I have never heard a sweeter sound than a group of kids singing with all their heart to our amazing God. Have you ever experienced it? When they sing the words “I love You” to Jesus they are soft, pure, sweet and I believe the perfect example to all us adults of what it means to have childlike faith. Experiencing their sweet sound of praise will surely give you some chill bumps and make your eyes water.
I’ll never forget the day that I came across this verse in my office. Psalm 8:1&2 “God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” It was eye-opening. I remember stopping and reading it again and again and understanding more and more the power that can be at work in our children’s ministries every single week.
I’m sure you’re like me in the fact that there are people I know that don’t know Christ. There are friends of mine that grew up in the church just like me, yet have made very different life choices on the journey. Realizing that the power of a snotty-nosed toddler singing “How Great Is Our God” or a cool attitude preteen singing passionately “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders” can make the atheist I know stop in their tracks and reconsider what they believe. Observing this transformation was a game changer for me. I said to myself, “Sign me up!”
We all want to see God move and be at work in our church family. Every week engage kids and give them the opportunity to find their hiding place in God’s presence. Even the youngest age class in your church can have a worship time. There are no rules to how many songs you do or how many minutes you should spend but every week give children a chance to sing praises to Jesus. Train leaders to teach the “what, why, when, where and how” of worship. Don’t just push play on a song or video and expect it to lead the kids for you. Just like you have a worship leader to lead worship for your adults or even student ministry, train leaders to lead kids in worship.
Students and young adults can make for great kids worship leaders. Have you ever considered that growing and developing worship leaders for children’s ministry could create long-term growth and develop worship leaders for your adult congregation? I’ve led worship for every age and I can confidently tell you kids are the easiest group to lead. You can use high-energy and active fun songs to engage, connect and get the wiggles out. However, don’t underestimate the capacity kids have for profound worship. Strategically place slower worship songs in your set after something real high-energy or after a teaching time to allow kids to respond to the Lord in worship. I’ve had way too many conversations with leaders over the years that said: “We don’t do slow worship songs because our kids don’t know how to respond.” I always want to rewind and playback their statement for them to hear. I often ask these same leaders, “how will the children ever learn how to worship if you never give them the opportunity?”
My travels allow me to encounter so many powerful testimonies from leaders and parents. Recently a precious mom shared a conversation with her daughter Ava. Ava said, “Mom, tonight I closed my eyes and raised my hand up to God. I felt Him in a way I never had before.” At home, they had a sweet conversation about the Holy Spirit working in her life. Needless to say, she thanked me for allowing their family to have this moment at our church’s family worship time. She also said, “If you didn’t sense God’s Spirit working last night, it’s because you didn’t want to!” – Dawn Farris of New Testament Christian Church Keokuk, IA
As a worship leader, I’ve always looked to David’s example. He is known as a man after God’s own heart. He’s one of the greatest examples we have of worship, surrender and praising God with all your life. David didn’t wait until He was having the “best day ever” to praise God. Even in the moments where he needed a shelter and help, he called out to God and declared what he believed. Worship was the form of communication he used to pray and seek the Lord. Pastor John Gray said, “The password to your miracle is the sound of your praise.” I want to model that to children. Think of how different the world could be if more people learned to run TO God rather than FROM God when life gets hard. David learned that his hiding place, shelter, and refuge from the storms of life was found in the presence of the Lord. I believe we can help kids learn the same thing from a young age, preparing them even for adulthood. I want to help kids understand their purpose in this world is to bring glory and praise to God. Through their life each day, in their choices, words, actions, etc. they choose whether to shine their light bright or dim.
Our hearts beat to testify of the good news of Jesus Christ. As we sing songs and direct our attention to the One who made us and rescued us through salvation we are aligning our heart with His. Every child was made in the image of God. May the generation we minister to be known as a generation after God’s own heart. I believe the doorway is found in the obedience of our heart to worship in every season.Josh Blount pastor of New Song Church in Oklahoma City, OK said: “Teaching kids to worship is not the issue. They know how to, directing their worship to Jesus is the issue. Help them put God first.”
WHERE TO START…
I’ve found that defining for each age group or class what you want them to learn and experience pertaining to worship gives everyone a great goal. Once you define this for your ministry you can pass the vision along to the leaders, volunteers, and teachers so they can make sure every week they are doing something to help make that goal come to pass. I defined what I wanted to teach preschoolers about worship as “we sing to Jesus because we love Him.” Young children understand the word love. They hear it from mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. They even use the word to say “I love you” back to those special people in their life. Singing to Jesus is a way we show Him we love Him. Preschoolers can understand that. It’s the right size piece of worship for that age group. Every age group/class/ministry in your church should be building upon that vision and strategically working together to help grow worshippers within your congregation.
Many of our churches may have great kids’ worship but student ministry is lacking. Or maybe your student ministry worship is awesome but your adult congregation sounds more like crickets rather than a choir of the redeemed. Taking a step back as an organization and defining the stages of worship in the life of a child turned student turned adult only helps grow a culture of men and women of God who have tasted and seen the refreshing that comes from the presence of the Lord. I spent time on a church staff that connected those dots and saw how refreshing it was to be working together in our efforts of worship rather than a bunch of departments working alone. Church wide alignment and planning are essential.
Do you need to catch a vision for children’s worship? Find a Hillsong Kids DVD and see kids participating. Those close-ups of kids singing, eyes closed, focused on the Lord will melt your heart. Maybe the kids in your ministry need a picture of worship. Play the Bethel Kids DVD before and after your children’s services to show kids other kids engaged in praising the Lord.
As a worship leader, it’s always important to define the win. Know where you want to go and lead them. What’s your goal for the music time? Hopefully, this is a moving target in your ministries. As you grow and your kids develop the win can grow and develop too. What is something you’d like to see happen in your kid’s worship? Define the win. What is a step you could take and work to accomplish with your kids in the area of worship? As you accomplish your goals keep raising and moving the bar of what your “win” will be. 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (NIV) Even in the beginning stages of teaching kids about worship, I encourage them to take a step today. For some, that step is to just sing along. For others, the step may be to clap their hands or lift a hand in surrender. The steps may be different for each of us but we can all start moving forward.
Another thing we see in David’s example is the instruction that he gave when he commanded in Psalm 47:1 “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” (NIV). Children are used to instructions, being told what to do from Mom, Dad, teachers, etc. Great kids worship leaders model and coach kids the way that David instructed us how to praise God.
You have an amazing opportunity to create fun, relevant atmospheres where kids can experience who God is, how much He loves them, and respond to that. Worship is one of the ways we get to respond to God’s amazing love to us is with our gift of worship. Invite children to join you in the party that is bringing praise to God. I’m cheering you on!