The news that singing is considered a “super spreader” of the coronavirus was a gut punch to many of us. Music is an essential element of our corporate worship. When we sing together during worship services, our individual voices meld together to create a melodic prayer to God. While congregations may not be able to sing together in person for some time, we can still safely practice this act of worship within our households.
This fun activity connects the call to sing to God repeated throughout the Psalms with new and old hymns of our faith.
Begin the time with your children by discussing the role of music in their lives. Ask them to share songs they like. Encourage them to think about times in their lives when music made them feel particularly happy. You may even want to share a few of your own reflections on music. Then brainstorm with your children reasons why people make music. After creating this list, ask them to think about why we always have music in our church services. Be sure to note that music is one of the ways we worship God. We offer music as praise and prayer.
Next, open your Bible to the book of Psalms. Tell your children that this part of the Bible is a collection of poems and prayers. As you thumb through the Psalms, note that the way they are printed on the page looks like they were written to be poems. However, many were put to music and were sung aloud. In fact, several psalms talk about the importance of singing to God. Share that some actually tell us we can and should sing to God! (If you have a Bible app on your phone, you can do a quick search of the word “sing” with your children. Show them how many of the references to singing show up in Psalms.)
Since many psalms call for us to sing to God, the next part of the activity gives you and your children a chance to engage music making. Below are several references to singing included in Psalms along with a suggestion for a type of song that you and your children might want to sing (or at least listen to). Read aloud the verses from a psalm and discuss with your children what it is saying about singing. Then sing or listen to a hymn that fits the message of the verse.
Depending on the ages of your children, you may choose to put together a list of hymns that pair with the Scripture readings or you may construct the list along with your children. Whichever route you choose, there are a few online resources that can help you locate hymns if you do not have a hymnal at home. The PC(USA) Store offers a 30-day free trial for the “Glory to God” hymnal. While it does not give you access to download the entire hymnal, you will be able to view the hymnal online and to search for hymns by title or keywords. In addition, YouTube offers an almost unlimited number of hymns for you to listen to. Once you’ve identified a hymn, simply search for it on YouTube to find performances of that title. Several include the lyrics along with the video.
- Psalm 47:6 — “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing” Choose a hymn that talks of God as King. Sing or listen to the hymn together. Talk about what it means for us to worship God as king rather than a human king.
- Psalm 65:13 — “The meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.” Choose a hymn about joy. Sing or listen to the hymn together. Discuss the joys in your lives.
- Psalm 66:1-2 — “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.” Point out to your children that this psalm tells us we need to make a “joyful noise to God,” not sing hymns perfectly. Singing with joy is the only requirement! Choose a favorite hymn and belt it out with as much joy as you can muster.
- Psalm 67:4 — “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” Choose a hymn that speaks about equity or about God guiding leaders. After singing or listening to the hymn together, discuss what equity and Christ-like leadership look like to your children.
- Psalm 92:1 — “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.” Find a hymn of thanksgiving and sing or listen to it with your children. Talk about all that you are thankful for and offer a prayer to God saying thanks.
- Psalm 96:1 — “O sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.”Find a hymn that you’ve never heard before. Sing or listen to it. Then talk about the experience of “discovering” a new piece of music.
- Psalm 98:4-9 — “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;break forth into joyous song and sing praises.Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” With your children, notice the ways that nature makes music in this psalm. Point out that the psalmist is saying the natural world loves and praises God, just as humans do. Locate a hymn celebrating God’s creation and sing or listen to it together. Talk about your own appreciations for God’s good creation.
- Psalm 101:1— ” I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing.” Note for your children the importance of justice to God. Talk about what justice means from the perspective of God. Select a hymn focused on justice and/or reconciliation. Sing or listen to this song together and then discuss ways we help bring about justice in our world.
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.