Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
I recently attended the Getty Sing! Conference in Nashville. One of my favorite sessions was on children and music, which inspired me to write about it. Both parents and the congregation take a vow to help raise covenant children in our church. Teaching our children about the Gospel through song is a viable way to saturate their minds with rich theology at a young age. If we do not teach our children what terms like grace, mercy, and righteousness mean beginning at a young age, they will view theological terms as abstract and devoid of meaning.
Instructing and passing on our knowledge to the next generation with a rich vocabulary about Christian faith is vital. Rehearsing and verbalizing the gospel with children strengthens a child’s foundation of faith. When we give children answers before the world does, this gives them a wonderful foundation of faith to build upon before the world begins to intervene and shape them. Teaching our children hymns through singing and playing recordings of different hymns are wonderful ways to incorporate hymns into daily life.
Why should we use singing to disciple little ones?
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Music is a way to call attention to the word of God. Singing hymns is a wonderful memory tool. Music helps children retain information in an easier way than memorizing text. When I was a little girl, I had the privilege of being taught many hymns by my parents and grandmothers. Many of the hymns are still in my memory from my childhood. Christian songs and hymns are a portable, practical, and enjoyable way to naturally dialogue about spiritual truths. This education of theologically-rich hymns gave me a wonderful foundation for my faith, and will help our future generation when they are met with the world on a daily basis.
When should we use singing with our children or family?
We should sing with our children as much as possible. Another way to instill a love for hymns is through playing recordings at home and in the car. You do not have to have musical ability to sing with your children. Have fun and make a joyful noise! Sing along to a recording if you need some assistance to get started. When children see and hear your love for something, they will imitate you. Making a short list of hymns you would like to sing with your children is a tangible way to learn a few at a time. For older children, it is a great idea to discuss lyrics and offer them to help lead in singing. There are a few different books that introduce the stories behind hymns: Hosanna Loud Hosannas, by David and Barbara Leeman, and Then Sings My Soul, by Robert J. Morgan, are two books that I have used.
Focusing on songs that our church sings is also a wonderful idea. Bulletins are usually posted on our website on Thursdays. That gives families several days to sing the hymns and songs for Sunday. Last year, we taught Cherub Choir “Nothing But the Blood”. When this hymn was used in a church service, I could see many little faces light up because they could participate in singing a hymn they knew. This allows the children to engage in worship and share in the joy of worshipping God in this way! Singing with our children is a way to connect with them. In circumstances like car rides, it is a valuable time to engage in conversation and singing with our children, being intentional about how we use those fleeting moments with them.
“May the Almighty God make you faithful in this important work of education: may he succeed your cares with his abundant graces, that the rising generation . . . may be a glory amongst the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.” – Isaac Watts on the importance of teaching children hymns