Everyone knows that music plays a vital role in children’s ministry. Music establishes deep and complex root systems in our brains, and participating in music can be as satisfying as eating your favorite meal with your favorite people. We humans can hardly get enough, and kids seem to love it most of all.
So how do you decide which music to use for those precious minutes of singing and clapping before the goldfish and apple juice? Even in the small niche of faith-based children’s music, there are thousands of songs to choose from (and let’s set aside traditional worship for now – that’s a big topic worthy of a separate blog post).
I’m so glad you asked. Here’s how. There are 5 essential rules to follow when choosing songs for your Children’s Ministry music time.
1. The songs should be good.
Another way to say it; the songs should be happily memorable. If you are unsure about how to tell a good song from a bad one, that’s OK – the kids will let you know. If the song is easy to learn and they pick it up quickly, or if they are laughing throughout, or if they tell you they want to do it again – it qualifies. Also, you can use the hum test. Can you easily hum the melody after one listen? Then it’s probably pretty good.
2. The songs should convey or celebrate God’s personal love.
After all, this is central to the Gospel message. The Son of God has given us his spirit to live inside us, guide us, comfort us and love those around us. The Gospel is intimate, and Jesus knows and loves each child individually. First of all, that’s amazing, and worth singing about. Secondly, it seems so improbable, that it is easy to forget. Music helps us remember things – so let’s use songs to remember the most important things.
3. You’ve gotta bring the silly.
I remember when my kids would cry with laughter at the sound of the word eyeball. Silliness is fun, and as What’s In the Bible proves over and over, blatant silliness is a great way to prepare kids for more serious discussions. Additionally, silliness opens a doorway toward relationship because children don’t expect it from the people in charge. They expect us to be huge and serious and busy. If you allow silliness into the arena, you exceed children’s expectations and earn their trust.
Silly words, silly melodies, silly hand motions, and silly dances can all happen through music. And since music allows the children to participate in the silliness along with the leaders, suddenly all the kids (and leaders) have fun inside jokes and phrases to play with and celebrate like favorite movie quotes. These interactions are like glue for relationships and they prepare the group for the inevitable deeper relational issues and struggles that accompany community.
4. Sing about grace.
This is a biggie. First of all, God’s grace is as central to the gospel as God’s love, so we ought to sing about it anyway. Furthermore, parents (by necessity) focus on their children’s behavior all day long, so kids need songs about grace to help them remember that with God you don’t get what you deserve. And finally, singing about God’s grace helps kids remember to show grace to others. That lesson can come in handy during Sunday school playtime.
5. Don’t sing about rules.
Music has the power to build joyful community, to unlock our emotions and to teach about God and his world, so please don’t waste that precious opportunity singing songs about rules. Singing about rules for behavior is like eating a ketchup pie. Pie is good, and ketchup is good, but together, they are a disappointment to everyone. Just think of all the delicious foods possibilities! Don’t serve ketchup pie. Post rules on the wall somewhere (or write a blog post about them), and save the singing for more delightful things.
These are the 5 essentials I look for in children’s ministry music. Of course, choosing a song list is just one step of the preparation leaders do every week, but if you’ve got a good mix of Love, Grace, and Silliness inside some catchy tunes, you are off to a great start. I hope this is helpful for you as you think through your choices for this Sunday!
The Sing Through The Bible DVD features 30 music videos of favorite songs from the What’s In The Bible? series that allow you and your kids to sing through the entire Bible! You can also stream the entire Sing Through the Bible Music videos on JellyTelly!
Randall Goodgame is a critically acclaimed songwriter and the founder of Slugs & Bugs Family Music. He is also a husband and father of three silly kids. They live in Nashville, TN.