Helping Kids to Worship through Body Movement

This post was guest written by Jeff Smith.

We were made for praise.

The Bible says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150:6

The breath becomes voice and movement when we express our worship in praise.

We know that praise is physical because many of the words used in the Hebrew language translated ‘praise’ in the English, have movement associated with their meaning.

Take a look at this list of words found in the Old Testament that translate into the word ‘praise’:

  • Barak to kneel or bow, to give reverence to God as an act of adoration. (Psalm 34:1; 100:4; 95:6)

This word also appears in a song of Thanksgiving sung by Deborah and Barak after defeating the Canaanite commander, Sisera, and subduing their king, Jabin. Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day saying, that the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered to praise (barak) the Lord.” (Judges 5:2) (bâr’uk, bā’rak)

  • Yadah- to use or hold out the hand, to revere with extended hands. (Psalm 33:2; 61:8; 18: 49)

This is the word used in Genesis 29:35 that records Leah’s response after having bore Jacob a fourth son. “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise (Yadah) the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.” As Ezra recounts the rebuilding of the temple, he says in Ezra 3:10, “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise (yadah) the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.” (yaw-daw’)

  • Halal- to make a show, or rave about, to glory in or boast upon, to be clamorously foolish about your adoration of God. (Psalm 22:23; 44:8; 63:5)

Hallal is the root to one of our most widely used terms for praise in the English language, “Hallelujah.” It is used in 1 Chronicles 16:4 to describe the activities of the Levites as the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem from the home of Obed-Edom. “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to make the petition, to give thanks, and to praise (hallal) the Lord, the God of Israel.” (haw-lal’)

  • Towdah: an extension of the hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance. (Psalm 50:14; 69:30; 100:4)

While in captivity, Jeremiah brings words of comfort to his people with this prophesy in chapter 33, verse 11: “the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, ‘Give thanks (towdah) to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever’.” (Note: The KJV uses the word, ‘praise’ here instead of ‘thanks’ as rendered here in the NIV.) (to-daw’)

Other Hebrew expressions for praise include words that mean:
– Jumping
– Standing
– Moving in a circle or marching in a sacred procession
– Twisting or whirling in a circular, spiral manner
– To raise a flag or set up with banners
– Bending or bowing at the knees
– Dancing or whirling about
– Silence
– Clapping the hands
– Leaping
– Stomping

Nehemiah, Job, Psalm, Isaiah, and Ezekiel all give us glimpses behind the curtain to see what goes on in heaven.

But no book in the Bible goes further to reveal what praise looks like in heaven than Revelation when John shares his vision of being carried away to the ‘third heaven.’

In heaven, those who praise:

– Bow down
– Fall down
– Lay down their crowns
– Cry out
– Sing
– Shout

Besides being right, it should ‘feel right’ to praise God in physical ways.

However, there are bad apples in every bushel and exceptions to this notion should be made when children are making movements and gestures that are inappropriate.

By bringing some intention to your teaching on this matter, you can steer children in the right direction by keeping their movements and their motives on God.

Here’s an idea that may bring intention to the way you teach the concept of praise being physical.

Assign ‘color-coded’ movements.

Each color will represent a certain movement.

I suggest you use the Hebrew word for the movement when possible along with a demonstration of what the movement is. Assign movements to each color-coded cue:

– Green: ‘high energy’ movement like twirling or jumping
– Yellow: a slower movement like bowing or kneeling
– Red: an expression that involves very little movement like raising your hands or standing still.

Change the color-coded cues during the song and watch the children respond with their movements.

You may even have them shout out the Hebrew word for that movement when the cue is changed.

Each week, introduce another movement associated with praise.

Another suggestion for your cues might be lollipops (red, yellow, green).

After the exercise, hand out the lollipops as prizes or rewards to reinforce positive behavior.

Jeff Smith is the Director of Salt & Light Ministries based near Richmond, VA. He resides in Richmond, VA, with his wife Debbie and their two sons, Benjamin and Samuel.

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