When I was young, there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to music to sing with kids at church. Recently there has been an explosion of music for kids. And it is easier than ever to find the format that works for you – music, video, lead sheets. There is so much to choose from that it is now more important than ever to be discerning. Evaluate each song carefully before you sing it with kids.
The purpose of singing with kids at church is to teach kids about worship, tell them truths about who God is, and give them opportunities to respond in worship to God. Therefore, songs should be chosen either to express truth about God or as worshipful response to God.
Here are some questions to consider when choosing songs to sing in this setting:
What is the value of singing this song with kids?
Does this song highlight God’s character? Does it magnify Jesus? Does it teach a truth about God, Jesus, or living as a Christian? Is it a fun song with little or no spiritual value?
For example, the song Lord, I Lift Your Name on High is a joyful song of praise. It is simple and easy for kids to sing. The chorus highlights the gospel, thereby focusing on Jesus and giving kids the reason we praise God.
What does this song teach about God or Jesus?
This is an easy question to answer. Look carefully at the lyrics to the song and note what, if anything, the song teaches or highlights about God or Jesus. The song could focus on God’s holiness or Jesus as our mighty Savior.
What does this song teach about living as a Christ-follower?
Songs like this are usually songs of commitment or encouragement. These songs highlight our dependence on God, becoming like Jesus, showing love, patience, and kindness.
How much of this song needs to be explained to kids?
This is a very important question to answer. Some explanation is okay (as long as you actually talk about the song with kids and explain any concepts or words that the kids might not understand). If a song requires too much explanation then it is probably not appropriate to sing with kids. Some songs are written in a highly symbolic, figurative or complex way that younger kids especially simply won’t understand. You want to choose songs for kids that are written simply, literally, and clearly.
For example, Before the Throne of God Above is a song that is about the relationship we have with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. It is a wonderful song full of truth that leads believers to worship. However, it is full of words like “plea,” “graven,” “thence,” “depart,” “counted free,” and “pardon.” It also uses phrases like “before the throne of God above” and “a great High Priest whose name is love who ever lives and pleads for me,” which are harder for kids to understand because of the structure of the phrase.
A better song to sing with kids that focuses on the relationship we can have with God because of Jesus is Mighty, Mighty Savior (from SovereignGraceKids). This song is sung in a progressive order that kids understand. It still has a couple words and phrases that will need to be explained, but in general the song is one that kids will understand.
Is the theology of this song correct in all aspects?
This is really important. We remember what we sing. Kids will develop a theology of God from the songs they sing so it’s really important to make sure that the songs are true. Even if one line of the song is wrong, the song shouldn’t be used.
Is it appropriate for this setting?
Finally consider whether the song is appropriate for the setting of worship time during Sunday School or Children’s Church. Also consider the length of time you will give to worship during these programs. This will help you decide if a song is appropriate or not. For example, some songs are fun but don’t have a lot of real value other than drawing kids in and getting their attention. If you have a short time, you may want to stay away from these songs.
Once you have gone through this process you will have a well-thought out list of songs to sing with kids.