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Kids’ Worship: Where We’re Going

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes
Saying AYO
Gotta let go
I wanna celebrate and live my life
Saying AYO
Baby, let’s go

‘Cause we gon’ rock this club
We gon’ go all night
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite
Cause I told you once
Now I told you twice
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite

Here’s a quick relevancy test: are those lyrics familiar to you?  Chances are, they’re familiar to the kids in the community you live in.  More on that in just a moment.

Today’s post wraps up a series on Kids’ Worship: Where we’ve been, what our transition looked like, where we are today… and today’s post will cover some dreams I have for the future of kids’ worship in our ministry.

Student Led Worship

Since our transition (from something to nothing and back to something), I’ve been the primary worship leader for our kids on Sunday mornings.  On the occasion that I’m out of town or sick, our church’s worship director has taken time out of his busy Sunday to come over and lead worship for our kids.

One of my hopes for the coming year is that I shift away from being the worship leader in our Elementary environment and that we get to a place where the youth in our church are leading our kids in worship.  We’re in the midst of raising up multiple teams who can do this well – I hope to see this transition happen before the end of this school year.  Two thoughts behind this move:
1) Kids love seeing high school students in leadership roles.  If guys on our high school football team can rock out for Jesus on a Sunday morning, it gives our kids the freedom to join in – their coolness factor isn’t on the line (because, let’s be honest, singing along to a lady or old guy with a CD player can be a sure way to embarrass a kids in front of their visiting friend).
2) When students take leadership roles in your church’s ministries, they grow in their faith and in their commitment to the Church.  I truly believe that high school students learn more about their faith by serving than they do by spending a Sunday morning in Bible studies.  Call me crazy.

Kid Owned Experiences

For our church, Sunday is the road IN to our community and the Faith.  Sunday mornings at Glenkirk are meant to provide space for people, young and old, to ASK “who is Jesus?” in their lives.  With that in mind, we always want to think about our first time visitors when programming our kids’ worship time on a Sunday… because we know we’ll have them.  We also recognize that our kids need a place where they feel welcomed if they’re going to welcome others.

That’s what led to our great idea that then lead to the card you see at the top of our post.  We started thinking – “how cool would it be if kids had significant input on the Sunday morning experience?”  If kids knew that they had influence over the way a Sunday morning looked, maybe they’d be more likely to attend regularly, invite friends, and get involved during the time they spend with us.

Good ideas often lead to new experiments, which (more often than not) lead to failures.  The cool thing is – failures can allow us to learn how to succeed in the future… if we try to learn from them.

Our idea was this: What if, as a first step into giving kids ownership over a Sunday morning, we allowed kids the ability to choose what songs we sing during our worship time?  So, we developed a card that kids could fill out for song requests.  In fact, we might even use their song suggestions in our worship service at 11:11am (kids begin that service with their parents in church for community worship before being dismissed to programming).  As soon as I announced the new change, one 1st grade girl ran to the stage to pick one up… I had hardly finished my sentence and she had taken the card to the back of the room to begin writing furiously with a purple crayon.

I was excited when she brought it back to me at the end of the morning… and I knew that I had to share it with you.  It was too classic to let it slide (at the same time, I realized that I had to provide SOME context to the post – hence the series on Kids’ Worship).

I clearly didn’t set the parameters well – our great idea wasn’t defined well enough for the kids to understand what we were going for.  Instead, multiple cards were turned in with song requests for our worship team to perform cover songs.  The cards are helping me shape some of the music we play through our sound system during pre-service activities (creating a welcoming environment includes being intentional about the music playing in the room when children arrive)… but, that’s about it.

So, we’ll go back to the drawing board on that one and try to figure out other ways to get our kids actively involved in owning their Sunday morning experience.  If you have ideas or suggestions you’ve seen work in your context, feel free to post them below in the comments section.

That wraps up my initial thoughts on this series.  Shaping our Sunday mornings is still in process and I love getting input from parents and other kidmin leaders across the country (though, you get bonus points if you live on the West Coast).

You can connect with me via facebook (facebook.com/anthonyprince), twitter (twitter.com/anthony_prince) or through the comments section below.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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Kids’ Worship: Where We Are

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You’re going to laugh when you see what inspired this series of posts.

But, that’s something I’ll share on Monday.

Today, I want to give you a glimpse into where we’re at with kids’ worship at our church and the impact our shift has made on our camp experience as well as the massive VBS that we run in the summer.

Sunday Mornings: Keeping it Simple

One of the best things about killing off music on Sunday mornings was that it allowed us to rebuild intentionally.  We were able to make singing fun again and slowly begin to shape what worship looked like for our kids because of that.  On a typical Sunday, the music time our kids experience doesn’t look incredibly different from the back of the room than most kids’ program out there.  But, the view I get from up front every weekend is amazing – our kids actually worship Jesus through singing.  It rocks.

A typical Sunday looks like this:

I do a typical welcome from the front of the room, introduce myself and give any quick announcements we might have.  This allows kids to transition from coming into the room to finding a seat and looking forward.  It also gives our small group leaders time to find a seat in the midst of the kids.

We then launch into singing with two fast/fun songs.  One of those songs always has a teaching element to it – whether that’s because it’s a Bible verse set to song, has a theme that ties into the morning, or anything else I can leverage to make that song mean something to the kids.  The other fast song is simply joyful.  We reinforce two ideas with this set up – a) the words to songs matter and b) singing songs at church can be FUN and even feel like a mini rock concert.

We always wrap up our time of worship with a song that our kids might hear if they went to church w/ their parents or if their family listens to CCM around the house.  As an introduction, I always talk about thinking through the words to the song and I’ll teach through any tough words that might be in the lyircs (God of Wonders, for example, is a favorite for our kids… but the word “Tabernacle” means nothing to a second grade girl.  So, I talk through the words we’re about to sing before we sing them).  I’ll tell you something – it took a year of teaching kids that singing songs at church can be fun and that the words to the songs we sing matter before I even started adding a third song to our rotation.

Nothing I just wrote should be revolutionary by any means.  However, being intentional about the songs we sing and the way we made our transition has changed the way our kids worship in song.  Our kids are just as likely to sing along to Fee’s “Glory to God, Forever” when it plays on our Sunday morning mix as they will to “Fireflies” by Owl City (that’s right, Owl City is on our Sunday morning mix… I’d hope you’re not offended by that).  What’s even cooler is the impact this shift has had on worship in other settings.

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Leading the pack at VBS

Our VBS is abnormally large.  The picture about is a picture of about 1/5 of the room we host our worship time in.  But, that’s not the point of this aside.  Rather, the atmosphere of worship at VBS has changed dramatically since we overhauled our Sunday morning worship.  VBS at our church was once a place where kids just sang along to songs.  If a kid was engaged in the music, they probably were from a different church in town.  In fact, kids visiting church for the first time at VBS would have assumed that our kids were visitors too – they took no ownership over that time and really only enjoyed the fact that they could be loud in the church’s sanctuary without getting in trouble.

We live in a different reality now.  Half the songs we sing at VBS are songs you’d hear if you visited our church’s modern worship service on a Sunday morning – and our kids LOVE the time they get to spend in worship.  We run one of the most visitor-friendly VBS programs I know of (over half of the 1200 kids and students in attendance this last year have no church home on Sunday mornings), and yet our kids create such a cool environment by singing their hearts out during the song portion of the morning that their friends join right in.

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Living it out “up the mountain”

Twice a year, our kids make the trip up the mountain to camp at Forest Home (www.foresthome.org).  I circle back to talking about camp because this is the place where I first got the sense that our kids didn’t understand worshiping God in song.  And, by “got the sense”, I mean to say that our kids napped and cracked jokes during worship the first time I took our kids there 4 years ago.

As you can see in the picture above, our kids aren’t those kids anymore.  Instead, we’re the obnoxious church that jumps up on stage to lead everyone in crazy camp songs.  Our leaders (each cabin has an adult leader, assisted by a high energy high school or college age assistant) struggle to sing louder than our campers.  One of the things I love about Forest Home is that I get a set list of songs they’ll be singing at camp that I can teach our kids before we head up – our kids already have the songs in their heads by the time we get up there so that everything that happens is an expression of their hearts.  For us, what happens at camp is an amplified version of what happens on Sunday mornings – I’m thrilled to say that it’s amplified enthusiasm rather than what was once amplified boredom.

Where we’re heading

I’m excited to say that I’m happy with where we’re at these days in the arena of kids’ worship.  However, I still know we have areas we can grow in.  Monday’s post will talk through my hopes and dreams for the future of kids’ worship at our church.  I’ll actually lead in with a bit of a Fail that recently happened as we continue to try to make our worship experience more interactive and kid-lead.

Here’s a recap of this series so far:

Our Journey” gave some scope to the series:

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/kids-worship-our-journey/

Karaoke Worship” took a look at where our journey started, with kids totally disengaged by the video worship we were providing:

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/kids-worship-the-church-of-karaoke/

Nothing is Better than Something” talked through the at-first-unpopular choice we made to stop singing altogether on Sunday mornings:

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/kids-worship-nothing-is-better-than-something/

Starting Simple” talked about the first steps in our process in re-teaching kids how to worship God through singing… and kind of hinted at how Video Curriculum can hurt your ministry if your team isn’t actually facilitating what’s going on in the room:

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/kids-worship-starting-simple/

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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Kids’ Worship: Starting Simple

Let me set up the videos above. As in, if you watch them first, you’ll be watching them out of context.

For those of you unfamiliar with video curriculum, many ministries in the last decade have moved to leveraging multimedia when it comes to the Sunday school arena.  Video curriculum gives you lots of options – many even come with pre-packaged worship sets that you and your kids can sing along with… no music skills required.  A little over 4 years ago, that was an attractive selling point to our church – a church in a leadership transition with a history of good kids’ programs.  So, imagine you’re a 4th grade boy visiting our church for the first time on a Sunday because your friend invited you.  You walk into the large group space a few minutes late and see a bunch of kids staring at a giant screen in a dark room and the above video is going.

Now… go ahead, watch the videos.

There are churches that have a group of kids’ ministry leaders who can pull off singing along to songs like what you see above.  The team sells it, they teach the songs beforehand to the kids and they pull it off.  We didn’t have that team of leaders.

And so… our kids sat there.  Staring at the screen while my heart was breaking.

If you’ve been following along with this series, you know that a few years ago, the kids in the elementary ministry programs at our church were having a hard time engaging in the time of the morning we would spend singing songs.  So, we killed singing on Sunday mornings in an effort to re-teach our kids about worship.

It wasn’t a popular move, but sometimes deciding to do nothing is better than just doing something out of habit.

Now, fast-forward a bunch of months and you’d find us at a point where I was ready to bring music back to the kids on Sundays… I just had to figure out where to start.

Worship should be joyful

The first thing I felt like we needed to teach the kids at our church was that singing songs at church can be fun.  For many, this isn’t a new concept.  But, for kids who had experienced karaoke worship to songs that they had never heard before, making worship a joyful experience was a priority.  Understanding that there’s a difference between joyful songs and silly songs was an important thing for our team to understand during this transition.

Having only served in ministry on the West Coast, I can’t make an assumption about kids in the rest of the country… but, I can tell you this – if I would have stood in front of our kids and started singing “Father Abraham”, “He’s got the whole world”, or “Kumbaya” on a Sunday morning, my kids would have stormed the stage and punched me in the throat.  We’re talking about 4th and 5th graders who already think that singing at church is lame – if I reinforce the stereotype, we’re doomed.  In the same way, if I simply found a “better” video curriculum to sing along with, our kids might have flashbacks to the experiences I was trying to distance them from.  Again, this isn’t to say that certain songs are bad or that video curriculum is deficient – we just needed to go a different direction.

Doing what isn’t easy

While I was on staff at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA, I worked with a guy named Tim Scheidler.  The way I lead large group teaching is a result of working alongside Tim for years.  I remember a Sunday sometime around Thanksgiving that Tim was out of town and it was my job to lead worship for the morning.  I bombed.  It was then and there that I decided that I needed to learn an instrument well enough to lead worship.  However, I didn’t put the time and effort in until years later when I realized that the ministry I was leading needed to make a shift in worship and that I was going to need to lead our team through it.
(If I could go back and coach myself on one thing, this might be the thing that I’d make myself work on… having the ability to play an instrument in your ministry tool belt is pretty invaluable)

So, I learned how to play a guitar.  I wasn’t great overnight – it took a ton of time to figure out what I was doing.  But, I decided to put in the effort to do what was important for the future of our ministry.  Down the road, I fully planned on passing off worship leading to others in our ministry.  But, at the time, I felt like I needed to be able to model for them where we were going.

Starting Simple

So, the Sunday came when I was ready to bring music back.  We were beginning a series on the Fruit of the Spirit (I used the natural transition of a series to introduce something “new”) and I wanted to pick a sort of “theme song” that would carry us through the next 5 weeks.  I also wanted to pick a song that was joyful and that was newish to the majority of our kids (remember, I wanted to distance myself from the idea that music at church was a) only for little kids and/or b) lame).
So, I picked this song… or at least my own version of it that I picked up from my buddy, Tim, while at Lake Ave.

The Fruit of the Spirit song is goofy enough to be fun, interactive (we let the kids “pick” the next fruit we’re going to sing about… and we only do 3 fruits to keep the song shortish), our kids didn’t already know it, it elevated the main teaching during the series, and it’s a song that I could play on my guitar.  I had slides on the big screen that listed out the words and, because I wasn’t singing along to a recording, I could take pauses to teach kids the next part of the song before we just threw it at them.

After that series, I began to work a second song into the morning.  I tried to choose one song that would elevate the morning’s message and another song that would be fun to rock out to (think “Every Move I Make” or my buddy Eric Shouse’s version of “Superhero“.

We did a whole year of just two songs, reinforcing the idea that worship in song can be a joyful experience.  Tomorrow’s post will catch us up to speed with where we’re at today, with Friday’s post wrapping things up with some thoughts on where we’re heading.

—-

During this blog series, I continue to receive 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.

I’m also hearing that the ideas behind our transition are bigger than just kids’ worship on Sunday mornings.  I totally agree!  If your ministry has been through transitions that you’ve written about, feel free to post links in the comments section.  We only learn from each other when we stop lurking in the shadows of blogs and start actually sharing ideas and dreams with each other.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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Top 10 Children’s Ministry Resources: #7 Yancy

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When kids arrive to one of your programs, what is the atmosphere like?
Let me take a moment and encourage you to be intentional about the sound that welcomes kids into your environment.

Are you playing music that you or their parents might listen to in the car?  Maybe WOW Worship 2001?  Are you playing music with a choir of kids singing the vocals?  Would an outsider to your program ever choose to listen to a poorly produced CD with children’s voices singing the lyrics?

If you haven’t yet evaluated the sound in your environment, or if you’re looking for something to add to your arsenal, let me introduce you to Yancy.

Listen to a song or two in this pop-up player, and then come back to the post.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO YANCY

Whatever music you choose, it should have the production value (or better) of Yancy.
Whatever music you choose, it should be something you’re proud of, not something you’re putting on because you should have something playing when kids come in.
Whatever music you choose, it needs to remind kids that their faith is something that should be integrated into their lives… not something that’s separate.  When a kidmin environment sounds like a place they want to hang out, kids will be more likely to bring their friends along with them.

I’m adding Yancy to our playlist, and I encourage you to do the same.
This is great stuff.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 4, 2009 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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