Thursday, April 7, 2011

music in children's ministry - help please!

I'm running a couple of electives at a children's ministry conference next month.

One is about using music with kids.

I need some help.

1. A list of good songs to use with kids. Any ideas?

2. Your opinion. I hate getting kids to sing along to a cd player. Really hate it. Is this just a silly hangup I have or is there something in it?


  1. 1. I'll get back to you with some specific songs. Obviously Colin and the Emu CDs get lots of play time here. I also don't mind some of the Quizworx stuff, especially the ones where they quote scripture with the actual bible reference included in the song lyrics.. Great for helping the kids to memorise it.

    2. I'm not too keen on the CD player either. But I (and I think maybe many of my church co-workers who teach children) don't feel confident enough to sing unaccompanied. In this situation, I wish I could play the guitar. But since I can't, the CD will have to do. Once I know the songs better, I try to turn it down a bit, but for me it's about not having a strong enough singing voice to carry a song alone.

  2. I could teach you to play ukulele in about 10 minutes. Then you could chuck out the cd player.

  3. But isn't there a ukelele shortage on?? Although apparently, there is a class of kids in the support unit at our kids' school who are all learning the ukelele...I was pretty impressed!

  4. Forgot to say I would love to learn the ukelele. But given that I have already been given a guitar for Christmas two years ago that I haven't picked made my soft piano-playing fingers hurt when I pressed on the strings...I don't think I would be allowed to buy a ukelele as well. (So Chris is now teaching himself guitar from the teach-yourself book).

  5. Kids in my classes aren't allowed to whinge about sore fingers. If they hurt, press harder! Ukes are becoming available again.

  6. On the occasion when I have used a CD player, I haven't really minded it. When I was a kid at school I loved all those ABC songbooks and we were all happy to sing along with the cassette (!)

    I usually play the guitar when I sing with kids but when I have used a CD I have found that it is still important to stand out the front and sing with confidence (haven't quite figured out what to do with my arms, though...)

  7. The lady who organises the music at our church is a music teacher in a school and she really hates using CDs for singing - so you're not alone.

  8. I think it's great to keep singing all the old, simple favorites - Jesus' love is very wonderful, He's got the whole world in his hands. This little light of mine. These songs have simple messages, but that's OK - they are easy to teach and sing, most can be sung without accompaniment if necessary. And for 6 chord ukelele players like me, they are perfect for singing with the ukelele!

  9. In my experience with leading kids music it is more about the confidence, actions and words than the actual ability to sing. And you have to get the words right because that's what everyone will be remembering.
    And my sticking point with kid's music is not making them sing personal statements when they may not believe eg in a RE situation - so using songs more about the character of God or what Jesus has done.
    And making sure the song is repetitive enough so the non-literate kids pick it up well.
    And teaching the 'hook' of the song first - maybe the clapping pattern or a catch phrase.
    Maybe I should just send you my notes from the session I did on kids music!

  10. I'm very interested in this topic. I'm just about to attempt to introduce some singing into our kids church program next term. The problem I'm finding is that the kids don't know any songs and they are all pretty young (oldest is in year 2), so I've been scouring our Colin and EMU cds, but a lot of the songs are long and very wordy. Which is a problem when 1/2 the class is early readers and the other 1/2 can't read yet. I'm also wondering how to be able to repeat the songs over enough weeks for the kids get to know them, without them getting bored with the 'same songs'? ie. I'm going to introduce 1 to 2 songs in the first couple of weeks and then I'm thinking we will have to repeat them every week for at least 3 weeks for them to become familiar without introducing anymore new songs so they don't get all confused.

  11. Catriona - I'm doing y-net with you! And all those points you've made I've got in my notes too! Looking forward to seeing you there.

    Mel - Look in the emu little kids range - J is for Jesus, VVV Big God. Teach one song at a time and repeat it for the whole term! They won't be bored. Don't ever put words up. All from memory. With little kids RE I always start with Colin's 10-9-8, then add My God is so Big, then 'I belong to him' (I have a better version than on the cd), the maybe 'He died upon the cross', 'So great is Jesus love' (Emu, God Unlimited).

    Some can be really quick to learn - 1-2-3-4-5, Easter Friday, 'Who made the pig' (all from vvvbg) so can be chucked in quickly.

    Narelle - I think that's it. You have to sing confidently, but that rarely happens with cd player use. You feel you don't need to.

    Jo - I'm totally sold on the uke for kids ministry. Don't use my guitar any more.

  12. Simone, can you think of a really simple kids song/chorus that would suit the story of the raising of Lazarus? I am really stuck for this Sunday!

  13. For those who don't like CDs, do you have a guitarist in your youth group that can volunteer to serve the kids ministry? It is good opportunity for them to learn stewardship and how to work in a team, as well as an opportunity for mentoring. It will be an investment of your time but has great potential. Alternatively, you can ask a musician in your church to record a live version of the songs (even on their phone or their laptop) so you don't have lyrics over the top. The song leader is then free to use arms for actions. If you are a beginner guitarist/keyboardist yourself, it is tricky to lead singing with little kids because you are watching your fingers / the page etc. Also leaders can make up their own song to fit the curriculum - simple is fine, and steal another tune. ie. for little kids, to the tune Der Glumph went the little green frog, forgive the syllables: "A friend o-f Jesus called Lazarus had died, and Je--sus cried" x2... "But Jesus called out: Lazarus come out! Lazarus come out! Lazarus come out! But Jesus called out: Lazarus come out! And Lazarus came alive again."

  14. Don't like the sing-to-a-CD either. I figure, if the song is too complicated for you to sing on your own, you're probably teaching the wrong song. Little kids might not mind singing to the CD but I think older kids would find it a bit odd. And your lyrics on "J is for Jesus" are so excellent that I was awed when I realized it was your work. Blind B. is my personal favourite!

  15. Muso, love the idea but I have no idea what the tune is for Der Glumph went the little green frog!!

  16. Hi Jo - yes, you could write your own.

    Being near easter, you could turn the talk about Jesus, who, unlike Lazarus, stayed alive. Then do...

    1,2,3,4,5 Jesus Christ is now alive
    6,7,8,9,10 He will never die again [count on fingers]
    That's great, we know it's true [thumbs up]
    He died for me, he died for you [point to yourself, point to kids]
    And now he lives to be
    The king of you the king of me. [point to kids, point to yourself.]

    To the tune of 1,2,3,4,5 once I caught a fish alive.

    Or you could do - 'Easter Sunday Jesus has died' to the tune of Humpty Dumpty.

    Both have really simple chords.

  17. I'm always delighted when someone else is doing the kids song because then I don't have to. However I also have your aversion to CDs and our current church kids song person is addicted to Colin CDs. I kind of think that most of the songs are really simple and if someone either gave me music (most of the recent CDs contain shee music) or gave me the CD and 15 minutes notice I could play the song. I think the CDs tend to overpower the kids as they're professional productions and the kids are just little and sitting down the front, and because it takes you out of the room to some guy in a recording studio, out of participation and into performance. Also, the music on the Colin CDs is in the key which suits his voice which is not necessarily the one that suits the kids' voices. One time the leader taught the kids the song and they sang it unaccompanied to get the hang of it - it sounded fantastic. Then they put on the CD and it drowned them out.

  18. 1. Songs to use with kids:
    I don't usually worry about whether a song is new or trendy. Kids seem happy to sing older songs too.

    With my prep/year one RE class I sang:My God is So Big, Get up out of bed, Who made the Twinkling Stars, The Blind man, I am the Way,123 Jesus loves me, He's got the whole world in His hands, The Wise man built his house upon the rock (unaccompanied - I wanted to do the actions too!), If you're black or if you're White (God loves you), God loves you and I love you,

    About ten years ago I played guitar for Sunday School and we also sang: I am the Light of the world, O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E, If I were a Butterfly, Good Friday, Tomb-breaker, Don't build your house on the sandy lands, And God said, He's a mighty God, John 3:16

    Ten years ago I also ran our church Kids' Club; our minister told me I should ditch the guitar and use the Colin backing CDs and only sing Colin songs. I didn't. There were three reasons why: 1. The kids who attended were kids who struggled at school - they needed songs they could easily learn by heart - simple songs were always going to be more successful. That was my noble reason. My other two reasons were not so great:

    2. I was quite proud of my guitar playing - I would sing and play guitar and the kids' faces would shine with excitement as they sang. I was worried that a CD might take over and make my music ministry redundant and with no music ministry I would somehow become a lesser christian. This is not true; of course I would not have become a lesser christian, but I think it is a big reason why I resisted.

    3.I don't like people telling me what to do. I still don't, but I'm learning that if someone suggests something, to reject it straight away without thinking about it, is not always a good idea - what if the kids at kids' club had been able to manage and enjoy some Colin songs? I could have saved myself some time and energy by just putting on a CD.

  19. Used to care about CD's but they still use them at Arundel for every kids talk and for the singing down stairs and, frankly, it makes no difference to me anymore.

    It might be that something relational happens when we have live music. But we've got plenty of relational stuff happening through the way we do small groups with the kids etc. Frankly, I'm not worried anymore.

    I'm sure you'll tell me I should feel guilty, and I'll try to get to that point. Really, I will. Someday...

  20. I've been meaning to comment on this for awhile...

    Re: CD and kids music - I've seen both live and CD music used well and poorly. In all circumstances I think the key to success was enthusiasm of the leaders and appropriate song choice rather than the live/not live aspect of the music.

    There's my 2 cents worth.