There’s a common misconception in the Christian home about singing, and it’s one I’d like to clear up. People often think that singing is only a physical act, and that it is similar to other physical abilities we can be talented in like sports, speech, drama, or a myriad of other things. But it’s not just physical. Singing is a spiritual act that we are commanded to do often and with intentionality. We are commanded to sing over 200 times in scripture. And yes, it’s a command. It’s not a suggestion or a recommendation, but a command because it’s a spiritual discipline, not just a physical one.
Then, if singing is a spiritual act, we must train our kids to be good singers. Well, I should probably define “good singers” too, huh? In God’s eyes and ears, being a good singer is not singing on perfect pitch and in perfect time, but rather an imperfect voice flowing from a worshipful heart to a perfect God.
In this digital world, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING you hear on the radio, movies, online, TV, or anywhere else you can stream music, has all been auto-tuned, overly produced, and auto-corrected. If the world’s standard for “good singer” becomes the Christian’s standard, then we run the risk of steering our kids, ourselves, and even our churches, towards an unattainable and tragic target that has dangerously long-lasting effects.
As a father of 5 kids under 10, I long to teach my children to be confident and comfortable in their singing just like they would be with praying, reading their Bible, or any other spiritual discipline. So, here are 7 practical ways my wife and I try to set this culture in our home.
1. SING YOURSELF!
As you’ve heard before, most things are caught, not taught. Bottom line, kids do what YOU do. If you want to your kids to grow up being comfortable singers, I encourage you to sing yourself. And just for a moment, let me talk specifically to the dads out there. Dads, for some reason, this can be harder for you than it is for mom. Maybe it’s because you are a perfectionist and you’re not going to do something if you know you’re not great at it. Maybe it’s because you grew up in a sports vs. music scenario and you were determined not to be seen as anything less than the “tough sports guy”. Or maybe you didn’t grow up in a home with your father singing and so it feels weak or unmanly in some way. Let me encourage you, we have countless examples in scripture of men, strong and godly men, singing. Christ himself was a singer. So, for us as parents, both men and women, let’s model this act in our homes, not just because we want our kids to be singers, but because we want to cultivate a worshipful heart in us that our kids, and generations to come, want to replicate.
2. SING EVERYWHERE!
If you walked into the Bolin home, or shadowed us for a day, you’d probably find that there is music playing and singing happening throughout the day. This is not by accident, but a habit that we’ve created in our home. There are certainly times that quiet and stillness should be observed and modeled as well, but we want music and singing to be a common occurrence in our family. We sing around the house, in the backyard playing, in the car, at church, at the park, before bed, anywhere! Just like you would teach your kids that you can pray anywhere, teach your kids that you can sing anywhere as well.
3. TEACH THEM WORSHIP SONGS.
Yes, actually TEACH them worship songs. This means to take Christian songs (songs, hymns, and spiritual songs) and go line by line until they start to get it and memorize them just like you would scripture. A child’s memory capability is absolutely amazing. Once they memorize something, they will most likely have that stored in their mind for life.
A couple years ago, Paige and I began to teach our kids strong older hymns of the faith at bedtime. We began with “Holy, Holy, Holy”, then “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and then moved on to “Amazing Grace,” the “Doxology” and so on. We take one line and at time, and then have them repeat it a few times, and then sing the whole verse together a few times as well. They won’t get it the first night, but if you do this a few nights in a row, you’ll be amazed and how fast they memorize these hymns. Just the other day, I thought I’d teach them a harder one and see if they could get it so I taught them “Praise to the Lord, The Almighty.” I’m not going to lie, the first night was pretty rough! But about 4 days later (after teaching them every night), John Luke (our 5 year old) was walking around the house singing the whole first verse, word perfect.
As parents, we are called to teach our children the commandments and characteristics of the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to, “Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Teaching our children songs of faith that have firm foundations on who God is, what He’s done, how He loves us, and other biblical truths is like planting seeds in the minds and hearts of our children that will be bear fruit for years and generations to come.
4. SING ALL GENRES OF MUSIC.
Singing should be fun. And there are many entertaining, clean, memorable, and appropriate songs written in the world today that I wouldn’t classify as “Christian” but that are just flat out fun to sing! These songs might come from a kids’ TV show, a movie, a secular artist, or other sources. Of course, just like anything else that comes from the culture around us, we need to sift through these songs and discern if something is appropriate. Any songs that have inappropriate language or themes shouldn’t be allowed or encouraged. Remember, we’re planting seeds! But if you came into the Bolin house, you might just hear us sing the theme song to “Paw Patrol” or some other show, or a song from a Disney movie or Broadway musical, or see us have a spontaneous “dance party” when a song with a fun beat comes on…you just never know!
5. SING AS A FAMILY AT CHURCH.
I think one of the tragedies of many of the North American Churches in the past couple decades is that we’ve segregated the ages of our people so much so that generations only attend their “track” of church with others that share their age and stage. Please hear me, I am a firm believer that certain age and stage programming at times is crucial, powerful, and very helpful. But if this model is all our people are experiencing, then they are missing out on a fundamental blessing of the body of Christ.
Early in my years of ministry, I remember talking to a father that told me he never really had been able to worship and sing with his daughter at church. He explained that once they arrived at church, she went her way with the youth who attended a certain service, and he went his way and attended another service. After church, they met back up and went home. I’ll never forget the heaviness and burden in his heart as he told me this. God used this story to really plant a desire for multi-generational worship within me for the church and why I have been such an advocate of family worship.
We need to be in church as a family together. There’s nothing like having a family sit together in the worship services, opening their Bibles together, worshiping together, praying together, partaking in communion together, going home and discussing the sermon and the things learned together. And as we train up our kids in the ways of the Lord, they must also see their dads and moms sing together with joy and passion within the church.
6. TAKE YOUR KIDS TO MUSICAL EXPERIENCES.
One of the greatest ways to get your kids to love something, is to let them see and experience that “something” done in a professional and inspirational way. For instance, I learned to love baseball by going to the St. Louis Cardinals games with my Dad while we watching some of the very best play the game. In a similar way, giving your kids professional artistic and musical experiences can be very powerful. This might be a musical, a professional concert, the opera, a recital, the symphony, or a myriad of other choices. Music is so moving, especially when it is married to a powerful story. Some of these experiences might just turn out to be something your children decide they don’t necessarily enjoy, and that’s okay! But giving your kids exposure to music, singers, and artists that are truly inspirational can give your kids a new spectrum of singing, and motivation to continue to sing themselves.
7. DON’T FORGET TO ENCOURAGE THEM.
This last point is so critical to train up a child that loves to sing. Always encourage your children in their singing. Please don’t tell your child that he or she is not a good singer. Ever. This could be detrimental to your child’s development as a person who enjoys or has any confidence in singing. Let’s go back where we started. Singing is a spiritual discipline. We are commanded to sing by the Lord himself.
Therefore, just like we would never tell our kids, “You’re not talented at reading your bible” or “honey, prayer is just not your thing,” or “you aren’t gifted in this whole obedience thing,” don’t ever discourage your kids from singing.
Just a few weeks ago, a lady joined the choir that I direct at church and I asked if her husband would like to join also. She responded that although she always thought he had a very nice voice, his parents told him one time as a child he wasn’t a good singer and he’s just never got over it and still struggles with it to this day. Wow, one time, they told him he wasn’t a good singer. Once is all it took to take any sense of comfortability away.
Now, I’m not saying build your child up with a false sense of physical talent, but to encourage your child in the ways of God, especially in the developmental years, is a beautiful and fundamental calling as a parent.
There you have it… 7 practical ways to get your kids to sing. We are called and commanded to sing. We are called and commanded to train our children in the same way. I pray you’ll use these ways to cultivate a culture of “good singers” within your heart, your kids, and your home.
And remember, in God’s eyes and ears, being a good singer is not singing on perfect pitch and in perfect time, but rather an imperfect voice flowing from a worshipful heart to a perfect God.