What comes to your mind when you are excited? When you’re sad? When you are trying to find the words to express what is on your mind?
For many of us, the answer usually comes in the form of a song. An old hymn that Grandma used to sing as she cooked dinner or a radio tune that played just at the right moment and resonated clearly. Of course, there are also those old jingles that pop up in our memories, as well as those little tunes that helped us memorize some fact or Scripture somewhere along the way.
Whether we can carry a tune or not – whether we are aware of it or not – music has strongly impacted each and every one of us. We cannot usually recall the specific words of a sermon, but we can remember theology taught to us in hymns. We still hum the ABC song as we alphabetize something. And that annoying melody of our kids’ current favorite tune just will not leave us alone!
Music has a power and capability that is held by little else. Despite its strong influence, however, many of our interactions with music are, at best, casual. At worst, they are incidental. So many of us neglect to harness the incredible resource that music offers us.
Talented or Not-So-Talented?
We all know that, somewhere along the way, fine arts credits are essential for our children. And, we’ve probably also all heard the benefits of formal music training and the learning of an instrument.
Not everyone has the ability or interest in joining a choir or band, or even in picking up a guitar and learning to play. And that’s okay. Fine arts credits can come from other sources just as easily as from official music training. But the benefits of music can come from nowhere else.
So, where does that leave those of us who have little or no musical talent? Is there really a place for music in our lives?
The answer is a resounding yes. Not only is there a place for music, there is a need for it in every Christian home.
The Way We Learn
Quick, tell me the primary points from the last sermon or faith-based class you attended. Even just one point. A thought-provoking statement?
Most of us – even those who faithfully take notes and work to implement what we learn through sermons, Bible studies, or devotional times – cannot specifically remember most of the main points presented. We glean from them, yes. But with the exception of individual, powerful quotes that catch our attention and stick in our heads, we tend to not remember the details of those lessons. Instead, we remember our responses – the actions and obedience that becomes a part of our lives because we choose (if we choose) to make a change based on what we’ve learned.
But, what if I were to ask you to share with me the song that has impacted you most in the last month? The last year? In the midst of a particularly difficult or joyful time in your life? Most of us can name a song, if not several songs. Certain passages of Scripture come alive as we read them because we remember a song based on that passage. Or a memory verse never leaves us because we learned it through song.
Think about this: how did you learn the alphabet? I bet you’re doing exactly what I’m doing right now and humming the ABC song in your head. If we don’t think twice about teaching our children something as foundational as the alphabet through song, should it not follow that we do the same with foundational spiritual and theological truths?
How Do We Do It?
So, what does this look like practically? We sing in church, yes, but should there be more to it? Yes! And it must be more than just making sure “good” music is playing on the radio. We should also actively sing together as a family.
Here are some practical ways to establish a habit of singing together as a family, whether talent naturally flows or we need to work at it.
Make a List
The first step is to choose songs to sing, but be wise! Much of the popular music playing on Christian radio is, at best, fluffy, and, at worst, biblically unsound. Of course, the same is true of old favorites. Singing is not just about having a good time or stirring up an emotional response. We want to choose songs that will nourish our hearts and minds.
To accomplish this, seek wisdom from spiritual leaders you trust. Compare songs to the Word of God and sound theological teaching. Does a song pull a verse out of context or promote “feel good” responses? Or does it truly teach?
Find songs that teach Scripture, sound doctrine, and theological truth. Then make a list of those songs. Play them in your home and in the car to build familiarity. Get to know them and help your family do the same.
Make a Plan
We never just happen upon implementing something new. It has to be intentional. Once you have a list of songs and have introduced them to your family, set a time for family worship.
Family worship is a hot topic that is highly encouraged in Christian circles, and if you’re anything like me, you probably feel like you just can’t do it “right.” But family worship is not complicated and should not be a burden. Evaluate your schedule and see if there are two or three family meals each week that allow for five extra minutes of interaction time. Close out your meal time with a song. Or, find a time when everyone is already together naturally (first thing in the morning, during evening routine, or in the car during a commute) and be intentional about spending a few minutes singing and worshiping together – even if it’s while you’re tidying up the kitchen.
Spend a few minutes talking about the song you sang. What truths are found in it? How is it speaking to each heart? How does it connect to what you’ve heard in a sermon or read in a devotional time? The primary key is to be intentional, regular, and interactive.
Keep it Joyful
Let’s be honest – in our culture singing is just not cool among kids who do not have an inborn talent and craving for music. If music is not a natural part of our homes, our children will not be drawn to it anywhere else. At church, it will just be another part of the “church thing.” Among their peers, they will only be drawn to the current musical flavor of the month. And sadly, that flavor is much more frequently junk food than nourishment.
Your job is to breathe life into the music of your home by engaging the whole family. And sometimes that means stretching our boundaries, Mom and Dad.
As music flows through your home, pay attention to what engages your children. Listen for the songs that they hum during the school day, add to their personal playlists, or turn up when they come on the radio. Ask questions about those songs, allowing them to be conversation starters. As you do so, good, nourishing music will become such a natural part of their lives that they can’t help but engage in worship publicly as well.
The Family That Sings Together…
So often in Scripture, songs and prayers are tightly bound together. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites rejoiced, they created new songs of praise. When they ached, they sang laments. Song often expresses what words alone cannot, because a tune expands on words and gives them life that they cannot have on their own. A family of prayer is bound together in a powerful way. How much more a family that sings together as well, expressing their prayer and praise with the added touch of music?