Worship for Kids — update
So. A while back, I posted a couple of times about how it had been decided that I would lead worship for my church’s 6-12s (SuperChurch) on Sunday mornings, sharing the responsibility equally with the faithful man who’s been doing it for 10+ years, primarily by himself.
We’ve had ups and downs, but I’m happy to report that things are going mostly-well. I have learned a whole lot, and have had it confirmed to me, many times over, that I have a lot more to learn. But, I’m really enjoying all of it.
I think something that has led to my enjoyment of this “job” is the children’s pastor, Heidie. Funny — we knew each other in grade school, and she didn’t like me one bit. I was too weird. 😀 However, she is a fabulous children’s pastor. We had a phone conversation today, and I told her so. She is very proactive; always seeking to do better; to serve the kids better; to better get across the message of Jesus; to create a better, more welcoming environment for the Holy Spirit; to better reach the kids’ hearts, and so on. She stays so on-top of things, without seeming to weary. She’s also quite diplomatic without being wishy-washy, which I always appreciate. She’s kind, but firm. That’s what kids need, and, apparently, that’s what I need, too.
I still have the same team: 11yo Maggie on electric guitar, 20yo Cassie on drums, three vocalists — Addie, Casey, and Katie (all aged 10-12), and myself on vocals and acoustic guitar. I have *really* enjoyed leading them, encouraging them, challenging them, shepherding them… It’s a joy to see them flourish, and feel like a valuable part of the leadership in SuperChurch.
The SuperChurch crowd can be really boisterous. Not only are they just kids, there’s a lot of them. This past Sunday, I was thinking, “The crowd’s not so big this week!” and I found out today that there were 85. Due to an active bus ministry, many of the kids are unchurched, and from really… unstructured home environments. So. Given the number of kids and their background, and the fact that this isn’t just some social get-together, but church, there are a lot of challenges. It’s an effort to establish some order and discipline without seeming too bossy/authoritarian; to create an environment for actual, free worship without things devolving into unruly craziness; to teach the principles of Jesus and still make it relevant and interesting… It’s a real challenge. And finding something that works one week is no guarantee that it’s going to work the next week.
Some things that I have learned are
It helps if, while I’m up front, I’m firm, but I’m not the enforcer. (Erin noted that on a recent blog-post-comment; it’s so true.)
The kids like new songs, but not too many of them. They like things to be new and interesting, but they also need the older, well-known songs that they can really sing with gusto.
They like having a “job.” Personally, I’m not really big on hand-motions to songs. I love dance, but a lot of the “choreography” for kids’ worship songs just seems trite. Also, for most kids, the song then becomes about the movements, and not about the song itself. As well, given the age-range of the kids I’m working with, what’s cool and fun for a 7yo isn’t necessarily so for an 11yo. BUT — having some sort of action or reason for participation in a song helps keep them engaged.
Kids — even fairly small ones — can understand the concepts of worship, when it’s simply explained.
I have to stay encouraged about the small successes, and not grow weary with the challenges and setbacks.
This past Sunday was really successful. I took a risk and told the kids that while God wants us to worship Him, He doesn’t force us to, and neither was I. But, those who didn’t want to worship needed to go stand quietly against the wall towards the back of the room to allow those who wanted to worship to do so. I didn’t know how many kids would go, and breathed a little sigh of relief when only five or seven did so. I reminded them that their two options were: 1) participating in worship, or 2) standing against the wall — no talking, shoving, or other craziness. To my surprise and relief, they seemed to all take it to heart, and there was, I think, the best level of participation we’ve ever had during worship. I made sure to call out some kids by name and thank them and encourage them. Really, it made tears in my eyes, I was so thrilled to see even our hard-core talkers/disrupters enter into worship.
We did the Robbie Seay Band’s Song of Hope, Awesome is the Lord Most High by Chris Tomlin, and Here I am to Worship by Tim Hughes. When I had introduced Song of Hope a couple of weeks ago, it was a bit too wordy, and the second chorus became confusing for them, so this time, I just took it out. Before we did Awesome is the Lord Most High, I gave a little instruction, saying that sometimes, we feel fantastic, and we just want to worship, but other times, worship becomes a choice to honor God even when we don’t really feel like it. And with that, I told them all to raise their hands during the chorus, where the lyrics are “Raise your hands all you nations/Shout to God all creation/How awesome is the Lord most high.” And they did it! I also told them that my personal favorite way to worship is very often on my knees, humbling myself. So… on the chorus of the last song, where it goes “Here I am to worship/Here I am to bow down/Here I am to say that You’re my God” that they were to kneel. And they did! It was a little funny — and touching — to see kids on their knees tugging on the non-kneelers, reminding them.
Afterwards, a young man (I think he’s 22), Caleb, who is the son of a friend of mine came up to me. He’s had his ups and downs in relationship with God — sometimes gung-ho, and sometimes really falling away. Right now, he’s in a coming-back from falling-away phase, and I’ve been praying for him a bit. He’s been coming into SuperChurch during worship, and I was pretty certain that God was stirring some things in his heart. He told me that he’d like to start playing electric with my team once or twice a month. “Coincidentally,” my very dear 11yo electric player, Maggie, had told me just the day before that she’d like to sing instead of play guitar, once or twice a month. Hm. So, I told Heidie about all of that, and we’ll see where that goes. I’d be thrilled for Caleb to play with the team.
All in all, a good report. Thanks be to God.