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I grew up in church on a steady diet of children’s musicals. My favorite was Fat, Fat Jehoshaphat! I recall singing a solo as one of the priests in the aforementioned musical which, while it displayed a callous insensitivity to the morbidly obese despite the complete lack of textual evidence that poor Jehoshaphat was actually fat, also contained some killer tunes! I can still sing them now.
As I was singing I remember noticing that people were looking at me strangely, first quizzically, then smiling. It was only afterward that I realized that I had absent-mindedly doodled “Priests Rule!” on my palms in Sharpie before the performance, and the audience was trying to figure out what was scrawled on my hands!
My involvement in worship ministry as a child was a formative experience in my development both as a musician and a worshipper. It was a step on the pathway to playing on the church praise team, then leading worship for the student ministry, and eventually becoming a worship pastor myself.
In each of the churches that I’ve served I’ve made a point to try and engage children on some level. I remember how important those opportunities were for me as a child, and I want to give other children that experience as well. And yet I have found that this emphasis on teaching children to worship is becoming more the exception than the norm. At many churches the worship ministries have no involvement with children whatsoever.
There are many reasons for this. The complete takeover of family schedules by schools and sports and extra-curricular activities has been swift and stunning, to the point that EVERY church is wondering how to engage its people for more than one hour a week. And then there’s the “cheese factor.” Let’s face it: lots of music for children is “cheesy” and as worship leaders we are constantly tempted to overvalue what is hip, slick, trendy and relevant.
But is it worth it to engage with children?
And is it part of our call as worship leaders?
I’m here to say yes, and yes.
I’m not here to convince you to start a children’s choir and put on cheesy musical in the spring. But I want to encourage you to find a way for your ministry to engage with children. Here are a few reasons why:
It’s Part of Our Calling
Psalm 78:4 states our calling quite plainly: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” Notice that it’s not just the “deeds of the Lord.” It’s the “praiseworthy” deeds of the Lord. This instruction involves not just teaching our children about what God has done, but teaching them how toworship God for what he has done.
Of course, this isn’t addressed to worship leaders specifically, but how can we not respond to such a calling upon the people of God? “Train up a child in the way he should go,” says Proverbs 22:6. Who will train our children to be worshippers and worship musicians if not us?
Look back on your journey as a worship leader. Wasn’t there someone who played a pivotal role in teaching you how to worship, even as a child? Now it’s your turn to influence a child’s life. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could play that pivotal role for someone else?
It Engages Families Inside and Outside the Church
Look, I’m not even going to pretend that this is spiritual: parents love to attend their children’s performances.They will arrive early, fight for a seat close to the front, and then proceed to watch the whole performance on the screen of their iPhone as they film a video that will sit on their computer unwatched for the next twenty years. Even family members that would never otherwise darken the door of the church will attend a child’s performance.
And it’s not just family members who respond to children. Your church members will display spiritual maturity in the service of children that you never realized they had. Your most cantankerous choir member who never has anything good to say about worship will turn into the sweetest and most faithful volunteer.
Maybe you’re tempted to cynically dismiss this phenomenon. But if you’re wise you might just see an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to involve families in worship and spiritual development. It’s an opportunity to bring someone into a worship event perhaps for the first time. It’s an opportunity to build a bridge with a volunteer whom, heretofore, you may have only treated as a nuisance. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity for true engagement with families!
It Has Long-Term Effects – and Long-Term Rewards
Sometimes it’s hard to think long-term about your ministry. I will never forget the words of Duane Brooks, pastor of the first church I served. “This church is a river,” he said. “It existed before me and it will carry on after me. I have stepped into it, and one day I will step out of it, but the river will continue.”
What a perfect analogy for serving a church. It reminds us to think outside of ourselves, to think beforeourselves and beyond ourselves. And just as a river’s downstream course can be affected by changes upstream, so the impact of your ministry will ripple out downstream far beyond what you are able to perceive.
Investing in children is one powerful way for your ministry to have a far-reaching, multiplying impact. Imagine what might happen if you spent the next years of your ministry investing in the children of your church. Imagine the hearts that will be molded into life-long worshippers. Imagine the children who will discover a musical talent that had gone unnoticed and unused. Imagine the future worship leaders who will experience the beginnings of God’s call on their lives. That’s the kind of impact I want to have!
It’s Easier Than You Think
At my last church, the most recent worship pastor had pulled the plug on the children’s choir because he felt it simply couldn’t succeed. But the pastor offered this insight, which I firmly believe: “Anything that a leader is passionate about can succeed.” The problem wasn’t the kids or the parents. It was passion.
So we put out the call for children in grades 3-5 to come sing a song with us at our Christmas program and we had 85 kids sign up. No weekly choir program. Just a couple rehearsals and a performance. The following summer we invited kids to be a part of a choir that would rehearse weekly over the summer and kick off the fall by leading a multi-generational worship event. 120 children in grades K-5 signed up, and immediately after the event parents were asking us when the next one would take place.
What’s the point? Just do something! Think outside the box! Do whatever fits your schedule, your volunteer structure, your resources, your demographics. God doesn’t love children’s musicals, he just loves children!You might be amazed at what can happen when you simply do something. And you might be amazed at what happens in your own heart when you participate in God’s call to tell the next generation the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.”
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