“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” Psalm 40:1-2
It is humbling to look back over my shoulder and see how God graciously led me to become a worship leader for children and families. I left my hometown in Idaho right out of high school and moved to Nashville to go to college. Music had always been an important part of my life, but it ultimately became an idol that led me away from the Lord. I was full of selfish ambition when I graduated from Belmont University and began working in the music business. As I achieved the success I dreamed about in my youth, it took a devastating toll on my marriage and young family.
The Lord brought me to a place where I had to surrender it all to Him. I cried out to God, brought my music to the altar and begged God to save my marriage and family. I experienced what David wrote in Psalm 40…”He turned to me and heard my cry.”
I asked God what He wanted me to pursue and He “put a new song in my mouth,” which was writing scripture songs for the Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our local church in Franklin, TN. These songs became the genesis for the Seeds Family Worship ministry. At the time, I was in the process of writing songs and producing an album on a new CCM artist named Matthew West. We were writing the song “More”, which became Matthew’s first #1 song at the same time I was writing the first group of Seeds songs, which included “Young (1 Timothy 4:12).”
My songwriting with Matthew West greatly influenced the writing of the scripture worship songs for our church. The result was high-energy worship that connected the hearts of kids to God’s Word. I remember that original VBS like it was yesterday when I recognized that the kids (and teachers) were all singing these scriptures by heart by the end of the week. The kids had God’s Word planted in their hearts…the “Seeds” of His Word.
I lead worship in different contexts within the church, but leading worship for kids is my favorite role as a worship leader without a doubt! Why? I love the joy, energy, and the openness that I see in them…and honestly, because it is so much fun! I know that the canvas of their hearts has plenty of white space on which we can paint God’s truth with vivid colors. I believe all of this fun and joy is an integral part of the spirit of true worship. Psalm 100:1-3 invites us into this joy:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
I love connecting the hearts of young people with this Psalm whenever I lead worship. I encourage them to use their voices to shout for joy to the Lord. I explain how these verses tell us to worship Him by singing joyful songs about how great and awesome He is. I teach them that we want to worship with confidence in our hearts that He is the One True God. Finally, I share that He made us to worship Him and we are His. We belong to him and He is worthy of our praise!
So, I want to share a few concepts with you about how we can effectively share God’s Word with young hearts in worship.
SHARE THE WORD
The Seeds Family Worship team loves to share God’s Word. Worship songs are such a powerful way to help kids learn and memorize the Bible. One of our favorite songs to lead in children’s worship is a song called “The Word Of God” (Hebrews 4:12). It is the scripture that tells us that God’s Word is “living and active” and that the Word speaks deeply to our hearts. We added a verse from Psalm 119 to the chorus of the song that says:
“I love Your Word, I love Your Word, oh God!”
As we sing the chorus of the song, we invite the kids to lift their hands in worship and praise God for speaking to us in His Word. It is beautiful to see young people worshiping God as we sing together.
Whether you are singing scripture songs or not, the Word is essential to your worship leading with young people. I usually begin a worship time connecting young people with scripture and a short explanation of who we are worshiping and why. My co-writer and worship leading partner in Seeds, Philip Morlan, shares an expression that he heard:
“Every worship leader should have a guitar in one hand and a Bible in the other.”
No offense to keyboard players, I am one myself…so adapt the saying to your creative gifting! But I love that picture for worship leaders of children.
Engage their young hearts with the Word of God. God’s Word is life-changing and speaks to young people every bit as much as it does to adults! And they may even have a greater capacity at times to get caught up in the wonder of His Word because their imagination is ready to follow wherever you will lead them.
SHARE THE WONDER
It is important to understand that kids have an amazing ability to wonder. Here are a couple of examples of how I engage kid’s wonder as we enter into worship:
I love to ask kids if they have ever been camping and seen thousands of stars in the sky after dark. I connect them with the awe of moments like that and unpack how they illustrate how incredible God is.
Sometimes I ask who has been to the ocean and can share the amazement of how God’s creation reveals how powerful and beautiful He is. Then I may expand the picture to share that God’s love for us is like the waves of the ocean that come onto the shore. God’s love never ends…it keeps coming wave after wave.
SHARE THE ENERGY
Just like with any communication, it is important that you express your energy in your worship leading and your teaching. We express energy in the way we speak and move. A worship leader for children needs to have an authentic excitement for the Lord and heart for serving kids. We give permission to the young people by setting the example. They are looking for us to show them how it is done. Let your excitement be heard in your words, felt in your songs, and expressed in your prayers with the kids. Let your light shine!
SHARE THE REAL
It is heartbreaking that so many of the kids to which you’ll minister are going through some incredibly difficult times. It is important to be aware of this and communicate God’s love and care as part of your worship leading. I will share age appropriate stories illustrating that all of us go through hard times and that God wants to help us through them. Create an opportunity in worship to pray for each other and bring their needs to the Lord.
SHARE THE LOVE
We are called first to love Jesus and walk in relationship with Him. Our relationship with the Lord should flow like a river into our worship leading, whether it is for children or adults. We can share God’s love with young hearts when we are truly connected to Him ourselves. It is of no less importance for worship leaders of children than it is for worship leaders in the main gatherings.
PRAYER BEFORE YOU SHARE
Our worship leaders in the Seeds ministry believe in the power of prayer! We have seen God do incredible things and we always encourage each other to make praying a priority. We know the battle that we all face with the busyness of ministry and organized chaos that can be a part of children’s ministry leadership. In spite of the challenges, we encourage you to go the secret place of prayer (Matthew 6) and seek God personally before you serve Him corporately. Create a culture of prayer with your worship teams.
WE ARE HIS INSTRUMENTS
I’d like to give you all a final word of encouragement. One of my favorite metaphors to share with worship leaders is the picture of us as God’s instruments. He is the ultimate “luthier” (builder of stringed instruments) and each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). He made us and has given us our gifts, which we can’t take any credit for. We are His creative work and He has a purpose, or song, for us to sing as it says in Ephesians 2:10:
“We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
He has written a song for our lives so that we can resonate with His goodness and reflect His light. When we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, as it says in John 15:7-11, then we bear fruit as His instruments, bring glory to God and are filled with His joy.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”