Love kids worship songs or hate them? There’s not many people with an indifferent opinion, much like Marmite. However is there a place in our services for children’s worship songs? Mark Depledge discusses the dos and don’ts of children’s worship.
As a musical worship leader for over 25 years and a son of a preacher, I’ve been involved in more church services than many 40 year olds should have ever been in. I’ve seen sung worship led in a rich variety of ways, some great, some, shall we say, questionable and many could describe my worship leading in a similar way! I remember being forced into leading a ‘token’ kids song as a teenager, with the Sunday school teacher performing, as fas a I was concerned, excruciatingly painful action moves as I died a death singing ‘My God is So Big’ for the 4th time through, adults watching on, determined that they would not ‘Join in’ however forceful the leader. Half the children, half heartedly copying the teacher at the front while the other half hid behind their parents hoping to not be noticed.
Now what was the problem here? In all honesty the problem was me. You see any whiff of insincerity, half heartedness or ‘tokenism’ in children’s worship is the first big no. I didn’t want to do it, the congregation knew, the Sunday school teacher knew and the kids knew. Even with an over enthusiastic children’s leader the battle was already lost. It was just a bit embarrassing. And so if we are to include Children’s songs in our services it has to be with a good reason and with everyone at the front onboard and up for it, understanding some crucial things.
Firstly God loves children and he loves their worship. Jesus said let the little children come to me, he said the Kingdom of God belongs to these and he said that we must become like children in regards to our faith. The point is this, however valuable you believe adults worship is, children’s worship is no less valuable!
Secondly try to avoid a kids show. I’ve been in many services where all the children come out and do some actions on a stage and to be honest it looked quite good but then as I observed the adults, it was literally a show that they watched and it didn’t really involve them. Can we make kids songs applicable to adults and kids? We can try.
Thirdly if a children’s worship song is to be used, make it a part of the worship theme for the service, explain how it fits, explain why it’s important that children worship and that adults are an example to the children. This can really help to remove that feeling of ‘the token kids song’. Does it have to be called a kids song?
Fourthly lets not limit our children’s worship to that one song or ‘children’s slot’ many kids love some of the songs we sing in church, sometimes more than their ‘children’s songs’. Can we encourage participation in the children throughout the sung worship time? Is there a particular chorus or refrain where we can encourage everyone (even say ‘including the children’) to focus on Jesus and maybe lift up our hands?
Fifthly if you’re going to have a kids song make sure the team at the front are going to do it well, to the best of their ability, that it’s going to be fun and well rehearsed both musically and with actions/dance moves. Our God deserves the best we can give him, so don’t lower your game for the kids.
The best children’s worship times I’ve ever been involved with are when children are together without adults. It doesn’t matter about song choices particularly but it seems that children feel much more at home amongst peers and are willing to dance and move and sing and clap and close their eyes and lift there hands up when not being observed, not necessarily by parents but other adults watching is daunting! The best times have been when a simple explanation of why we close our eyes and lift hands has been offered and importantly, the kids leaders are engaged in this. Or when someone has simply explained the presence of God, and guess what, little children’s faith is so much so, that they expect to feel God’s presence. I’ve witnessed the noisiest, sometimes quite challenging children be completely silent and in awe of Jesus for literally 10 minutes, just sat/laid still after singing about his love. Awesome!
And so if you are going to do children’s worship, do it well, do it wholeheartedly to the best of your ability. Do it in unity as a team with explanation’s of why. Do it with encouragement for the whole church to be engaged and involved, knowing that it’s important. If you can and have the resources, have special times of worship just with the children, even if it’s occasional. That is when I believe worship will suddenly become important to them, if you take their worship seriously, they will too.
Mark has written songs for Vineyard Kids, and recently released his debut album ‘Screaming Out Jesus’, which you can listen to here.