Are you trying to get your children involved in participating in the music program of your church? If you’re in ministry you will either face this question of “Does your family sing?” or maybe even “Can you sing a special for us today?” As a family that is musically inclined I have done my best not only to take the things that we have done with our children but what other families and musicians have suggested when I have asked them these questions. I hope that some of these helps for preschool-upper elementary children will help you.
Q. How early should you get children involved in singing?
A. We recommend getting them involved as early as you can. For our boys our church had a choir for 1st-6th graders and they were able to join when they were in 1st grade. This year they opened up the choir to have a younger age group beginning at age 4, which allowed our oldest daughter to take part. Our youngest daughter, Cuatro, who is almost 3 years old sang with her siblings (and one friend) for the first time this past Sunday. She had practiced with the kids enough at home that when we did the practice at church she decided she wanted to sing too. We were not sure if she would go through with singing but she loved every minute of it. Did she sing all the words correctly? No… but she had the cutest smile on her face like she was so proud of herself for being so brave. Not all kids will choose to do that, but we believe the sooner you get them acquainted with singing the easier it will be on their nerves as they grow up and do things publicly.
Q. Should children be allowed to be in the adult choir of your church?
A. My husband, the choir director of our church, said “no.” He believes that children should have something to work toward, a position that they should look forward to serving in as an older teen or adult. His main concern is them not having a salvation testimony and singing about things they have not experienced personally in the salvation experience and Christian life. Also, having a post-puberty voice for young men that has already changed is better for an adult choir leader to work with.
Some churches do allow children in the adult choir, but it is a choice that the pastor and music director must agree on.
One idea my friend had since their church does not have a children’s choir was to create a small choir of girls. The group consisted of church and bus girls and the purpose has worked to help them learn musically while singing for the Lord, which they have been excited to do.
Q. Should children wanting to sing in church be required to be members?
A. If the child desires to sing with a choir then we suggest if they are not members of your church that they have parental permission to participate and meet all the required practices to be a part of the music program. Children always need Bible truths sown into their hearts and minds and teaching them good godly music is a good way to do that. Our children’s choir is composed of children of all ages and they have not all been saved yet. Our hope is that the music will aid their heart’s understanding along with the Bible truths they are learning at home and in the other church programs (Sunday School, Junior Church, Preaching).
Q. “My child loves to sing and practice but when we get him up to the microphone he begins to shy away from it and avoid it. What can I do to help him with this?”
A. Encourage, encourage, encourage! Many children have fears of disappointing their parents or even teachers when they sing publicly. One of the best things you can do is to praise him, possibly a little above and beyond what you might normally do at home or in other situations. When your child feels confident you are proud of them and they are not disappointing you, then they will show improvements. Make sure not to flatter, but to reinforce the good you are hearing.
Another thing that could be bothering him is hearing himself in the microphone. Having the microphone on a stand and positioned about a foot away a little lower than the child’s mouth (this may need to be adjusted to specifically to your church’s microphones). Practice more often in front of the microphone at the church so they can become more comfortable hearing their own voice through the sound system.
Q. How do you help children sing on pitch?
A. There are two methods. 1.) If you play the piano, you can play the notes for them and have them match their voice to the note. If they continue to be off pitch, then play the note that they are singing and the play the note that they are supposed to be singing. Show them that they are either higher or lower than the notes that are correct. Have them correct their sound to match what you are playing 2.) It may be easier to sing the notes along with the child(ren) and have their pitch match yours. You can do the same thing in showing them where they are actually singing compared to where they need to be singing.
Practice regularly and as my high school band director used to say, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” In other words, make sure they are practicing it right first. We all have what’s called muscle memory (your vocal chords are muscles!) and the more you practice something wrong, the harder it is to learn it correctly. Be aware of the child(ren) that have these problems and try to catch their being off-pitch before letting it go on and on and trying to back track.
You may have a child or group of children (or teens!) where music does not come naturally to them so they need to be taught to hear it and understand it. This may take time you will have to invest to help them musically. If you get discouraged, remember some people will always struggle and you may have to appreciate the joyful noise they are contributing!
Q. What programs are for children’s choirs?
A. The only program that I am familiar with that is already organized to teach people how to implement a children’s choir is Patch the Pirate. You can learn more about it by calling 1-800-334-1071 or visiting Majesty Music’s website. Our children have been involved with the Patch the Pirate program in our church for four years and love it.
You certainly can create your own program and teach basic musical education and choose appropriate Bible songs that are for children. It would have to be organized and well thought out with your own musical knowledge, incorporating Christ and the Bible as well as excitement!