“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so…” Even to this day at age twenty-seven, I know all the lyrics to this song and multiple other children’s songs by heart. Who can’t remember singing these songs when they were children? Children soak up everything around them, including words articulated and behaviors displayed. Growing up, the children’s ministry at my church was not very strong. The teachers were faithful to God’s Word, but the songs were theologically light. But regardless of their depth or lack thereof, I remember the tunes and lyrics to many of these songs.
It wasn’t until later that I realized the importance of teaching the meaning of worship to children. In Christianity, the gospel is of primary importance. Therefore, music should be alive with biblical truth. Children’s music is no exception. Through Christ-centered songs and passionate gospel-centered leadership through the power of the Spirit, children will see the glory of God. Hugh T. McElrath explains, “Singing is the most practical theology taught.” Christian ministries and parents must realize this. If we want to teach children the true character of God, we should take advantage of every opportunity. Straightforwardly, worship is an underappreciated opportunity to inform children’s consciences, imaginations, and how they conceive of God.
Children and Their View of God
There is a direct connection between how we view someone and how we treat someone. When we have an accurate view of who we are speaking to, it will affect the manner by which we speak to them. It is the same way with God. If we want to find more enjoyment in him, revere him more, and worship him sincerely, we must try to understand his true character. Simply put, we must raise our view of God. A.W. Tozer said that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. We must disciple the next generation to view God highly and have a right view of him to the praise of his glory.
As ministries like Sojourn Kids and Sovereign Grace Kids have demonstrated, it is crucial that the children’s songs we write are biblically accurate, gospel-centered, accessible, musically excellent, diverse, and fun. We should write and choose songs that are simple and clear as they declare the truths of God and point children’s hearts to Christ. It is easy to focus children’s songs on things that are peripheral and relatively unimportant to the Christian faith. However, ministry leaders ought to keep the focus on Christ and the gospel in all aspects of ministry, especially children’s worship which has the unique ability to inform the imaginations of our youngsters. The Bible is about the revelation of God and what he has done that propels us to turn from sin and trust in Jesus, living a life in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. We know the gospel shares how God loves his children and has come to rescue them and as believers in Christ, and we’ve experienced the unfathomable, unceasing, and unconditional love God has for his children. This gospel is the power of God and is what saves us, so why would we sing about anything else? We must teach children to sing these truths so that they ring in their ears and, by the power of the Spirit, take root in their hearts.
As we teach our children, our desire should be for children to be captivated by the glory of God through the gospel. Martin Lloyd-Jones cautions: “We must be careful that we do not modify the gospel to suit various age groups. There is no such thing as a special gospel for the young, a special gospel for the middle-aged, and a special gospel for the age. There is only one gospel, and we must always be careful not to tamper and tinker with the gospel as a result of recognizing these age distinctions. At the same time, there is a difference in applying this one and only gospel to the different age groups; but it is a difference which has reference only to method and procedure”.
The Gospel and Memorable Songs
Just like adults, children should be compelled to see the greatness of God through song – elevating their view of him – along with recognizing their own sinfulness through confession. In light of God’s holiness, children can see their own sinfulness and their need for Christ as Savior and, by the power of the Spirit, they will be driven to their knees in repentance before God. Songs should point them to Christ and all that he has done, so that children will marvel at God’s overwhelming grace. Children should sing songs in which they can confess their faith in Christ and be comforted that he will return and redeem this fallen world.
These matters cannot be taken lightly, but through prayer and much thought, we should pursue music in children’s ministry with excellence because it reflects God’s excellence in his creation. However, we must also keep our audience in mind and consider accessibility and the “fun factor” because children should sing with joy. After all, the psalmist says clap your hands and shout for joy (Ps 47:1).
Lastly, I want to encourage all leaders involved in children’s ministry with the following reminder from Scripture: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). Being a part of children’s ministry takes faith because you likely won’t see fruit right away. It is also humbling because you most often don’t see the fruit of your labor as children come and go in the ministry. John Piper reminder is appropriate: “The Lord measures the faithfulness of our labor, not our success.” Honestly, it is not easy to do children’s ministry, even in churches where children’s discipleship is rightly prioritized. Unfortunately, Christians today are not very different from the disciples of Christ, who pushed kids into the background because children didn’t seem as important. Against this temptation we need to advocate for the importance of children and discipling them in the Word of God. Jesus’ view of children is instructive: he invites them to come to him. In a culture that spurns the vulnerable, we need to be faithful, tending to those for whom Jesus interrupts everything else. Many times you won’t see the results of your labors in this lifetime. We forget in the busyness of the day-to-day planting and watering of seeds that God causes them to grow (1 Cor 3:6-9). We can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5). Be faithful in loving the children in your ministry, be faithful to God’s Word, pray for those in your children’s ministry, point them to Christ and the gospel, and trust on God alone to work in the hearts of all his children.
 David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Knowing the Times: Addresses Delivered on Various Occasions 1942-1977 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 2.
Oksana Viyuk is originally from Ukraine, but grew up in Cleveland, OH. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Worship Leadership and a Master's in Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary. She serves as Assistant Conductor in the a capella vocal ensemble Doxology while serving at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville in the worship ministry. She also is a Registered Nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Norton Children's Hospital in downtown Louisville.