Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deut. 6:5–7)
Taking this command seriously includes singing the songs of our faith in the home. In your home. The church should be a feasting place for singable songs, and the appetite for it is nurtured at home.
It was a Puritan practice back in the seventeenth century that a man would be refused communion on a Sunday if he was not actively and consistently involved in leading prayer and singing and Bible study with his family during the week. We are not suggesting reviving that approach! But if our spiritual forefathers took what happened in the home so seriously, shouldn’t we, too?
We know that singing at home may be an idea that makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you are thinking right now:
But my kids don’t want to hear my singing voice.
But my kids won’t want to join in.
But I can’t play any instruments.
But what would we sing?
If that’s you, this chapter will give you fresh perspective. If this is something you already do regularly, we hope this chapter will encourage you and give you some ideas.
Just a quick word before we start: the focus here is on family, on homes that include children. If that’s not your home at the moment, do think about how the principles here relate to where you are in life right now, or where you might one day find yourself. At the very least, they can help you pray well for the families in your church, which is no bad thing!
SINGING AND SKIING
In traditional Irish culture, stories of heroes and the values that they shared were often passed on through song. As we grew up, it was a familiar sight to see families and friends singing together in homes and small public spaces, reinforcing the sense of community and shared experience through their music. More than listening to a soloist, or reciting a chant at a sports match, or holding a once-a-year Christmas carol sing-along, in these familiar and organic contexts children found their singing voices and learned their culture.
Parents in ancient Israel were also charged with making sure their kids learned their culture, which included learning the truths about the God of Israel. The clear, unflinching cry of the Shema (quoted earlier) rang out to the ear of every parent. And one of the ways they “impressed” the truth on their children was through the songs they sang with them—songs like:
I will open my mouth with a parable;I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known,things our ancestors have told us.We will not hide them from their descendants;we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,his power, and the wonders he has done.(Ps. 78:2–4)
Our culture is different, but the charge is the same. If you are a Christian parent, you stand in that line and you have that responsibility. We live in a performance culture, where experts play and we listen, but we and our children are missing out on something hugely significant if this is all music is to us, and particularly to our kids. Sally Goddard Blythe, a British consultant in neuro-developmental education, wrote in The Genius of Natural Childhood, “Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the ‘signature’ melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child’s ear, voice and brain for language.”16 In other (simpler!) words, singing is one of the best ways to teach kids, and we should start when they are young.
When we were first married we lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for one year. We discovered a love for skiing (which unfortunately never loved us back—we were both terrible at it). We often found ourselves crawling down a slope while trying to stay out of the way of several little children who were flying past us. We asked our Swiss friends at what age they had learned to ski, and one girl said to us that she didn’t remember learning, because she was so young when she started. That same girl had also spoken several other languages flawlessly since her “wee years”—they were second nature to her, because she learned them as a little child.
Let singing the gospel be to your family what skiing incredibly early and speaking multiple languages is to the Swiss. We need to make singing Bible truths second nature to our children, a “second language” in our homes. Sing about those truths when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Sing with your kids as you put them to bed at night, or you sit down for dinner, or as you drive in the car with a CD on. Sooner or later, they’ll start singing unprompted. Join in with them.
Since we have had kids and tried to get to grips with parenting, we’ve frequently asked older parents the “How did you do it?” question. Keith once asked Dr. John MacArthur this question. He said that as he and his wife looked back on those formative years of raising their family, their high-priority habit of immersing their children in Word-filled memorable music was key. He recounted how they’d always tried to fill as many different parts of their lives as possible with opportunities for singing, playing tapes and then CDs in the car, in the kitchen, in the living room, in their bedrooms at night.
Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty, Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2017).
We have just released a new Bible Study on the importance of singing.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.