The tone deaf guide to singing with children

blog image: singing with children tone deaf

We are commonly asked two questions about singing with children in Church. Firstly how do we encourage children to sing, when they appear to be pretty disinterested and secondly, where do you go for songs that are good to sing?

Before we deal with those questions, let’s lay the foundations for our decisions.

Colossians 3: 16 tells us to make sure we sing the Word of Christ as we sing to each other and to God, full of gratitude. There are some obvious points being made here.

  • We should be singing. Even if we don’t have a gifted musician or a group of children who love singing; we would still love to have singing when we get together. Somehow.
  • We should be singing words that help us to understand the Bible. So however catchy, or modern or cool a song is, we need to be certain that it encourages the children to sing what is true.
  • We should be singing with a smile, full of thankfulness to God. It would be a mistake for our children to think that singing with a full-on grump-face is alright.
  • We should remember that we’re singing to each other and to God. So we need to warn children that they are singing to their Awesome creator. If they wouldn’t behave or stand like that in front of their head teacher, then they shouldn’t think it’s alright as they talk to God in song.

So that leads us to some key principles

  • The Bible is being taught, so we, need to take responsibility for what is sung. Choose songs deliberately. The words will be memorised and repeated forever!
  • Musical ability is not a factor. If there was no one better who could teach the Bible than us; we still would, wouldn’t we? These children need to sing Praise to their Lord. Who will lead them? You? Someone needs to.
  • I tell our children that there are three must-do’s and one choice.
    • They must stand when they sing, because they’re singing to God
    • They must sing with a smile, because they’re singing to their great God who has given them everything
    • They must sing, because we want everyone to know what is true and wonderful.
    • They can choose if they do actions. They don’t have to, but it might help them to remember the words.

So, back to our questions.

Firstly, how do we encourage children to sing? There are some different principles for each age range.

Pre-schoolers love singing, familiarity and routine. So have a very small range of songs, which you sing every week, at the same point in the session. Make these songs available to parents to use at home; parents of this age are looking for music to put on in the car. Make eye contact, do big actions and sing with a big mouth!

5-8’s year olds can’t read fluently so rely on the actions to memorise the song chorus. Have fun. Choose songs that allow for movement, actions and a touch of silliness. Air guitar is fun.

8-11’s year olds feel awkward when they’re singing. Remind them every week, with a different reason why they sing, so they can decide to sing. Allow them not to do actions, although tongue-in-cheek actions work, dance routines appeal to some and in larger groups, it’s more appealing. You need to lead with a touch of aggression. They need to sing. It’s a decision of godliness, not fashion. Pick a few cooler, faster, rockier songs. However be prepared, for it to feel like it’s not working. Persevere.

Secondly, what songs do we sing with our children in Church? Below is a list of our favourites. At any one time, we might have half a dozen that we’re regularly using. We don’t have musicians, so we use an ipod plugged into a speaker. One of the children operates the powerpoint, while a leader with confidence (and without musical ability!) leads the singing and actions.

Non exhaustive suggested songs

Pre-School songs

Hello Song – A very very very Big God – Emu Music
God made me special – J is for Jesus – Emu Music
Jesus is the boss – J is for Jesus – Emu Music
My God is so Big – Remember the Lord – Colin Buchanan
I can talk to Jesus – J is for Jesus – Emu Music
God knows – J is for Jesus – Emu Music
Jesus is the Mighty King – Follow the Saviour – Colin Buchanan
Who’s the King of the Jungle? – 10,9,8 God is Great – Colin Buchanan
Great Big God – Great Big God – Vineyard songs

Warm up songs for Primary School Age

Father Abraham – Traditional
Old Black Crow – Remember the Lord – Colin Buchanan
My God is so Big – Remember the Lord – Colin Buchanan
Who’s the King of the Jungle? – 10,9,8 God is Great – Colin Buchanan
Great Big God –  Great Big God – Vineyard songs

5-7’s songs

God speaks – Get Ready – Emu
The Spirit song – Get Ready – Emu
Sing Jesus name – Get Ready – Emu
Jesus is the King – Meet the King – Emu
Super Saviour – Super Saviour – Colin Buchanan
Are you serving Cap’n Jesus – Super Saviour – Colin Buchanan
Nothing takes God by surprise – Remember the Lord – Colin Buchanan
I’m ready to go – Songs Jesus Said – Gettys
Mark 10:45 – Meet the King – Emu
Romans 6:23 – Remember the Lord – Colin Buchanan
Isaiah 53:6 – Remember the Lord – Colin Buchanan
Follow the Saviour – Follow the Saviour – Colin Buchanan
I’m following the King – Meet the King – Emu

8-11‘s songs (plus all of the 5-7’s songs)
Your love – Awesome God – Sovereign Grace Music
Mighty Mighty Saviour – Awesome God – Sovereign Grace Music
Jesus came to earth – Awesome God – Sovereign Grace Music
God sits in the highest Place – God Rock – Colin Buchanan
Thank you God – A very special tent – Ben Pakula
Boss of the Cross – The Jesus Hokey Pokey – Colin Buchanan