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More on teaching children hymns

I’ve just finished a week of vacation with family, so I’m getting caught up on e-mails, comments, etc. There were some good questions and comments on my post on teaching children hymns, so I thought I’d follow up here a bit.

First, I stumbled across the philosophy paper that I distributed to all of our church children’s workers as a part of the first step toward integrated hymns into our church’s children’s program. I’ll post the full content here:

Children’s Music Ministry Guidelines

One of the missions of First Baptist Church is to disciple believers and prod them toward Christlikeness and
spiritual maturity. Ephesians 4 tells us that Christ gave spiritual leaders to the church “so that the body of Christ
may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,
attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

This is not a goal just for the adults in our church, however. This should be the aim of ministry to our children
as well. We must not encourage the so-called “generation gap” by contributing to the problem through our
children’s ministries. We must always be striving to “raise the bar” when it comes to the spiritual maturity of our
children.

Those involved in the children’s ministries at First Baptist carry a weighty responsibility—that of promoting
Christlikeness and spiritual maturity in the life of every child. Children’s ministry workers should realize that it
falls upon them to obey the Scriptural commands to build up this group of the body of Christ. Giving the
children a “good time” is not the primary responsibility of children’s ministries (though encouraging maturity
will often be enjoyable); there are other times for silliness and recreation. Children’s ministries should be a time
focused on developing maturity.

These goals apply to the music chosen for children’s meetings as well. The children of our church get plenty of
fun, enjoyable activities and music during the week, but what they may not get is music that is God-focused and
that which encourages maturity and “adult” worship. Too often children view worship services to be a time for
adults only, and a large part of that thinking may be due to the emphases in their children’s meetings. Therefore,
please follow these guidelines when choosing and leading music in children’s meetings:

Goals of the Children’s Music Ministry

  • Encourage fellowship among the children.
  • Teach Christian character qualities.
  • Teach Biblical doctrine.
  • Develop spiritual maturity.
  • Promote ability to worship with adults.
  • Encourage integration into adult fellowship and interaction.

Suggestions for Accomplishing These Goals

  • Though there is nothing necessarily wrong with fun songs about pigs or broccoli, Sunday is not the time to sing them. Sunday should be dedicated to singing songs with explicit biblical truth about God.
  • Songs about Christian character traits that are aimed at children are good, but the majority of music used during children’s meetings should be hymns that our whole church family use.
  • Choose one solid hymn that our church regularly uses to teach to the children over a period of a month.
  • Explain any difficult words and the significance of the truth in the hymn.
  • Look ahead to what hymns will be sung in the morning service and choose several to sing with the children. Explain that these hymns will be sung in the “adult” service and that they should be participating as well. This will help them be more involved in the worship service.

PRIMARY GOAL: That our whole church, from the youngest to the oldest, enjoy singing solid hymns together!

Here is the paper in pdf form if anyone wants it.

Next, someone asked for a list of the hymns we used. As I mentioned, when we eventually began using Kids4Truth as a catechism program for our children, I chose hymns that fit with the particular doctrine we were focusing on for the month. I had already compiled an appropriate list for each doctrine when Bob Roberts and Dan Forrest asked me to do so for K4T a few years ago. Here is the list I compiled. It is also available as an appendix in my book. I’ll post the list here as well:

1. God’s Word — the Bible
Thy Word Is Like a Garden
Break Thou the Bread of Life
How Firm a Foundation
Holy Bible, Book Divine
O Word of God Incarnate
By Grace I Am An Heir of Heav’n
God, in the Gospel of His Son

2. The Greatness of God
Rejoice, the Lord is King
Sing Praise to God
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Holy, Holy, Holy
Praise Ye the Lord
O Worship the King
All Glory, Laud, and Honor
Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee

3. The Goodness of God
All People That On Earth Do Dwell
O Praise the Lord, For He Is Good
O Thou In Whose Presence
The King of Love, My Shepherd Is
Sun of My Soul
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Now Thank We All Our God
The Lord Has Heard and Answered Prayer
Let Us, With a Gladsome Mind

4. The Trinity
All Glory Be To Thee, Most High
Holy, Holy, Holy
Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow
Come Thou Almighty King
O Father, Thou Whose Love Profound
Eternal Father, Strong To Save
O Trinity, Most Blessed Light
Thou, the God who Changes Never

5. God’s Creation
God, Who Made The Earth
All Creatures of Our God and King
I Sing the Mighty Power of God
This Is My Father’s World
All Things Bright and Beautiful
The Spacious Firmament on High
The Heav’ns Declare the Glory
From All That Dwell Below the Skies

6. God’s View of You
O God, the Rock of Ages
The Foolish in Their Hearts Exclaim
Father, I Know That All My Life
God, Be Merciful to Me
Teach Me the Measure of My Days
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
How Sad Our State by Nature Is
From Depths of Woe
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
Mighty Mortal, Boasting Evil

7. God’s Law
That Man is Blest Who, Fearing God
Blest Are the Undefiled in Heart
More Love To Thee
The Perfect Righteousness of God
The Law of God Is Good and Wise
Teach Me, O Lord, Thy Way of Truth
Thy Servant, Blessed By Thee, Shall Live

8. Jesus Christ
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
The Name High Over All
Fairest Lord Jesus
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Crown Him
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
My Jesus, I Love Thee
When Morning Gilds the Skies
Praise the Savior
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

9. God’s Gift — Salvation
Hallelujah, What a Savior
Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Hark! The Voice of Love and Mercy
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
My Song Is Love Unknown
And Can It Be?
My Faith Looks Up To Thee
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

10. God’s Purpose for His Children
Soldiers of Christ, Arise
Am I a Solder of the Cross?

May the Mind of Christ My Savior
I’m Not Ashamed
Take My Life
Be Thou My Vision
Nearer, Still Nearer
More Love to Thee
Trust and Obey
O For a Heart to Praise My God

11. God’s Work, Past and Present
O God, Our Help in Ages Past
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
Thy Way, Not Mine, O Lord
God the Lord is King
Be Still, My Soul
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
Thou Sweet Beloved Will of God
Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah
Forever Settled in the Heav’ns
Sing Praise to God
Hast Thou Not Known

12. God’s Plan for the Future
Jesus Shall Reign
Joy to the World
Immanuel’s Land
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
Lo! He Comes

Behold the Glories of the Lamb

Of course, because of my goals, my other criterion for choosing hymns for our children was that the hymns be in our church hymnal so they’d be learning things the entire church sang regularly.

At one time a few years ago, I had begun compiling a list of hymns that I thought would be accessible for children. But as I began working through the hymnal, I realized that any hymn is really accessible for children if they are taught. And as I mentioned in my previous point, that turned out to be correct. Interestingly, the hymns most enjoyed by our children were those you probably wouldn’t expect: “A Mighty Fortress,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “All Creatures of Our God and King” were among their favorites.

Finally, for a specific example of the hymns we used, here is the list I compiled for our workers as we transitioned into our new ministry:

Hymns Learned As of April 2008:
19 I Sing the Mighty Power of God
67 Come, Christians, Join to Sing
247 Amazing Grace
59 All Creatures of Our God and King
462 Be Thou My Vision
503 Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
36 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
588 A Mighty Fortress
61 This is My Father’s World
361 Jesus Loves Me
3 Holy, Holy, Holy
49 O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Doxology
All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night

Hymns to Be Learned:
May/June 2008 – 124 My Song Is Love Unknown (Salvation)
July/August 2008 – 476 May the Mind of Christ My Savior (Holiness)
September/October 2008 – 55 God Moves in a Mysterious Way (Providence)
November/December 2008 – 51 Jesus Shall Reign (End Times)
January/February 2009 – 510 How Firm a Foundation (Bible)
March/April 2009 – 46 O Worship the King (Greatness of God)
May/June 2009 – 451 O Thou In Whose Presence (Goodness of God)
July/August 2009 – 63 Come Thou Almighty King (Trinity)
September/October 2009 – 723 All Thing Bright and Beautiful (Creation)
November/December 2009 – 243 Come Thou Fount (God’s View of Man)

Hopefully these will be a help to you if you’d like to begin implementing hymns into your children’s program.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

4 Responses to More on teaching children hymns

  1. Perfect timing! I'm planning the kids' school year and want to teach them hymns. I appreciate the suggestions and the list by doctrinal categories.

  2. Came across your site because today is the 196th anniversary of the birth of Christian Bateman, author of "Come, Christians, Join to Sing." But I am fascinated by your instruction to workers about integrating hymns into children's programming. Amen! I totally agree. As a hymn historian, I'm a little prejudiced of course. But I'm convinced childhood is the time to familiarize children with many of the great hymns of the church.

    I actually taught Hymnology at a Christian school (Grades 7 and 8). Parents reported afterward what a difference it made. In the worship services, children would open their hymn books and sing along, as never before. One thing that can help to create interest in the hymns is to tell children about the authors, or about how a particular song came to be written. There are many fascinating stories that will make the writers come alive. Children will watch for the name of Fanny Crosby, or Charles Wesley, when they sing. God bless. Keep on doing what you're doing!

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