I am extraordinarily blessed to be able to look back over more than 35 years of kids’ choir ministry with a heart full of thanksgiving. In my mind’s eye, I see thousands of children’s faces and hear the chorus of sweet voices lifted in joyful praise. I also get to hear precious testimonies – in person and on FaceBook. The refrain I hear again and again is “I still remember that song from choir.”
I have always recognized that God did not call me to primarily be a music teacher. He called me to teach kids about Him, using the tool of music. The most obvious tool of music is songs – wonderful, memorable, worthy songs.
I’m dating myself, but I can sing every word of the theme song from Gilligan’s Island or The Beverly Hillbillies. I grew up in a singing Baptist church, the kind that had “Fifth Sunday Singings” when we had no preaching – just singing hymns for the whole service whenever there were five Sundays in a month. So I know practically the whole (old) Baptist hymnal by heart, and not just the first verses! I’m not holding this out as a goal for you or your choir children, but as a testimony to the truth of the theory that we never forget the words that we learn on a tune, especially what we learn before age 14.
Maybe every kid in America can sing “Let It Go” or “Shake it Off.” I’d like for you to think about what your kids will remember from the time and teaching you invest in them. Happy performance opportunities, exciting excursions, experiences with musical instruments – these are all wonderful memories. But what truth have you planted in those hearts, wrapped tightly in a beautiful melody?
- When they are lonely or broken-hearted, will they hear in their mind’s ear, “I am a friend of God”?
- When they go to their first funeral to bury a beloved grandparent, will they know, “When we all get to heaven, we’ll sing and shout the victory”?
- Can they offer a personal worship song to Jesus like “My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine” or “I love You, Lord and I lift my voice to worship You…”?
- Are they unshakably certain that, “Yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so”?
- What will they think or sing when they are afraid or intimidated? “The God of angel armies is always by my side.”
- In personal worship, can they genuinely sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, …sing like never before, …worship Your holy name”?
I’m not offering a song list; I’m challenging you to be critical of your song list. Make sure the songs you are teaching are worthy – filled with truth and doctrine, vessels of worship and praise, or personal expressions of a genuine relationship with God.
I have recently discovered an eye-opening version of a familiar verse. Psalm 89:15 NIV says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, Lord.” The Message reads, “Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise.” My understanding of this is, “Blessed are those who know the songs.” What a privilege we have to teach the songs of praise! Let’s make sure the songs are important and worthy and lift up Jesus!
- James 5:13 (NIRV): Is anyone among you happy? Then that person should sing songs of praise.
- Psalm 42:8 (NIRV): During the day the Lord sends his love to me. During the night I sing about him. I say a prayer to the God who gives me life.
- Psalm 40:3 (NIRV): He gave me a new song to sing. It is a hymn of praise to our God. Many people will see and have respect for the Lord. They will put their trust in Him.
- 1 Corinthians 14:15 (NIRV): I will sing with my spirit. But I will also sing with my understanding.
- Psalm 32:7 (NIRV): You are my hiding place. You will keep me safe from trouble. You will surround me with songs sung by those who praise you because you save your people.
- Ephesians 5:19 (NIRV): Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
- Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV): The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Diane Dawson has been a leader in Children’s Choir ministry for more than 35 years, for the last 25 at The People’s Church in Franklin, TN. She continues to lead conferences and music camps, training both leaders and kids. Recently her most exciting endeavor has been the opportunity to lead international kids’ music camps in the refugee community in Nashville, TN and in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Her age graded curriculum for teaching hymns, Hymn Treasures, is available directly from Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org . Her five beautiful grandchildren are the light of her life!