do you know from the ’80s like I do (okay, I am dating myself here again)? We know so many song lyrics by heart whether we have tried to learn them intentionally or not. Music moves through our minds and makes its way to our hearts – and lives there – for better or worse. It is one of the creative and intentional ways I believe God wired all of us.
Most of the curriculums we use in children’s ministry have a Scripture memory component. As hard as we work to help kids memorize these verses, children generally retain a small percentage of the verses they learn by rote memorization. But, verses learned through songs have an exponentially higher retention rate. And even better, it’s effortless and fun. What an amazing tool God has given us to help kids know God’s Word!
LOVE IS GREATER THAN KNOWLEDGE
As passionate as we are to help young people sing and know God’s Word, there’s another step beyond this that is our greatest prayer. The reason we want to help kids and parents sing and know God’s Word is not to just fill up their heads with facts and knowledge. Our ultimate goal is found in Mark 12:30-31, which says, “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’” The two greatest commandments, the ones that sum up everything in the Bible, call us to love. Our prayer is that as kids sing God’s Word, they will know God’s Word, and that will ultimately lead them to have a sincere love for God and people.
I think every leader reading this has that as their greatest desire for their children, that they would become more loving toward God and others. The knowledge of God’s Word without love is, as Paul says in I Corinthians 13, like a “noisy gong or clanging cymbal.” (v.1) If I accomplish things that seem important to other Christians, even ‘deliver up my body to be burned,’ yet don’t have love, ‘I gain nothing’ (v.3). Love is the goal. Not a gushy, empty, modern definition of love, but a sacrificial love that models Christ’s love for the church, a love that seeks to please Him in all things. That is our hunger for your children and their families. We pray as your kids have fun singing God’s Word, they would fall in love with knowing His Word, and the Word hidden in their hearts would go to work transforming them.
Singing God’s Word In Children’s Worship
Ok – let’s get really practical on how to help the kids in your church sing God’s Word. There are some incredible ministries that have worked hard to provide high-quality songs and videos to facilitate worship for children’s church, and we are thankful for every one of them. Whether your church has a full worship team dedicated to your children’s ministry, or you just have a computer/DVD player and a screen for your kids, you can create life-giving worship times that will impact the kids in your children’s church. In fact, thanks to all of the great resources available, you don’t even have to be able to sing well to be an effective worship leader for Children’s Church in our modern world.
We recently renovated our Children’s Church at my home church Lighthouse in Twin Falls, Idaho. You can see we have a small stage, a large TV and a simple two microphone/sound set-up. I have created a worship environment that can be led by any volunteer with a heart for worship and kids.
I lead and facilitate worship in a number of ways on Sunday morning. We typically lead four worship songs per service.I love to divide our set into songs where we sing God’s Word and songs where we sing directly to God in worship. For example, on a recent Sunday, we sang “I Believe” (John 3:36), and “Trust” (Proverbs 3:5-6), as well as “Way Maker”, and “Good, Good Father”. On some Sundays, I will play acoustic guitar and sing along with the videos as the worship leader. Other Sundays, I won’t play, but will just sing and lead the hand motions with a few young volunteers. When I am not there, our ministry leaders can facilitate worship the same way. Even if they don’t have a strong voice, they can lead the hand motions and facilitate the worship with our worship videos.
The majority of Seeds Family Worship videos have hand motions that are led by my niece Kylie Lynch. She joyfully helps kids (and worship leaders) with the hand motions and inspires them with her infectious heart for worship. I love to launch our worship time with a fun, joyfilled song of worship and then land it with a more thoughtful, vertical song praising God for His goodness, faithfulness, and love. The energetic songs at the beginning help new kids feel welcome and ignites the energy in the room. The slower songs at the end quiet their spirits and prepare them to listen to the upcoming lesson. Before we sing, we often have a child come to the front and quote from memory one of the verses we will be singing. It is so rewarding for the leaders to see how many kids are getting God’s Word in their hearts and it encourages other kids to learn the verses.
Helping Kids Participate In Worship
We have learned through trial and error over the years about how to teach kids to worship and how to help all of the children participate. We always need to keep in mind as leaders that God has wired us in many different ways and, therefore, we express our worship differently. Some kids (literally) jump at the opportunity to worship and love to participate in every activity on Sunday morning, while others are reserved, careful and very self-conscious. It is important to allow each child to participate according to their own personality and wiring. That being said, we have found several factors that greatly increase participation in worship with young people.
Cast Vision For Worship
It is important to teach children that worshiping God is part of what God created them to do. We can worship God in many ways, and one of those ways is to sing songs to Him. There are so many verses in the Bible that highlight this, so find a moment at the beginning of worship to read one of those verses from the Word, like this one from Psalm 95:1-2:
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Encourage Participation From All Leaders
It is important to encourage all of your children’s ministry leaders to participate in worship – and to the best of their ability, join in singing and doing the hand motions (for the songs that have them). Just as there are different personality types for kids, the same applies for adults, but that being said, it makes a huge difference if your ministry leaders are engaged and having fun with the kids during worship rather than standing at the back of the room, arms crossed, sneaking looks at their phones. Let your volunteers know that engaging with kids and taking part in the activities is one of the greatest ways they can lead and influence the children.
Recruit Youth and Young Adults To Lead Worship/Hand Motions
Our Seeds Family Worship team is made up of youth and young adults, and that is by design. Children look up to teenagers and young adults and want to be like them. When they see them genuinely participating in worship and having fun, they will feel safe and encouraged. The older kids in children’s ministry (especially the boys) are going to be much more likely to join in if they see some youth worshiping the Lord. It is also essential to teach the youth how to lead, and share with them the importance of setting a great example for the kids (1 Timothy 4:12). If you have not tried this approach in your ministry, I highly recommend you find some youth with a heart for worship to be part of your children’s ministry worship team. Equip them and call them into the significant role as a kid’s worship leader.
Pray For God To Use You As His Instruments
Our Seeds Family Worship ministry culture has three simple areas of emphasis. We are prayerful, positive and productive. We lead ministry first and foremost through prayer. Philippians 2 tells us that “it is God who works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Pray with your worship team and your leaders for God’s Spirit to be at work and to lead your team. We all know the dynamics of children’s ministry and the busyness of Sunday morning, so prayer is essential to help us tap into God’s strength, power and His agenda. We are His instruments! We want Him to use us to do what He desires to do in the lives of all of the children and parents that we are called to serve.
One Final (Musical) Note of Encouragement
I hope you will be able to implement these practical ideas into the children’s worship at your church. If you do, I truly believe you will see the fruit in the hearts of your children when they sing God’s Word.
I have one final (musical) note of encouragement from 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, which is:
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
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As you listen to this Scripture song, be confident in the truth that all you are pouring into the lives of children and parents is changing the trajectory of the next generation. The battle is real. We know it takes an incredible amount of energy to lead and teach these young people. But in the midst of the relentless week-to-week ministry demands, you have one of the greatest opportunities to impact your kids. How can you and your team make a difference in the world? Teach these children the Gospel – one day at time, one prayer at a time, and one song at a time.