Sing a New Song

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We were in the studio working on our new album when my music
assistant and I began to rehearse the kids chorus. It’s my favorite
time in the studio, working with a group of terrific 8- to
12-year-old studio singers. Our routine is the same — we look
through lyrics for the first time while we listen to the music
tracks. I watched as the kids concentrated, their lips moving,
their brows furrowed, and their toes and fingers dancing to “Deck
the Halls,” the song they’d be recording later that day.

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Suddenly Erin, one of my 11-year-old singers, straightened up
and pointed at her lyrics. “Wait!” she exclaimed, her face filled
with surprise and confusion. ” ‘See the blazing yule before us’?”
she demanded. “I always thought the words were, ‘See the blazing
mule before us!’ “

Everything stopped; the music might as well have come to a
screeching halt. We all laughed until we wept, our noses ran, and
our sides hurt. What a mental image! We made jokes about
fire-roasting mules through the rest of production, adding costly
minutes of recording studio time to the budget but also making
priceless memories.

Everyone in the studio that day still has all the laughter,
snickering conversations, feelings of joy and friendship, and the
physical sensations of the silliness of that day — all attached to
the eight simple notes from the first line of that song.

Isn’t it amazing how God created us to recall more than just
words attached to music? God uniquely designed us, especially kids,
to be touched — mind, soul, and body — by songs. Children tuck
away the concepts, feelings, and words of songs in their hearts and
minds. I think that’s why God tells us in Psalm 47:6-7 to:

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Sing praises to God, sing praises.
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

For God is King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm!

God wants your kids to sing to him. And kids are designed and
ready to sing. Indeed, we should sing well-written songs —
age-appropriate songs that kids genuinely enjoy — but God doesn’t
even care if we sing them well. He just wants us to be
enthusiastic.

There are so many ways kids can worship God; he created them to
be especially open, loving, enthusiastic, and expressive. So it’s
only natural that songs and music are among the most wonderful
tools to help them worship our Creator. Sadly, though, we often
overlook kids’ natural ability to worship because we think of it as
a “big person” thing to do. But the truth is, your kids are ready
— today — to make a personal connection to God. Here’s how you
can use songs and music to inspire kids to worship with all the
enthusiasm and heart God gave them.

Foundations for Life

As children’s ministers, we introduce kids to Jesus and fill
them with information about God. But do we help them encounter God?
Or do we put that off until they get into youth programs or
“grown-up” church? More people become Christians as children than
any other age group; but experience leads me to think that a
smaller percentage of children worship than any other age
group.

What are those non-worshipping kids missing? They could be
missing the planting of foundational concepts that’ll enrich their
lives into eternity.

“When a person memorizes something that is put to music, it is
stored in the subdominant hemisphere of the brain, where emotions
and creativity take place. This information is permanently stored
and easy to retrieve when sung,” says Jan Bedell, a certified
master neurodevelopmentalist, plus founder and president of Little
Giant Steps, a company that helps people build accelerated learning
abilities. “It’s been observed that information that is memorized
to music lasts the longest and is the last to be forgotten. Even
Alzheimer’s patients can often retrieve songs from their childhood
when other information has been lost.”

Wow. That’s quite a testament to the power of music in kids’
worship. It’s a powerful argument to start kids praising and
worshipping God when they’re young and to keep this ability growing
as they mature. Early worship experiences lay a foundation for a
lifetime of communing with God.

In kids worship, your first priority is to connect kids to God.
If your kids are connected to God, you can teach and disciple them
deeply in ways you’ve never imagined. Worship is rarely the act of
singing songs that are designed simply to teach. Teaching is the
act of pouring information into kid’s minds. Worship is the act of
pouring love and adoration into the arms of our loving, listening
God.

Kids are more geared for music than grown-ups are. They respond
faster, internalize and memorize music faster, and sense the
emotion and energy more deeply than adults. And we know that kids
are multi-sensory learners; singing is one of the most
multi-sensory activities that we can undertake in a classroom. As
children grow and become more dominant in their learning styles,
some aspect of singing will always reach them; whether it’s
thinking about the words, enjoying the physical movement, or
thriving on the creative aspects of music.

“Brain research supports that children are multi-sensory
learners. They learn best and retain more when information is
presented through multi- modalities,” says Jody Capehart,
experienced children’s pastor, school administrator, and author of
the gold medallion-nominated book Teaching With Heart. “Motor
stimulation [which can include activities required for singing] activates the neural connections in the brain to facilitate
learning and long-term memory. Many children learn best when they
are moving because they build in muscle memory. Music and movement
provide an excellent combination for worship and Scripture
memory.”

Multi-Sensory Songs and Music

God wants our expressions of love for him to involve our entire
being. In Mark 12:30, Jesus reminds us: “And you must
love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your
mind, and all your strength.”

Singing praise encompasses all of those actions. Worship singing
is a multi-sensory experience that affects our bodies, our souls,
and our minds.

  • Bodies — We tap our feet, clap our hands, and
    increase our heartbeats and breathing when we sing. We see others
    singing, we hear the sounds, we feel the vibrations of our voices
    and the floor beneath us and the impact of our hands clapping.
  • Souls — We experience it in our souls and
    emotions when we remember all that God has done for us and all his
    amazing promises.
  • Minds — God’s eternal truth feeds our minds
    for life. The truths we learn in song return to our conscious minds
    when we need them most, in every situation, in every season of
    life.

Worship — in a Kid’s World

We often try to make worship more difficult than it’s meant to
be. It doesn’t require a certain setting or special training.
Worship is simply telling God his worthiness; that he’s worth
anything and everything to us. Contemporary worship leader and
songwriter Matt Redman says, “To worship God is to tell him that we
believe him for who he says he is.” Here are important elements for
kid-size worship.

Keep it age-appropriate. Developmentally, kids
connect with God as he is revealed in their world. Their ability to
grasp God grows as their perception of the world around them grows.
Smaller kids, whose world is the size of their family and the
current room they’re in, will be able to worship God for his
actions and presence in those things. As kids develop and their
world expands, they’re able to worship God for his actions in the
world. Use this parameter and go for content that fits the size of
your kids’ world, but don’t be afraid to introduce “bigger picture”
concepts that the Spirit will use to help kids grow later. “Jesus
Loves Me” contains huge theological implications; but God is able
to fit that concept, which is as big as the universe and all time,
into the heart of a child. Whatever your church’s worship style,
expect kids to be kids, and use age-appropriate worship
materials.

Consider your culture. Choose music that fits
the worship style and theology of your church. Look for music with
enough energy to match your kids’ energy level. The Bible doesn’t
describe any particular musical style for worship, but considering
Psalm 150, it seems okay to be noisy.

Select proven worship songs and energized hymns that fit the
stage of development for kids in the room. Don’t be afraid to use
many of the same songs you sing in “big church,” as long as they
fit kids’ vocal ranges and temperament. After all, kids shouldn’t
go into culture shock when they attend the adult service.

Choose wisely. Studies indicate that kids up to
sixth grade prefer to sing along with kids’ voices over adults —
it’s easier to “fit in” when they sing, and they’re more likely to
be in their vocal range. And while it’s best to go with kids over
adults in DVDs and CDs, aim for kids slightly older than your age
group; kids love to emulate kids older than themselves (also known
as the Halo Effect). Songs that work best are usually two or three
minutes — anything longer gets to be too long. Find and use
energetic songs, but don’t be afraid to let kids “dig in” to
worship with range- and content-appropriate, slower songs. Sing
slower songs after two or three energized ones. Present teaching or
prayer after a slower song, when you’ve got kids in a quieter,
focused place.

Get resourceful. Kids’ worship doesn’t need to
be a big, staged event with billowing smoke and flashing lights.
There are more options available than ever from companies such as
God’s Kids Worship, Uncle Charlie/Upward Bound, Shout Praises Kids,
and Group. A $30 DVD player and a donated television can turn any
room into a worship center; whether it’s a living room, a small
room on a missions trip, or an auditorium. DVDs work with big
screens and computers too, making them a terrific resource for all
your ministry gatherings, any day of the week. With on-screen
lyrics and professional recordings, the pressure is off you, and
kids can be free to fully worship.

Blessings in Return

Matt Redman writes in the book I Could Sing of Your Love
Forever
, “Our worship songs are for Jesus — yet as they work
their way out of our hearts and toward heaven, they so often work
wonders in us.”

Lead your kids into worship. You don’t need a lot — just good
recordings that sing of spirit and truth. God doesn’t require good
voices, just happy hearts.

Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
Praise him with the lyre and the harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
Praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
Praise him with loud clanging cymbals!
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

(Psalm 150:3-6)

Bob Singleton is president of God’s Kids Worship; a kids’
worship ministry consultant; and a platinum-album, award-winning
Grammy- and Dove-nominated producer of music for kids.


focus on kids

Most adults love music, too…But they don’t necessarily love
the same music kids love. (Bob Dylan, anyone?) So be intentional
about choosing songs kids connect with. If you can tell your kids
aren’t affected by a song, move on — no matter how much you like
it.

get with the program

Clueless about what kinds of music your kids might like? Or just
looking for something new? If you need ideas for contemporary
songs, go online to ccli.com. After you select your region of the
world, scroll to the bottom of the first page and look for the link
that says “Top 25 Songs.” That will show you the top 25 songs used
in churches each year, back to 1997. Those songs have blessed the
Church and have passed the broad test of orthodoxy.

“Jesus Loves Me” contains huge theological implications; but God
is able to fit that concept, which is as big as the universe and
all time, into the heart of a child.

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