“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”. Deuteronomy6:5-7
Taking this command seriously includes singing the songs of our faith in the home. The church should be a feasting place for singable songs, and the appetite for it is nurtured at home. Singing is one of the best ways to teach kids, and we should start when they are young. Songs help us train children in the “language” of the Christian faith. Singing the gospel changes hearts, and singing the gospel prepares hearts. Our singing always remains more important than the sound it makes.
What should children sing?
Sing what you like, what you enjoy singing, the songs that are good for your spiritual well-being. C.S. Lewis suggested that children don’t learn lke a train going form station to station but rather as a tree grows by adding rings. Kids add and build on what they already know, and so do adults; so we must take care to try and make those first key rings of growth healthy and strong, providing a solid foundation a child can build on. We can give children a little more than they understand in the songs we sing with them, and over time help them grow into an understanding of every part of a lyric, just like buying new shoes for your kid a size bigger than they need right now, so that they grow into them and get longer wear out of them.
Suggestions if your kids are teenagers . . .
- Tell and show your kids why this is important. Be part of a church family that enables you to clearly show congregational singing done well, especially with opportunities where you can sing with your kids in church and not always send them away to another service just for them.
- Make it as fun and attractive to them as possible. Find contemporary versions of good songs that appeal to a teenager’s ear.
- Get started. Start playing songs in your home. Let them see you singing.
- Don’t be scared of your kids. You have the right and responsibility to parent them.
When parents, and particularly fathers, do not sing, it often leads to older kids inheriting similar tepid responses that sadly often go far beyond just the singing. Be a parent who sings with joy, and pray that your kids, of whatever age, would follow you – not just in the singing, but in the faith that brings such joy.
Ten Practical Ideas
- Use all the help and opportunities you can get. Stream the songs from Sunday during breakfast, or ver your smartphone during part of the bedtime routine. Sing the blessing before a meal, such as the “Doxology.”
- Teach your kids songs you want them to grow old with. The best songs for our youth are often the best songs for our old age.
- Talk about what you’re doing and what the songs mean. Take tiem to talk about why we sing, what happens when we sing, and how we use the gift of singing to serve one another. Teach the children a hymn of the the month and use the lyrics as conversation starter about faith. A good resource might be Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbie Wolgemuth’s series Hymns for a Kid’s Heart.
- Prepare for Sunday Services: make the most of the car rides to sing and listen to the songs from church.
- Model Passionate Participation in the Services. Always remember when you sing at church, your children (and everyone else’s around you) can see you and are watching. Sit somewhere in your church building where your kids are surrounded by strong singing.
- Be aware of all the music your kids are into. There are ultimately no neutral lyrics. All songs share a message about how we should view the world.
- If your kids are into music . . . Encourage them! Drive them to the music lessons and let your home be a rehearsal place.
- If your church has a children’s choir, Support it if you can. At Green Pines, we will be integrating the children’s singing as part of the Sunday School beginning in September.
- Cultivate High Opinions of All Types of Art. Issues of church music today are not that a certain style isn’t quite right but rather that we are too narrow and maybe even too boring in our expression. Make use of different instruments, sounds, and languages.
- Sing Today. The children are not too old or too young but begin today.
Excerpts from chapter 5 of Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristyn Getty.