Have you ever had to change something, but didn’t know where to start?
That’s where I found myself a few years ago when the kids at the church I began working at didn’t know how to worship God in song. They knew how to sing along to stuff they liked… but watching them try to sing along to songs at church was kind of like bad karaoke.
So… my solution: don’t sing. Seriously, for a few months, we just stopped singing on Sundays. That might sound a little harsh, so let me explain the 3 core values that led me to that decision.
Value # 1: Relationships matter more than programs
I didn’t inherit a program without volunteers already in place, so I knew that any changes I brought about could result in massive amounts of hurt feelings if those decisions seemed like personal attacks. With that in mind, I knew that any large changes might hurt future relationships with my volunteer team. In fact, just writing out this process is taking me hours longer than I initially thought it would because I don’t think that the team that was in place was doing anything wrong. They were doing the best job they knew how to do… and I didn’t want to be the young guy who came in with guns blazing, hitting their hearts in the crossfire. With that value guiding my process, I knew that I’d have to make this transition carefully and that there’d have to be a few extra steps involved.
Value # 2: Singing is not the same as Worship
Worship in song is one way that we express our hearts to God… but it’s not the only way we worship God. So, when we decided to get rid of singing on Sunday mornings for a season, we made sure to talk with our kids about other ways that we worship Jesus – through prayer, through service, through caring for others. By doing this, we were able to distance our kids from thinking that singing at church meant pseudo-singing along to dvd’s and we used the transition as a teaching moment. Our team wasn’t taking away our kids’ ability to worship… we were actually teaching them about worship in the midst of the transition.
Value # 3: Nothing is better than something
This isn’t a rule, it’s a value of mine. Values influence decisions, but they don’t force them. There are plenty of times when other values overrule this one – for example, running youth programs for the last few months has taught me a thing or two about learning as I go along. There are times when you start something before it’s where you want it to be and you shape it as you go along. However, in this case, I decided that not singing on Sundays was better than teaching the kids that going through the motions is okay. When navigating transitions in a new place, I always try to use baby steps. Our first baby step was getting rid of singing on Sundays. Our next baby step was making singing fun again… but, that’s a post for tomorrow.
During this blog series, I’ve already received comments, facebook messages, DMs on twitter and emails from others in kids’ ministry who have found themselves in similar situations. Part of why I wanted to blog this transition is because I think a lot of us have faced this very problem – especially in terms of elementary programs and ministries.
If you are currently in a spot where the kids in your ministry don’t know how to worship in song, please know that you’re not alone. There is a kidmin community that exists to support you and speak into your world – don’t be afraid to send a message to me or others in our field to ask for advice. Though your situation has unique aspects to it, it’s always good to bounce ideas off of friends who’ve been down similar paths – at the end of the day, we need to be about building the Kingdom not just our own little castles.