Singing In The Bible Class
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16
Unless it has been squelched by self-consciousness due to criticism, singing is very natural. Mothers easily sing to their babies. Young children sing while absorbed in imaginative play. It’s only when someone responds in a negative way to this spontaneous singing that the singer becomes self-conscious and less willing to sing.
God knew that His people love to sing. That’s why He told us to teach and admonish each other with song. Singing is pleasing to the ear. Singing helps with memory. Singing brings us all closer together as our voices and our hearts dwell on the same thoughts at the same time. What a special gift God gave us when He created in us a desire to sing.
Children love to sing. I have heard teachers say that their class does not like to sing. I have been teaching Bible class for over 30 years. I have never had a class who did not like to sing. I may have a student who does not participate when we sing together but that does not mean he does not like to sing. He may be among those who have been criticized or discouraged from singing in the past. Given enough time, he’ll come around and join in.
Let’s suppose that you have a class of reluctant singers. What should you do? Should you just not sing in class? No way! The One who made us said it was an effective method of teaching.
Just sing! That’s what I do. I’m not overly concerned if I’m the only one singing. I just sing. Eventually, someone is going to get drawn into the melody, rhythm or words and join in. Even if no one ever does join in, my goal is to teach through song. They are hearing whether they are singing or not. Those songs are settling deep into their hearts and teaching them the truths of God.
Don’t be intimidated by your lack of musical knowledge. God told us to teach through song. If He told us to do it, we can do it. We need to sing even if we don’t think we have a beautiful voice. We need to sing even if we can’t read music. Those are standards we have set for ourselves. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. We need to sing because that’s what God wants us to do and because it is a very efficient way to teach someone (especially children) about His Word.
One of my favorite comments about my class is when a parent or grandparent tells me that, at home, their child sings what we sing in class. It’s always special when I hear that a child who doesn’t participate in class is the one singing at home. I can tell them what the Bible says and they may be able to re-tell the story when asked but when I can sing to them or with them what the Bible says, they will spontaneously sing God’s Word while absorbed in play at home. Those songs will be remembered fondly as they grow. They will be able to recall those songs when they are facing trying times.
Those of us who grew up attending Bible class have all heard the old familiar Bible class songs — songs like Jesus Love Me, Jesus Loves The Little Children and The Wise Man. And who could forget Zaccheus? I’ll never forget what it was like when I realized that The Wise Man was based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7. I was way too old to have just been discovering this fact but I finally learned it and am ever grateful to the author of that wonderful children’s song. At a very early age I had the words of Jesus placed deep in my heart through this song.
There may have been a few more but those were basically the children’s songs I grew up with. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the numbers of songs available to help us teach children about God. We need to search the good ones to share with our children and students while weeding out the ones that teach twaddle. Since music is so effective at teaching and stays with us for so long, we must be careful that the ones we share with others teach the right message.
There are some specific things I look for when choosing a song to sing with my students.
1. Sing hymns! Too many times we overlook hymns when singing in Bible class. When we sing hymns in Bible class, especially hymns that are regularly sung with the whole congregation, we are giving them confidence to sing with the adults. They are learning how to worship. Choose hymns that are visual like Dare To Stand Like Joshua. Choose hymns that teach about our relationship with God like Trust and Obey. Choose hymns that teach what wonderful things God has done for us like This Is My Father’s World. I like to use flip charts when teaching hymns in class. It’s not necessary but the students like it and they can help clear up some of the more confusing language that might be used.
2. I like songs that have an original melody. I have sung songs to the tunes of 10 Little Indians, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, The Bus Song, etc. I understand why they are used. It’s easy for someone to learn a song that has a familiar tune. The reason I don’t like using them in Bible class, especially the younger Bible class, is because it brings to the children’s minds the TV Show they learned it on or the words that were used on the CD they listen to. I remember teaching a class of 1-3 year olds. We sang a song to the melody of a song The Wiggles, who were popular amongst toddlers at the time, sang. Even though I was singing words about our Bible lesson, the kids were doing hand movements used by The Wiggles. They weren’t hearing me, they were remembering what they had seen on TV. That’s how powerful music is.
Original melodies, on the other hand, have not been associated with a TV show or a cartoon character or an over-sized purple dinosaur. There are some wonderful, newer songs appropriate for singing in the Bible class available today. I have written several that can be found on this website. Just click on the “Songs” link above. You’ll find music you can print and recordings you can listen to. Here are some sources for others: Charli Couchman’s Each Little Dewdrop, Glenda Schales’ Through The Bible With Song. Another source I would like to recommend, although it uses mostly words set to well-known melodies is Aleta Samford’s Sing With Me The Story.
3. I like to use songs that pertain to the lesson at hand. While singing about Zaccheus can be fun for the kids, it doesn’t necessarily fit in to a lesson about Abraham. At least during the lesson time, I make sure that the songs we sing relate to the lesson.
4. I like to sing songs that have a little dignity. I’m not above using a little humor in Bible class but (and don’t get offended if this is your favorite) I refuse to sing the Arky, Arky song. There are too many good songs out there and there is too little time to spend it singing frivolous songs.
5. I like to sing songs that are accurate to the Bible account. Take Three Wandering Jews for instance. What does it teach? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are wandering around Canaan. It does a good job of connecting the 3 men and their location but it leaves the impression they all lived at the same time, together, walking around — just the 3 of them. This one appears to have lost its popularity. I couldn’t find the lyrics online. I did find a Youtube video of it. You can search it out on your own.
It is important to teach what the Bible teaches even to our youngest students — especially when we teach it in song. Remember, those songs stay with us much longer and deeper into our hearts than just words spoken by a teacher.
If you are teaching my child, will I be upset if you sing these songs in class? Not at all. I just choose to spend time singing something with a bit more substance.
Singing is a powerful, engaging tool to use while teaching our children. Choose the songs wisely and enjoy watching the little eyes light up and the little voices singing loud and clear the truths from God’s Word.