Watts Wednesday: Advantages of Teaching Children Through Song

This is from the preface of Isaac Watts’ Songs for Children (1715). I especially like the image in #3. A song is like constant furniture in the mind of a child. It is always sitting there in the room of the mind–welcoming a child to come and recline when they are at leisure.

Verse was at first designed for the service of God, though it hath been wretchedly abused since. The ancients, among the Jews and the Heathens, taught their children and disciples the precepts of morality and worship in verse. The children of Israel were commanded to learn the words of the song of Moses, Deut. xxxi 19, 50, and we are directed in the New Testament, not only to sing “with grace in the heart, but to teach and admonish one another by hymns and songs,” Ephes. v. 19. And there are these four advantages in it.

I. There is a great delight in the very learning of truths and duties this way. There is something so amusing and entertaining in rhymes and metre, that will incline children to make this part of their business a diversion. And you may turn their very duty into a reward, by giving them the privilege of learning one of these songs every week, if they fulfil the business of the week well, and promising them the book itself, when they hare learnt ten or twenty songs out of it.

II. What is learnt in verse is longer retained in memory, and sooner recollected. The like sounds, and the like number of syllables, exceedingly assist the remembrance. And it may often happen, that the end of a song running in the mind may be an effectual means to keep off some temptations, or to incline to some duty, when a word of scripture is not upon their thoughts.

III. This will be a constant furniture of the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves. This may sometimes give their thoughts a divine turn, and raise a young meditation. Thus they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind, out of the loose and dangerous sonnets of the age.

IV. These Divine Songs may be a pleasant and proper matter for their daily or weekly worship, to sing one in the family, at such time as the parents or governors shall appoint; and therefore I have confined the verse to the most usual psalm tunes.

For Sojourn’s re-envisioning of some of  Isaac Watts’ hymns for modern listeners, check out Sojourn Music.

Last Sunday: The Hidden Treasure

This week in SojournKids, we studied Matthew 13:44-46. We learned that:

  • Jesus is worth more than anything else we have.
  • We give up time, money, and work for what we think is most valuable.
  • We should joyfully give away our lives for Jesus.

Download the SojournKids At Home for this lesson.

What does theology have to do with Hannah Montana?

This article originally appeared as “Kids Have Questions. Do You Have Answers” by Jared Kennedy and Sam Luce in the May/June 2011 edition of K! Magazine.

I just had a conversation with Jane. She’s in our children’s ministry. She’s excited because she’s going on a date with her dad tonight. They’re going to snack on Sprite and bananas and watch the latest episode of “Hannah Montana Forever.” It sounds like a blast! Right after that conversation, I came back to my office to write this essay on teaching theology to kids using a catechism. As I start to write, I can’t help but feel a little bit out of touch. Are kids today really interested in learning “theology”? If they are, is a centuries old catechism the best tool for teaching them? Can’t I find something more relevant for the generation of Miley Cyrus? After all, wouldn’t I rather watch TV than study an ancient doctrinal statement?

Do kids need to learn theology? We probably all agree that kids need to know Jesus, that they need to be changed by His love, and that they need to be welcomed and accepted by a Christian community. But do they really need to learn doctrine? Can’t the dry and boring stuff wait until they’re a little older? Maybe you’d never voiced that out loud in a staff meeting, but at least some of us have thought it. But have you ever wondered why we think of doctrine as dry and boring? I would suggest that it’s because we’ve failed to really understand the big truths of the faith and how they relate to salvation through Jesus.

The fact is that our kids already have theology. They have lots of thoughts about God. They’re thinking about spiritual things all of the time, and they have questions. When our children’s ministry studied the story of the cross from Matthew 27:32-54 last Sunday, the teacher read about how God turned His back on Jesus, because He could not look at our sin. John, a third grader, piped up and asked, “Isn’t Jesus God? How could God turn His back on Himself? There is only one God, right?” What great questions! But how many teachers or parents would be prepared to answer them? Read More!

Last Sunday: The Farmer

This week in SojournKids, we studied Matthew 13:1-23. We learned that:

  • Jesus told the people a parable about a farmer who sowed good seed.
  • The seed represents Godʼs word–the good news that Jesus came to save sinners!
  • Godʼs people are like the good soil. They hear Godʼs word, understand it, and obey it.

Download the SojournKids At Home for this lesson.


Advantages of a “unified” curriculum for children with special needs.

A “unified” curriculum like the God’s Story curriculum we use at SojournKids or the Treasuring Christ curriculum from Providence Baptist has a lot of advantages. One key advantage, from a family equipping perspective, is that the entire family is learning the same lesson each week. Shannon Dingle of Providence Baptist’s special needs ministry highlights another great use:

Because the Treasuring Christ Curriculum is scaffolded with different variations of the same lesson for different age levels every week, this provides us with levels of curriculum that we can use for kids with special needs. For example, a seven-year-old girl with Down syndrome might benefit from the content from the early childhood lesson, and a twelve-year-old boy with autism may connect better with some of the sensory activities designed for another group. We have the flexibility to borrow elements from other ages’ lessons, or even drop down a level or two, to meet the individual needs of each child and student.

Read the entire interview with her at Family Ministry Today