A good friend of mine, Royce Wilder, just blew me away with what has happened in the children’s worship ministry of his church in Mississippi. I asked him to write a guest post for this blog to share with you a model for children’s choirs that may be just what your church needs. Be sure to check out his website referenced at the end of the article for great resources and more details.

Group Of School Children Singing In Choir TogetherIt was a spontaneous decision: “Let’s park here for a bit and teach about worship.” That was my thought process as we finished singing, “How Great is Our God.” I ended the song and asked the kids if any of them would like to share something awesome God had done for them recently. One by one around the room, hands shot up. Nothing overly profound was shared, but the moment was totally honest. “He gave me fifty cents to buy a toy.” “He helped me do well on my test.” “He healed my friend,” etc. After a couple of minutes, I told the group that we were going to sing the refrain again. This time, I asked them to not only sing but to also internally thank God for something awesome He had done for them personally. This is Kids Worship Arts.

Two weeks later, I ended our opening worship session by purposefully ignoring a young lady. I wanted to creatively show the kids how we often go through the mere motions of worship by failing to intentionally focus our attention on God. I decided to ask a willing participant to tell me about her day. As she started speaking, I began deliberately to look around the room telegraphing to everyone that there were more interesting things to occupy my time than to have a conversation with this young lady. I would only occasionally acknowledge her, and it was readily obvious to everyone that this was not acceptable social behavior. It was down right rude. I then explained that to pretend to worship and not be God-focused is equally inappropriate. They easily got the point. This is Kids Worship Arts.

Schoolgirl playing on a small synthesizer

A few minutes later on that same evening, my third grade music class was to be introduced to the concept of the treble music staff. Using Kodaly’s ta’s and ti-ti’s, we counted the rhythm to the song, “God Is So Good.” I then gave each kid a miniature Casio keyboard that I had recently purchased. With stickers on the white keys to indicate the note names, and special printed music notation indicating the names of each note in the song, the entire class was making music on the new instruments within minutes. The look of accomplishment on each kid’s face was priceless. They were realizing, perhaps some for the first time, that they were genuine musicians. This is Kids Worship Arts.

While I was working with the third graders that evening, elsewhere in the building other kids were having comparable experiences. Handbells, drums, ukuleles, drama, and other musical instruction was occurring. Kids learning to be worshipping musicians every Wednesday evening, this is Kids Worship Arts.

A few years ago I attended a leadership conference where a noted Minister of Music from one of America’s largest churches shared. I was curious to hear what wisdom this famed leader would impart. Speaking to a group primarily composed of seasoned Ministers of Music, he told us that the biggest success of his church’s extensive children’s music ministry was not in how it had grown qualified musicians for his adult choir or notably raised his ministry’s skill level. (Although, I’m sure both of these things did happen, given his ministry’s reputation.) Rather, this respected Minister of Music felt that his children’s music ministry’s greatest achievement was that his kids had learned to worship. He shared that when he first arrived on his church field, he noticed that his congregation as a whole was not inclined to actively participate in corporate worship. The prevailing worship philosophy seemed to be to merely watch the “show” happening on the platform. Years later, as he looked out over his large congregation, he could see scores of kids who had come through his ministry, many now with children of their own, wholeheartedly engaging in worship. Amazing! I wanted this to become my ministry testimony, but how?

Some time later, God answered my question in a very obvious manner. A small group of parents in our church started expressing some significant displeasure with our children’s music ministry. The resulting discussions eventually led to a total restructuring of our Wednesday night kids program. This in turn, inadvertently, led to our once-large children’s choir ministry becoming reduced to a group of less than ten kids – while their friends chose other “non-musical” electives.

Happy Ukulele BoyIt was a very challenging few months for our ministry, but God used this experience to teach me several important things. First, He made it clear that He was calling me to become directly involved in the process of leading our kids in worship arts. Total delegation of this area was no longer an option, no matter how qualified my children’s music leadership team. Secondly, He wanted our children’s choir ministry to shift from a performance-based production ministry to one that was more worship oriented. Furthermore, it was to be my personal responsibility to help us maintain that focus. Thirdly, we needed to systematically develop our kid’s musical and artistic skills, but options needed to be provided to allow the older children, especially, to explore their own unique artistic interests. With this as a starting point, Kids Worship Arts was born.

It is still a giant work in progress, but it is very exciting to see what God is doing. Our basic concept is pretty simple: Each week, a small army of dedicated leaders passionately pour their lives into a diverse group of kids to help them become life-long worship artists. We still do “programs” every December and May, but now the focus has shifted away from staged performance events and more toward worship and celebrating all that God is doing in our ministry. Our kids still sing quite a bit, but we now spend an equal amount of time teaching musical/artistic fundamentals using various creative methods such as handbells, ukuleles, drama, or large garbage cans that are struck with drum mallets.

There are several musical/artistic goals for this ministry- including the desire for every child to be able to read music by the time they graduate into the youth group. However, my biggest desire is for worship renewal. I want to be able to look out over our congregation twenty years from now and see former ministry kids, now grown and possibly with children of their own, wholeheartedly engaging in congregational worship. This is my passion and calling. This is Kids Worship Arts.

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If you’d like to know more about the specifics of what we do and how we do it, visit www.KidsWorshipArts.org.