From an extremely young age, I can remember my childhood being absolutely saturated with southern gospel and country music. Whether it was Gold City, Brian Free and Assurance, Alan Jackson, George Strait (the American treasure), or Garth Brooks — this was the soundtrack to my childhood. I specifically remember long car rides as a young kid, singing along to every lyric in song after song that played on our local country station. At that age, I likely had little understanding as to what I was singing after Tim McGraw sang in disappointment about the “BBQ stain on his white t-shirt,” but the lyrics were absolutely imprinted into my brain nonetheless.
Having two very young children of my own now, I have come to really appreciate the ease with which even a child can memorize a song. I highly doubt I am the only one that seems to be able to have songs and lyrics memorized more quickly than simple words, sentences, and paragraphs. While Scripture memorization is vitally important in the life of a saint, it can often be easier when we are given the truth of scripture accompanied by the trifecta of rhythm, rhyme, and emotion. This can often propel that truth to be “hidden in our hearts” at an even faster rate. Theologian Gordon Fee once said, “Show me a church’s songs, and I’ll show you their theology.” I do wonder how much of that might translate into our homes.
It seems as though we are seeing the flame of family worship rekindled in many churches and homes. While often chaotic, the truths and values instilled in our children through Scripture reading and prayer cannot be overestimated. But what about singing?
This idea that the songs we sing likely expose the theology we believe must find its way into our time of family worship as well. Is it possible that the soundtrack of a family’s life may deliver some indications as to what that family values? We know there are some intangible, inseparable ties between memory and music, between rhythm and recognition, but is it possible that the family singing the truth of the gospel takes a back seat to the other essential elements of family worship? This raises a few questions to be answered that may help us to place proper importance on singing within our times of family worship.
Why should we sing during family worship?
Scripture should inform our convictions on the matter. We should know that followers of God have always been a singing people. This singing is not just a mark of the people of God, but is uniquely a trait of our God himself!
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, emphasis added)
In Matthew 26:30 the day before Jesus’ crucifixion He sings a hymn with his disciples.
Our God is a singing God, and he calls his people to be a singing people, not by mere suggestion, but by command! In fact, the command to sing is given over fifty times throughout Scripture! There is a tangible emotional richness attached to words when they have melody and rhythm. My heart wells up with joy when I sing the words, “All I have needed thy hand hath provided, great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me,” even moreso than when simply uttering the words.
I fear our kids may see Mom and Dad more emotively involved with songs by their favorite rapper, indie band, or pop music icon, than by the truth found in songs like “Before the Throne of God Above.” Our kids can tangibly see what songs actually affect us, and if we introduce the right music that is rooted in biblical truth, our kids will likely pick up lyrics and begin singing them at a rapid rate.
What should we sing during family worship?
When we introduce songs into family worship, our chief end is simple: the songs we should desire the family to be singing are songs that are true to Scripture, familiarizing the family unit with the whole character and counsel of God. That is my job as “Worship Pastor” at my church, and it should be our job as “Worship Pastors” in our homes. Sing songs that show God as gracious, yet also just. Sing songs that display the love of God. Sing songs that explain the wrath of God. Sing songs that speak of atonement. Sing songs aimed at God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.
There are various resources and outlets to see this done well. Be vulnerable with your family during this time. Sing loud. Have fun. Enjoy it. Whether you are using resources like SEEDS family worship, New City Catechism, or just playing music from Spotify of songs your church sings on a weekly basis, get animated, inviting your kids and spouse see the joy you have in Christ.
How do we accomplish singing in our homes?
There is nothing wrong with small beginnings! Have a particular one or two songs you use for a week or a month. Stick to them and enjoy pondering what they say for as long as you feel the need to sing them before moving on! Be creative in knowing what works for your family. I enjoy bringing a guitar in with my kids as we sing together, but sing along with your phone. If it works best, simply stick to one verse and one chorus of whatever song or songs are decided on for the family to get acquainted with. Unveiling new verses to particular hymns each night of the week may be what the family needs to remember songs more quickly.
Rest assured, knowing that if we will value singing in our family worship, taking scriptures such as Psalm 98 and Colossians 3:16 seriously, the family will grow in a deeper, richer love for Christ. We will also begin to see the bride of Christ boldly singing out loud when the church meets on the Lord’s Day. May our times of family worship and discipleship be richer and fuller because we have experienced the good God has for us in His command to sing.