Since we’ve recently been experimenting with how to better engage kids in worship in my own church setting, I’m excited to share this week’s blog post from Dave Ray from Doorpost Songs! Dave and his wife create awesome worship videos created specifically for kids, and you can find some of them in the DKM Marketplace here

As a worship leader, I don’t know if there’s anything more uncomfortable than singing my heart out while the congregation stares at me with (at best) passive indifference or (at worst) open antipathy. Chances are good you’ve experienced one (or both) of these in your kids’ ministry. Maybe you’ve given up hope that your kids will ever engage in worship.

If you find yourself secretly dreading worship time every week, you’re not alone. After twenty years of experience leading kids, I’ve seen five common reasons why kids don’t sing…

1. They Aren’t Being Led
The first question I have for any leader looking for help with kids’ worship is this: Who is leading? For many churches, the answer is no one. This is not necessarily for lack of effort or desire. It’s not hard to find people who want to be on the “big stage” leading for adults, but it can be challenging to find people who are eager to lead worship for kids. For many churches, that means the kids just get a video.

But there’s no getting around this truth: videos don’t lead worship. People lead worship. Kids aren’t used to participating with what they see on screen. They are used to watching what they see on screen. If you want kids to sing, start by giving them a leader.

A good worship leader isn’t necessarily a singer but is always a worshipper. Nor does a good leader have to be an adult. Older kids and teenagers make great kids worship leaders!

2. They’ve Never Been Taught
If there is a valuable skill we want our kids to learn, we start teaching them when they are young. Witness the lengths to which parents will go to help their kid become the next sports star, top model, brilliant musician, or award-winning actor. Yet when it comes to worship, the activity that will consume our eternity and impact our lives more than any other, we are strangely silent.

The Bible is full of verses that teach us about worship, many of which call us specifically to sing. Take Psalm 100:1-2 for one example: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Teach your kids about the meaning and modes of worship and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

But even more important than direct teaching is indirect teaching – what they learn by example. Kids have finely attuned B.S. detectors. If they listen to your teaching about worship but then watch you (or your adult volunteers) behave indifferently toward worship, they will immediately know this is no big deal. If you want them to learn, lead by example.

3. The Song is Hard for Them to Sing
You may not be a musician, but I’m guessing you’ve experienced this phenomenon. You’re trying to sing along, but the notes feel too high or too low. Rather than try to force your voice into uncomfortable places, you opt out. Or perhaps you’ve been singing along when suddenly the leader does something much too advanced for you. Not for me, you think as you fall silent.

When a song doesn’t fit our voice or our skill level, most of us give up rather than try to sing something uncomfortable. Here are some guidelines that can help you find songs that are easy to sing:

  • Check the Range: If you’re a musician, sit down at a piano. Find middle C, then find the C above. This is the Golden Octave, and it’s the set of notes kids are most comfortable singing. If you’re not a musician, use the Beautiful Name Rule*. (*Not an official rule. I just made that name up.) Sing along to “What a Beautiful Name,” which generally fits the Golden Octave well. Then compare it to the new song. If it feels the same or similar, the range is probably good.
  • Check the Repetition: Kids need the right amount of repetition for their developmental level. This means repetition not only of lyrics but of melodies and rhythms. A good song will have enough repetition that you can go from not knowing it to singing along by the end of the song.
  • Don’t Sweat the Rhythms: As long as the amount of repetition is right, kids are not intimidated by difficult rhythms. In fact, they are almost certainly more comfortable with challenging rhythms than you are!

4. They Don’t Know the Song
Over years of worship leading, I’ve noticed that I tire of songs more quickly than the congregation. After enough repetitions, I stop feeling the same intensity of emotion I felt when I first heard it. The music ceases to be new and interesting and starts feeling old and stale.

Why do leaders tire of songs more quickly than the average churchgoer? It’s simple. The leaders are there every week, and the average churchgoer isn’t. If average church attendance is just under two times per month, your kids have heard that song you’re tired of half as many times as you. (Perhaps even less if you lead multiple services each Sunday.)

Don’t churn through songs to satisfy your desire for something new. Be patient and allow kids to learn the song well. It might take several repetitions before you know if a song will “stick” in your repertoire.

5. They’re Not Interested
Though God has commanded us to sing, that command is not an excuse for us to use dated or bad music, expecting our kids to worship “because God said so.” Nor should the fact that a song is “true” (that is, it says something true about God) excuse the fact that the song is not “good.” There are plenty of songs that are both “true” and “good.”

Kids are typically disinclined to sing songs that feel too cheesy, too “young” for their age, or too dated (that is, stylistically out of place in our modern music landscape.) This aversion only grows as they grow older. Here are a few suggestions for finding songs that will interest your kids:

  • Pick songs kids might hear on the radio or in adult services. Familiarity will help, and these songs are more likely to appeal to a broad audience.
  • Pick songs that are more upbeat. We do need songs that slow down sometimes, but the modern worship phenomenon of the eight-minute song that spends four minutes with just piano and vocals is… less than ideal for kids.
  • Pick songs that are 3-4 minutes long. For preschoolers, even shorter can be better. If a song reaches five minutes, chances are the kids are bored.
  • Let your kids tell you what they like. Get feedback from a small group of kids. Play a few songs for them and ask them to tell you their favorites.

If you’re struggling to get kids to engage in worship, don’t give up! Instead, try some of these suggestions and see what a difference they can make.

Find some of the most popular worship songs right now for kids here

Author Bio: Dave Ray and Doorpost Songs started with creating music. But not your standard kids music. Music we would want to listen to: great melodies that are easy to sing, production quality that sounds like the songs on the radio, energetic kids voices singing and worshipping, and God’s Word at the center of it all. Dave and his wife Jess live in Houston and help lead worship at the church Dave is on staff at. They have a passion and heart for bringing God’s word to families and kids. Find their worship videos for kids on Deeper KidMin here and on their website here

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.