Teachable Moments – Don’t Just Sing the Hymns

Reposted from Carolyn Brown’s Worshiping With Children blog

Often in worship the congregation sings songs/hymns with only a brief instrumental introduction. It feels “smoother” that way to the worship planners. The assumption is that every worshiper either knows the song or can read the words and music. Unfortunately, for children, and also for other worshipers, the assumption does not hold. A key question to ask ourselves is where the non-choir children learn the songs we sing frequently in worship. School? Not anymore. Sunday School? Don’t count on it. Home? Not for most families. That makes the times we sing in worship important opportunities for worship education. This is not rocket science. In a couple of sentences of introduction or a children’s time right before a hymn do one of the following:

• Tell why we are singing this song at this point in worship today.
• Tell the backstory about who wrote the hymn and when.
• Invite worshipers to follow along in their hymnals as you read through the words of the hymn with brief commentary – maybe as part of the sermon.
• Instruct worshipers for whom or for what situation to sing the song today.
• Introduce and practice a repeated word or phrase so non-readers can sing at least that phrase.
• Let the format of the song determine who sings which parts, i.e.
– choir or soloist sings verses, congregation sings choruses
– men/boys and women/girls sing different verses
– sides of the congregation sing different verses
– (with some hymns) the words suggest who sings when, 
e.g. the watchman and questioner in “Watchman Tell Us of the Night”
• Give children song sheets 
– Print the words in a format that is easy for early readers. 
– Highlight key words/phrases by printing them in contrasting colors.
– Add small illustrations around the words.
– Provide space (and markers) for children to create their 
own illustrations or notes about the song

Not every song sung in a service needs such intentional introduction, but if one song each week or so were introduced in one of these ways, the children (and the whole congregation) would build an internal library of music with which to speak to and about God. It is worth the effort. So, watch for the hymn introducing ideas in my posts for each Sunday. Adapt them to other hymns and songs. Also add other suggestions for hymn introductions in the comments below.

Go to http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/…/dont-just-sing… to find this post on the blog.

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