UNSOLICITED WORSHIP LESSONS FROM THE “FROZEN” SOUNDTRACK
If I have to listen to the “Frozen” soundtrack one more time, I might stab my eardrums with giant icicles.
It’s my daughter’s fault. That little girl is wearing me out.
Every time we get in the car, she is slowly but surely wrecking my well-manicured Spotify account. “Because you listened to the Frozen soundtrack twenty-three trillion times,” Spotify tells me, “you might also like music from the Veggie Tales, Thomas & Friends, and Caspar Babypants.”
It blows my mind that my two year-old daughter can memorize the lyrics to all those “Frozen” songs in the first place. It also blows my mind how much she wants to build a snowman. But no matter how much I try to sell her on the finer points of The Beatles or Wilco or Arcade Fire, I still hear the same request from that little voice in the backseat: “Fwozen music!”
There’s an interesting thing I’ve observed in my children. They engage with music differently than I do. Like a quality wine or dessert, I like to savor good music. I only listen to my favorite album once a year. No joke. And if I find a new jam, I’ll wear it out for a few days then throw it on my “favorites” list and forget about it. But my kids are different. They can sing the same song over and over and never get sick of it.
I never made a connection between all this and leading worship until recently, when a boy in our congregation approached me after church.
“Can we sing the ‘love never fails’ song again…you know, the one that says ‘your love never fails’ over and over?”
I was excited that anyone under the age of twenty was even paying attention during our worship services. So I said “You bet!” and we talked a little. He told me that he and his brother like to listen to that song at home.
His mom had sent me an email the week before, saying it was the first Sunday her son ever sang in church. The email was encouraging and well-timed for me. I’d been wondering if maybe our church’s worship repertoire was getting a little stale. Wondering if folks were getting bored with the same twenty or thirty songs over and over. (It’s hard to maintain objectivity on songs you’ve done seventeen billion times.) Getting that email made me wrestle with my own preferences in terms of how often we repeat songs.
My church’s mission is to “call people of all ages to be formed into the image of Jesus.” We’ve been having some discussions around the church about what that “all ages” part looks like, exactly. If we cater our worship services primarily toward adults, how does that affect our children? When we ask kids to join us in our adult-centric worship times, what does that communicate about the way we think of children’s roles within the Body of Christ?
If we’re serious about incorporating children in worship, it might significantly influence the way we structure our gatherings. Like a parent sitting through “For the First Time in Forever” for the seven-thousanth time in forever, teaching our kids the merits of communal worship will likely require some extra patience.
So how do we help children learn to worship God? Could we send out the setlists to families a week early, so that kids could hear the songs over and over before Sunday? Could we make space for and encourage our kids to be physically expressive during worship times? Could we quit expecting them to act like adults and let them express their own unique gifts?
Could we start asking our children how we can help them engage with Jesus? Who knows, they might have better ideas than we do. Just don’t be surprised if they suggest hiring and animated snowman to lead worship.
Practically speaking, how do we incorporate children into worship services in more holistic ways? I admit I have more questions than answers, but I’m interested in hearing thoughts from families, kids especially!