Singing Songs isn’t Worship

Recently, a discussion on a popular Kidmin Facebook group grabbed my attention. The original poster shared her frustrations that Sunday worship time with the kids was a struggle. The kids just weren’t interested in joining the singing, despite her use of fun videos and songs with actions. Despite her many efforts at teaching and motivating kids to participate, they were more apt to play with their fidget spinners then to join in.

The commentary to follow listed everything from suggestions on other songs to use to the evils of fidget spinners (seriously, I could write a whole blog about this and how we major on the minors and minor on the majors, but just read this post about bottle flipping and you’ll get the gist). But I was disheartened as I read through the many suggestions and thoughts about worship to find that only one was able to separate the idea of worship from the action of singing.  In fact, it seemed like the only way that most fellow ministers could have a conversation about worship was to talk about it in the context of song.

If worship were simply singing songs, much of the New Testament wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. For example…

Romans 12:1 (NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.

Hebrews 13:15 (NIV) Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Continual singing?  That doesn’t make sense. And how can we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice merely through song?  There’s got to be more to the equation.

And as adults, we know that and we understand that. We know that singing is a part of worship (and honestly, it’s only a small part of worship). We should understand that worship is a much bigger thing. It encompasses so much more than just singing a few songs on a Sunday morning.

But is that what we teach our children when we talk about worship?

My husband, a pastor and church planter, recently wrote an article about worship in which he states,

Worship, for us, is a way of life. It is following Jesus into the everyday activities of raising families, working jobs, interacting with neighbors. Simply put, worship is Kingdom building. It’s the intentional act of inviting Heaven to earth; it’s making the ordinary sacred.

Or, as I have often told my kids as I’ve helped them explore worship, “Worship is putting the attention on God and not on us.”

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With that in mind, if faced with a group of kids unenthusiastic about singing or dancing to music or doing actions to songs…maybe expanding the definition of what a worship service is could help them engage in true worship.
If we can help our kids understand that worship is a life lived, words spoken, and hearts focused on giving attention to God, suddenly worship becomes far more than a song or two on Sunday morning. And if a life of worship becomes realized, singing those songs will come from heart that is already overflowing with worship, not just mouthing words or imitating actions.

Some worship ideas that might be used instead of songs.

  1. Art – A lot of kids find art a perfect way to express their feelings. What if each child were offered the chance to draw or paint or sculpt Scripture? That could be a really cool worship service!
  2. Thanksgiving – Giving thanks is one of the ways that the Bible says we worship God. Maybe a chalkboard wall for the kids to write their thanks on or a bunch of post-it notes to fill up a whole wall in the room?
  3. Acts of service – These are the kinds of things that I’ve seen kids get very excited about; being able to do something for others. Consider creating Blessing Bags as a group and praying over them together. Finding ways to serve in and around the church. Writing notes to homebound members or coloring pictures for those who are sick.
  4. Prayer – There are so many ways to pray. You can pray with words. You can pray in silence. You can pray with art and you can pray with action. You can pray together and you can pray apart. You can write out prayers. You can do popcorn prayer. You can connect them to the world through prayer. And prayer always brings attention to God and thus it is worship.
  5. Liturgy – A lot of time we think of liturgy as oft-repeated and dry rhetoric, but the word liturgy actually means “the work of the people.”  It’s a chance to do something communally, whether it be reading Scripture responsively, praying the Lord’s prayer together, taking communion together (so powerful with kids!), washing each other’s feet or just sharing in a spoken word together. To think that they’d be joining in word and practices that have been done by Christians for thousands of years is a very cool concept for children.

And then, what if, after doing all these things, which puts something in their hands besides a fidget spinner, a song of praise was offered up before leaving for the day or for the lesson?  Could that, would that, change the reception of that moment?  Could it maybe then truly be a time of worship, not just a time of singing?

Perhaps. Perhaps if worship truly was more than singing, not theoretically but practically, our children would want to engage more ways of expressing their love for and giving attention to God.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

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Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

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