All of us remember songs from our earliest years. Some of them are silly songs. Some are our parent’s songs. Some are songs from important moments. As a parent we have the opportunity to intentionally gather songs for our child’s childhood. Think of it as gathering songs for their lives. Instead of just letting the music just happen organically, let me invite you to consider what music your child needs for thoughtful spiritual formation!! Consider how music has the potential to grow your child. Consider how music can offer divine truth and strength. This blog is a continuation of ideas for Biblical literacy in your home.
Personally, I love to share music with children. My parents were church planters out of the country. So often I would take my guitar and just sit under a tree in an underserved community. This was an area without a church and without parental supervision of children who were running everywhere. My mother and I had packed Bible stories, games, a cooler of snacks and my guitar as we set out to share God’s love and truths with children who had not heard about the Father God. My skills are limited, but my heart is full of love and passion for Christ. Whether I was sharing music in my home church or in a children’s conference in India, songs were a connecting point to communicate God’s great love. I believe that children are greatly impacted by the songs we share. Little ones are so impressionable and attentive. Leading worship for any children’s situation has always brought me so much joy!!
Children will grow and mature regardless of whether their world is just randomly drifting unorganized or guided with intentionality. However, they will thrive and mature to their ultimate potential if directed with prayerful purpose. Reject carelessness and neglect in this area. A child’s musical life is a terrible thing to waste. When a child’s life is full of beautiful, purposeful, scriptural, uplifting, thoughtful, lyrical and life-changing songs, it is measured with bespoke life-altering music.
A few years ago my youngest son and I attended a children’s worship leadership training at the Getty’s SING Conference. One of the greatest takeaways from that day was the concept that children should have songs to sing for all of the situations that they will experience in their lives. They need to have songs to sing when they feel happy, sad, lonely, confused and hurt. They need songs to learn scripture verses and songs for praising or thanking God. They need songs that deepen their understanding of our Father god. They need songs to sing at the saddest moments of their lives. They need songs to sing when someone they love dies and they are grieving. They need songs to sing when they need to be comforted and when they need to be reminded that God is right beside them. When experiencing the beauty of God’s gift in nature, children need to sing songs of thanks and gratitude to God. Some songs remind them in the dark that Jesus is near. Some songs are celebratory when all seems so right in the world. Singing when we are happy is one of the best outlets for our joy!
Carefully selected music brings a child toward a mature relationship with God. Singing with my guitar or while I play the piano encourages me to engage in private worship. Even singing with loud praise music in my convertible is one of the best ways to feel the heart and love of God. I would suggest that corporate worship is secondary to private worship. Teaching a child to interact with God in a personal, intimate way gives depth and sincerity to the opportunity for corporate worship.
As a little girl I saw my mother wake up early to talk to God, read her Bible and sing to him. All this took place in her chair by the window. For all the years I knew my mother, she was consistent with this pattern in the morning. One day recently, I noticed something yellow had slipped out from the back of one of her Bibles that I had inherited when she went to heaven. It was a trifold full of praise songs. I smiled. This collection of music represented just one way Mom continued her daily time with God. Undoubtedly, private worship prepares our hearts for corporate worship. In return, corporate worship can motivate us to deeper private worship.
On a side note, children need to feel a part of the worship that takes place in “big church.” Ideally, a church community teaches choruses or several of the songs to little ones in their early experiences at church. This gives them a sense of familiarity when they come into the adult church setting. If each church community could determine a group of 50-60 songs that were their community’s songs, it would create a closeness in their village of believers. When gathering those songs, consideration for all the anticipated life experiences would inspire songs for happiness, sadness, grief, comfort and forgiveness. Along with a Godward focus, a thoughtfulness for songs which apply to the mature as well as the new believer would warrant careful selection and build continuity with the church family.
Teaching a new song should involve giving it a proper introduction and context such as when it was written, why it was written and who authored it. Often the story behind a song and the history of its author brings a greater meaning as it is sung. Suggesting a song’s value or when it might be applicable will also be useful. It is curious to me why many adults do not remember being children. I clearly recall emotions and thoughts I had as a young person. How invaluable it is to invite a body of believers to hold tight to old music while stretching forward for newly inspired, Bible-based music. Such blending often takes some verbal coaching from mature leadership. How important it is to direct children to connect songs and scripture to their everyday lives. Wouldn’t it be thrilling to know a song to sing when we felt happy and wanted to express gratitude to God? Wouldn’t it be remarkable if a child knew a song to sing when they were scared or alone or sad? Wouldn’t it be critical to know what to sing as a body of believers when grieving together? Isn’t that what we would want for ourselves and our children? Music can be self-soothing. God gave us each other for community. Deep in my heart I know that music is critical to that bonding.
In the New Testament, we are encouraged to be always singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among ourselves, and making music to the Lord in our hearts. (Eph 5:19 NLT) Throughout God’s Word are enthusiastic examples of our heart’s expression through music. Songs originate through the book of Psalms or in traditional and new hymns as well as spiritual songs. Recently, I have been building a digital library of songs that I have carried with me from the time I was a little girl until now. I add new songs weekly to my Spotify playlists and my library of digital music for piano and guitar. I know that God’s gift of vocal and instrumental music is one of His best gifts!! Psalm 150 lists many loud instruments that might be employed in the gratitude we express to our Father God. This pleasing offering of singing or playing music to God is not evaluated by musical talent or giftedness, but by our heart in the giving to God of our hearts through music. So, if you can’t sing, just sing. God is hearing your heart! Singing and playing music must be one of His favorite sounds from His children.
Scripture songs are super beneficial for any age. However, the earlier that you begin playing scripture set to music, the deeper the roots of Bible memory will form in your child. One of our favorite music sets we played with all of our children was Steve Green’s “Hide ‘Em in Your Heart.” Both volume 1 and 2 included verses put to music. The children loved playing these songs over and over. See the list below for several music suggestions with scripture put to music.
AWANA, a Bible memory program, encourages children to memorize Bible verses. So often, I would just make up a tune to fit the verse we needed to learn. It was silly. Music makes memorizing anything so much easier. It is not so much about making beautiful music as it is about having a happy heart. Tucking scripture away in a child’s heart prepares him or her for a lifetime. What will he need? What verses will he or she hold the closest?
How to Gather Songs for Life?
Identify what is important in choosing songs for your child. Your values should be forward thinking, easy to apply and clear. Here were some of our values when selecting music for our children:
- Biblically sound words
- Scripture taught with music
- Appealing to children
- Grows with a child
- Identify the potential situations when a child would need to sing a song they know. Aim to provide music for all these times. Practice singing a song with various emotions.
- When possible, select beautiful music which allows for harmony.
- Identify songs from Psalms
- Choose scripture songs
- Incorporate both old and new hymns along with choruses.
Below are some of my favorite music selections for children.
ABC Say It With Me Bible Memory Verses – for the very youngest children this song resource coupled with the little book is the perfect place to start memorizing scripture. Appropriate to start with 18months to 2yrs old.
Hidden in My Heart: A Lullaby Journey through Scripture – by Breakaway Music, with verse references woven into soothing traditional hymns and songs of faith.
Bedtime Prayers – by Twila Paris
Sleep Sound in Jesus – by Michael Card (Don’t miss this one when you are rocking your little one.)
Sing: Creation Songs – by Ellie Holcombe, newly created spiritually rewarding children’s songs, rooted in scripture and full of rich imagery. Sing: Creation Songs is the perfect accompaniment to Ellie’s debut kids’ book Who Sang The First Song?
Seeds Family Worship – Themes such as hope, power, belief, Jesus, trust, Word of God, Character of God, power of encouragement, seeds of praise, seeds of faith and more.
Hide ‘Em in Your Heart: Vol 1 and Vol 2 – Steve Green’s children’s Bible songs, scripture to music. Look at youtube for video related to this music.
Quiet Time Scripture Songs from Proverbs – by Ron Hamilton
More Scripture Songs – by Twin Sisters Production, This collection contains a number of music projects.
Growing in God’s Word: Memorizing God’s Word Through Song – Twin Sister’s Production (There are over 3300 songs written, recorded and published by this set of twin sisters.)
100 Sing Along Bible Songs for Kids – by Cedarmont Kids, includes printed lyrics
Little Songs for Little Souls – by Stephen Elkins and Wonder Kids
As your child grows in to more mature music, invite them to love your music. I thought about making a list of my favorite praise and worship music. However, you have not seen my every growing Spotify library. Because you might want a place to start, I suggest the following artists for content to enjoy spiritual formation with your growing kids:
Shane and Shane – Psalms, Songs and Spiritual Songs, The Worship Initiative
Christy Nockels – down to earth worship leader with husband Nathan
Andrew Peterson – music writer, story teller
Sara Groves – folksy story teller who writes songs to express God’s stories
City Alight – Biblically rich lyrics with simple melodies
Keith and Kristyn Getty – modern day hymn writers
Chris Tomlin – contemporary gospel
Michael Card – A Bible teacher who writes and sings music to teach the Bible
Please build your own list of Christ honoring music. This above is just a place to jump off.
Our pastor’s wife, Donna Gaines is a dear friend. She suggests listening to only spiritual music in the mornings before noon. This is a helpful idea. While you wake, while you drive, while you do school at home, while you begin the day, while you eat breakfast, while you take a walk, while you watch the weather out the window or from the patio, while you do school at home, while you play with your children, while you walk…these are times to listen to songs that direct your thoughts Godward. Give God your morning hours for worship and spiritual formation.
As you contemplate the gift God has given you in your own child, know that music plays a key role in Biblical literacy. If you are new to a relationship with God, invite your child on this journey of spiritual growth through meaningful songs. If you are a seasoned believer, bring your child with you as your continue in your quest for maturity. Nothing is more appealing to a child than authenticity. They know you anyway whether you let them know you. If you are a grandparent or a neighbor or a friend of a child, learn what music will grow the spiritual life of the child you love. If you sing, sing together. If you play an instrument, play and sing. If you can build a purposeful playlist, do in with intention. Let this idea of songs for life germinate in your spirit. Listen for the songs, both old and new, that will cultivate spiritual seeds and propagate seeds of spiritual return.
Join the companion conversation with my husband, Tim at Embrace Your Everyday.
For more on Biblical Literacy in the Home, check out these blogs. All of these blogs come with companion podcasts.
For books on HOME and FAMILY available on Amazon
Hum of the Home: Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking