5 Tips for Incorporating Worship into Your Children’s Ministry
I first fell in love with worship when I was a kid. My children’s ministry didn’t have a wild budget, smoke machines, or loads of niche volunteers, but they did what they could to build an environment for active, engaging worship. They found little ways that were meaningful and transformative to invite us kids into the process.
Music is an important tool for not only teaching kids about God, but for inviting them to experience God for themselves. Whether your children’s ministry already has musical worship as part of the service or are looking for ways to begin, here are some tips for making worship engaging, mindful, and fun for your kids.
1) Choose songs with intention
Just like when choosing songs for an adult service, it’s important to incorporate variety into the setlist for children. Different kinds of songs help us celebrate different parts of God’s personality and connect with the various personalities in the room. For example, fast, fun songs help pump energy into the room and are an easy entry point for kids who might not be ready to engage with deep lyrics quite yet. Ballads or lyrically rich songs help kids reflect on who God is and can bring home big ideas that kids are learning in the service and their small groups.
2) Repeat, repeat, repeat
While diversifying the setlist is a great way to stretch kids, simplicity and repetition help solidify concepts. Two songs seems to be a sweet spot for short attention spans and repeating the same songs for a few weeks at a time can be helpful to help children absorb the songs and their meanings. If you have some families that only show up once per month, especially when you might be meeting online, doing the same songs every week for a month allows those kids to experience those songs with the rest of the group, as well.
3) Teach “why” and “how”
Just like with any other spiritual discipline, worship is most meaningful when we understand why we’re doing it. Kids deserve to be taught the “whys” of worship, as well! When beginning musical worship, explaining why we do this can go a long way for getting the more shy or cynical kids to participate. Remember, there’s nothing more frustrating than a parent saying, “because I said so!” and, in my opinion, “because the Bible says so” is just as condescending. Don’t be afraid to get real with your kids about how worship is a way that we connect with God, a way that God talks to us, and a way that God heals us.
In the same vein, when you introduce new songs, explain a little bit about the song. Introduce the lyrics and how they connect to what the kids are learning. Give them something to focus on as they sing, whether that’s a line in the song, how they feel, or doing motions with their hands. Teaching kids different ways to interact with the same song over time will coach them to hear God’s voice in various ways as they worship.
4) Invite children to lead with you
When I was in kid’s ministry, I was part of the “Shout out Loud” kids and helped our worship volunteer lead songs every Sunday. Getting invited to lead was more than fun and exciting, it was transformative. It taught me to take ownership and engage actively with musical worship. Practicing taught discipline and how to worship in private daily, not just publically on Sundays. If there are kids in your ministry that show passion or talent for worship, invest in them. Not only will nurturing them support their individual growth, but kids respond well to the influence of their peers. If you’re meeting virtually, you can have your kid volunteers actively singing and dancing for the camera to help carry some energy into your video call and help encourage other kids to do the same.
5) Get feedback from the kids
The best way to learn what’s working and what’s not working is to just ask. Ask kids for their feedback on musical worship— what songs do they like best, is worship too long or too short, what are the absorbing from what you teach, etc. When you ask children for their input, you’re showing them respect. They feel heard, invested, and like they belong and their voice matters. It’ll also help you clean up gaps and continue to make musical worship something that best serves your community. Especially if you aren’t meeting in person, it’s important to see what is working and what’s not. Maybe now’s a season when worship isn’t as big a part of your service, or maybe it’s the only thing that’s really reaching your kids. You’ll never know until you ask!
Whether it’s one song or a whole hour of music and dancing, time spent worshiping with kids is valuable. Not only is music one of the most powerful teaching tools we have, but the songs children learn will stick with them in meaningful ways as they continue to grow. No matter where you’re at, you’re doing great and you can do this. Whatever small way you can incorporate musical worship into your ministry, God will use it to bless your kids.
About the Author
Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.