I spend a sizable chunk of my life in conversations with kidmin leaders. Through face-to-face conversations, emails, phone calls, and even Facebook posts, I have heard about the struggles leaders experience in kids’ worship.
When I hear about what they are doing, sometimes the solution is simple. Other times it’s more complicated and, truthfully, is something that will take months to nurture, change, and lead to the place you want it to be.
Later in this post I’ll give five questions that can help you problem solve solutions in kids’ worship. But let me encourage you to start with these steps.
Tell Someone Else and Get a New Perspective
I have learned that many times you can solve a problem simply by talking through the issue. I’ve had times when a leader asks me a question and I wish I could play back what they just said to me. Because if they could hear themselves, they might realize the answer is obvious.
In a lot of cases, the answer you’re looking for is hiding in plain sight. You just need to stop and get outside of your situation. Try sitting down with someone else on your team to help you brainstorm out loud. Or write your problem down. Often the answer is right there between the lines.
Here’s an example. I’ve had people say, “We don’t do slow songs, because our kids don’t know how to respond to them.” I immediately wonder, “How are they ever going to learn when you’ve taken away the opportunity? You just took it off the table, so how are they ever going to worship God with a slower song?”
In that situation, the first step is to make time to worship with slower music. It may mean you have to start by allowing kids to sit down for that slower song as they warm up to this “new concept.”
Next, start teaching them a little nugget of truth about worship every time you gather. Every week give them knowledge about the “what, why, where, when, and how of worship.” Week by week, you will help them understand what worship time is and how they can engage in it.
Always Look Ahead to Your Next Move
A few months ago, I was in a service where the comedian Michael Jr. was speaking. He shared that the whole time he’s telling one joke, he’s analyzing the audience and asking questions in the gap to decide what joke he’s going to tell next.
I completely understand that gap. Because as a worship leader, oftentimes I’m leading a song while looking at the room and trying to figure out how to make the time more engaging. What can I do or say to engage people who aren’t interested and get them to take a step?
What you do and think about in the gaps makes a big difference on the scale of good to great. Set aside time monthly, quarterly, or even semi-annually to self-analyze and brainstorm answers to issues you’re struggling with. Learn how to adjust and change along the way so you can be successful in the future.
Ask God for Wisdom
When I was growing up, if I thought one of my parents had said my name, but they actually hadn’t, my Dad would always tell me, “If you hear it again, say, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.'” Another thing I can hear my dad saying over and over again is James 1:5. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).
It’s so simple, but what a genius idea for us to just stop as the children of God and talk to Him. Ask God to help you fill some of these holes and needs that you have in your ministry. I invite you to do that today as you are seeking wisdom and needing help. I believe that He speaks to our hearts and will reveal to you the next steps that you need to take for your specific church and community.
5 Questions to Help You Uncover Kids’ Worship Solutions
I want to give you a handful of questions that will help evaluate what you do in worship. By asking them, you’ll learn what you might want to change as you strive to lead kids to a place of worship every time you gather.
1. What does your music sound like?
Let’s be real. A lot of kids’ music sounds kiddie. And I have found that kids’ musical tastes are far more distinguished than adults give them credit for. I really, truly think that adults like hearing kid vocals on a recording more than kids do.
If you’re still using the music you heard as a child, mix it up. Some of those songs are great, but maybe the recordings aren’t. Good songs never stop being good songs, but styles do change.
Does the music you use sound like what kids in the current year would listen to when they aren’t at your church? I have a burden to help Sunday morning sound and look more like what Monday–Saturday sounds and looks like. I mean that in the creative, artistic, visual, and audible way.
We know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The gift we are giving does not change, but the gift’s wrapping sometimes needs a makeover. Our packaging may need an update. Styles change, so periodically evaluating what your music sounds like is a key ingredient for getting kids to participate.
2. Who do you have on stage leading worship?
I know that’s a loaded question because you may not have anyone up there. I’ll be honest: pushing play on a video will never lead worship for you.
Videos are great. They are a wonderful tool that we have in ministry. I make videos, sell videos, and use videos every time I lead worship. But a video does not fill the need to have a person or a team leading worship.
Think about this: when you’re at home watching TV, are you fully engaged in a cardio workout? No. You’re probably vegging out or eating a snack. You’re sitting and watching, right?
In the same way, if kids are playing games or watching Netflix on an iPad, they’re just sitting. They’re not hopping to their feet and doing a dance routine. When you push play on a video, kids don’t know they’re not supposed to sit down. It’s abnormal for us to jump in and participate in what we watch on a screen. Rather than relying on a video only, you need someone who’s going to help you lead the songs from start to finish.
Your team must understand the importance of leading and navigating the worship time. Introducing a song or segueing from one song to another is crucial to lead kid in worship. Lastly, your leader needs to be a person who kids can look up to as someone they admire or want to be like.
This is especially true for older children and the boys in your ministry. If you have a preteen class, finding teenagers, college students, and younger adults to lead worship will be a huge win. Each leader also needs a worshipper’s heart and ability to model how to participate in the worship time.
3. Do your leaders look like they like to worship?
People on stage need to look like they are having fun. Are they happy and smiling, or do they look like someone’s forcing them to get up there and they’re scared out of their minds? Have them stand in front of a mirror and check for what a smile looks like versus what it feels like.
Sometimes we feel like we are smiling, but it doesn’t look that way to others. I learned this by watching back video of our worship services. I felt like I was smiling on stage, but it didn’t look like I was smiling. The attitude you’re modeling and displaying to the kids is so important as you think about what you’re inviting them to do.
Color and bold patterns in your clothes also speak the language of happy and fun. Yes, black is slimming—and it worked great for Johnny Cash—but color is happier. Wear color when you’re working with kids, and save the all-black outfit for another day of the week.
4. Do you teach why and how we worship?
I think this is a missing element in most kids’ worship ministries. Every week, you can teach something about the what, why, when, where, and how of worship.
When we study Psalms, we see over and over again David telling us what to do and how to do it. He is a wonderful model. Look at Psalm 47:1, “Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise!” (NLT) There are four pieces of instruction in that one short verse. That is your model.
I created a five-lesson curriculum series to help churches lay a foundation in their kids (and team) of a heart of worship. Take a look at Heartbeat. Based on the feedback of churches that have done this series, I believe it will be a game-changer for your ministry.
5. Do you listen to and get feedback from your kids?
If you work with preschoolers, this will be harder. But with your older elementary/preteen ages you can get feedback on current songs and even new songs you plan to introduce.
I spent one of the best hours of my life getting feedback from a 6th grader. She knew a lot about what her friends liked and even knew what was working for the boys. I started my time with this student because I was asking for feedback about new songs I was thinking about introducing. That feedback went so great that I opened my notebook of all the past worship sets that year to hear what she thought.
Sometimes I would find out the kids were getting tired of a song that was still working. That incredibly valuable information helped me pace how often I used the song so I didn’t wear it out and break the song.
Sometimes she would respond “Boys like that one.” And sometimes I’d find out “Girls like that song, but the boys don’t.” Again, valuable information! That doesn’t mean don’t do the song, but it made me more strategic in surrounding it with another song that is super boy-friendly.
I’m sure you have a group of kids in your ministry that you could take out for ice cream and let them speak into the worship songs you use in your ministry. Get feedback from them regularly on what you’ve been doing and new songs you’re considering. It will be well worth your time—I promise.
Thank you for being committed to helping kids learn and grow in the area of worship. I am convinced if we can help kids taste and see that God is good by experiencing His presence in our services and classrooms, they will hunger and thirst for more of Him in their lives.
It is a gift you can give the kids in your ministry: the knowledge that through worship they can run to God with anything they face in every season of their life. To God be the glory!