I first realized the power of singing to help disciple my children one day several years ago when I was having a conversation with Emily, our oldest daughter. I made brief mention of Jesus’ words “Let your light shine before men…” She picked up on it and said oh yeah, Dad it goes like this: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
As she recited this verse I was astonished, not because she was able to recite the verse, but because we had not taught it to her! I asked her: “Emily where did you learn that verse?” Her answer? “It’s a song we heard in the car Daddy!” We have a wonderful music CD made up entirely of Scripture songs for kids. I have since become convinced that singing is one of the most powerful discipleship tools for our children (not to mention adults!). She had committed a powerful verse to memory because it had been set to a beautiful tune, and as a result the Word was hidden in her heart. How I love it when I periodically hear my kids singing the words of the Bible!
This leads us to another powerful element of godly family life: singing God’s praises. One thing I learned as a youth pastor – the kids who did not grow up in homes where they regularly sang songs of worship to the Lord were often the kids who struggled to worship God through song later in life. Parents, we need to begin now showing them that singing praise is not just something for Sunday morning worship; it is part of the ebb and flow of daily life as a disciple of Jesus. During the trials of Martin Luther’s life, it was often in those dark and difficult moments of the Reformation that he would say to his friend Philip Melancthon: “Come Philip, let us sing the 46th Psalm.” We can teach our children that all of the circumstances of life are opportunities to sing of God’s greatness and power – in times of trial we can sing Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and our strength.” When we are worried about the future, we sing “I will cast my cares on you; I will rest within your arms, knowing I am safe from harm.” When we become keenly aware of our sin because of something we’ve said or done, it is fitting to cry out to God: “Not the labors of my hands, can fulfill Thy laws demands.” When we are filled with wonder at God’s goodness, we can sing “Glorious and mighty…you’re awesome in beauty!”
You might say, “Ok David, you have an unfair advantage because you have a singing wife!” While that is a great blessing, don’t think that you have to carry a tune to foster a love for singing in your home. We use CD’s to help lead us in praise all the time. We put them on while driving in the car, at home while doing chores, and sometimes during our family worship too. I love to put on such music while driving the kids to school or while we drive to church on Sunday as it helps us focus as we start the day. If you struggle with singing, there are many great resources out there to help, and I’ll list a few of them at the end of this article.
The apostle Paul tells us that singing is something we do to teach each other:
Colossians 3:16 6 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.
Did you notice how music is actually a tool for discipleship? As the word dwells richly in us while we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts there is something powerful that happens: we are teaching and admonishing one another. One is positive and one is negative. The Greek word translated “teaching” means to instruct someone in the course they should follow. To “admonish” is to warn someone who is on the wrong course. And Paul says that scripturally grounded singing is a means to do those two things. So our instruction is not just from teaching Bible stories; it is from singing God’s truth into each other’s lives.
As I said in our previous article on family prayer, I want to share with you how we are striving (albeit imperfectly) to foster patterns of godly family life so we can learn together to disciple our children. Practically speaking, when it comes to our family worship time we spend a few minutes each evening singing some of these great songs. We still sing songs they learned during vacation Bible school! But we also teach them songs we sing on Sundays. This is particularly helpful in enabling them to participate in worship on the Lord’s Day. Look for the worship email that comes to your inbox on Thursdays to see what we’re singing in worship. We teach songs through call and response – we sing a phrase and they repeat it until they have it memorized (with a little time each day, a song can be memorized in a matter of days). As kids learn to read, the process of learning songs gets much easier. If you’re not comfortable using call and response, you can say the phrase before you all sing it together. This translates well into the worship services on Sunday; we’ve taught our pre-reading kids to sing by whispering phrases of a song into their ear as we’re singing. This encourages them to try to sing, and eventually they will pick the song up with repetition.
Take some time this week to sing with your kids – start small with songs you know and love and it will get easier the more you do it. May God bless us as we train young worshippers!
Here are a few resources for good kids music:
www.sovereigngracemusic.org (we sing much of their music in worship)
www.seedsfamilyworship.net (some of our favorites for VBS and Sunday nights)
www.janaalayra.com (more VBS music!)
Hide ‘Em in Your Heart - A great CD with Scripture songs by Steve Green found here: www.stevegreenministries.org
The Trinity Hymnal (Every home should have one!) www.gcp.org
Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs: Volume 1and 2 –Great CDs available through the PCA at www.gcp.org under teacher and parent resources, worship and child rearing.
“Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation day to day.” (Psalm 96:2)
A fellow worship trainer,