by Bob Singleton, President of God’s Kids Worship®
“I’m a teacher, not a worship leader. I have no talent. I’m too shy. I can’t sing. I don’t know the motions. I barely have time to get my curriculum ready. We don’t have enough volunteers for a worship team.”
I hear a lot of excuses for why NOT to have a kids worship time. I also hear about a lot of very involved programs called “kids worship,” that don’t contain any actual worship.
Let’s skip a lot of theological dialogue by just agreeing that if your kids can have a relationship with the Living God, then they should be able to worship Him too. David says, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord…” and there isn’t an age limit. Really. Check for yourself. It’s Psalm 150.
When you connect kids to God through worship, everything in your kids ministry changes. When kids are connected to God in more than a purely intellectual way, everything you teach them has greater depth and meaning. The God in the Bible stories is now their God too. The God that is illustrated in crafts and skits is now their God too. God has become personal for them.
Every concern I’ve heard about kids worship makes the mistake of viewing kid’s worship as an “event” rather than an “encounter.” God wouldn’t command us to worship Him if it was hopelessly out of reach. Start with the basics of worship, then build on it as your resources allow.
First, let’s define what worship is. At its very core, stripped down to the absolute basics, and illustrated through Scripture, time and experience, what is worship?
Worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman put it this way: “To worship God is to tell Him that we believe Him for who He says He is.” (Matt & Beth Redman, Blessed Be Your Name, pub. Regal Books)
That means we can worship God anywhere, anytime, in whatever state we’re in. Worship can happen any time that we tell God that we believe Him to be who He says He is in scripture. For kids, that can be a whispered prayer under their breath on a playground, in a bedroom, or singing in an arena full of people praising at the top of their lungs. It can be as short as a sentence, or it can take all the time we want to take for a concert of kid praise.
Your kids can worship when they simply say from their heart to God, “I believe you are God.” Worship is not a procedure, it’s a proclamation. Give yourself a break. Worship is not about you, and your shortcomings. It’s about God, and who He is. See? It’s easier already, isn’t it?
Worship then progresses by knowing that God wants us to love him with all our heart, mind and body; basically, our entire being. That’s actually easier with kids than it is with adults, since kids are much more multi-sensory than adults, and those things are much closer to the surface for kids.
Music is the best, multi-sensory means to simultaneously love God with our heart, mind and body. Isn’t it great that God wired kids to respond so quickly and fully to music? It’s an instant, ready-made recipe for worship. Really good worship songs created with kids in mind doesn’t need a polished song leader, a worship team, motions, or anything else. Feel free to add all those things if they’re within your time limits and resources; but stick to things within reach so you can sustain it and let it grow organically, week after week, without burnout.
As kids ministry leaders, it helps to “unwrap” kids to lead them into worship. I think it works best if we “unwrap” kids for worship in this order:
1. Unwrap their bodies – get their attention by venting some of their energy. Channel their physical energy first, so that you’ve addressed that developmental need. They NEED to be physical, so rock ’em out in whatever manner is appropriate to the worship style of your church. God made them exuberant, and he wants them to want to have fun. Do not deny the need for fun that God has placed in them. The joy of the Lord is a powerful thing.
2. Unwrap their mind – introduce songs that engage their mind. Subject matter and theology should be as big as the world around your kids. Songs that quote scripture are great and even selected “adult” and youth worship songs can work, too. For the littlest kids, their world is what happens inside the four walls that they are in at the moment. Older kids grasp a larger world that starts with relationships in the room, and extends out in circles of understanding, Don’t worry about stretching kids. Songs like “Jesus Loves Me” has huge theological implications. Some ideas in songs are spiritual “time-bombs” that are planted and explode at a God-appointed time later in their life. Style can be highly energized or not; it just depends on where your kids are at the moment, with their souls, minds & bodies.
3. Unwrap their heart – After they’ve satisfied the need to move, and have had a chance to think about who God is, then they are ready to respond with their hearts. This is often a slower, more focused song that prepares them to receive a message or ready for prayer. It’s not required to be slow, but that works well in most settings.
Here are a couple of “potholes” to avoid with kids worship:
- Worship doesn’t have to be a certain length of time. Worship doesn’t have any quantifying requirements, other than to connect with God and tell him you believe Him to be who He says He is. How long, loud, and how deep is that? Those measurements don’t apply, so don’t try to set artificial goals that are unrelated to worship. Keep it within your reach and build over time.
- Keep worship time as worship time and teaching time as teaching time. Don’t make the mistake that because your lesson is on the Plagues of Egypt you need to sing a worship song about locusts and sores. That’s not worship, that’s teaching. Do “The Plagues of Egypt” song after the lesson and not during worship.
Remember that teaching and worship are two different things. Teaching is the act of pouring information into people. Worshiping is the act of pouring our love and praise into the arms of God. Don’t confuse the two just because they can both use music.
Experience the change that comes by connecting kids to God in worship. Let’s raise a generation worshipers! Give them the chance to worship God by saying, “We believe you! You are God!”
Sing to God! Sing!
Sing to our King Sing!
For God is king of the whole earth!
Sing a well-written song!
(Psalm 47: 6-7, The NET Bible)
Bob Singleton is President of God’s Kids Worship® at http://www.godskidsworship.com, which makes worship DVDs and CDs for kids’ ministry. He’s also a Grammy-nominated, and 4 time Dove-nominated composer & producer. He’s worked in kids’ ministry with his 3 daughters. Bob is also going to be a Resource Provider at CPC ’11.