Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Engage kids with songs

Julie and I play music for the youth (up to 4th grade) at our church once a month. Over the Easter service, we played three services with about 150 kids at the largest service. The big challenge was keeping the kids engaged for 30 minutes. A few things that we have noticed that help keep kids engaged:

· Providing an opportunity to add to the song. We do Karen Drucker’s song “Thank You For This Day” and we ask them what they are thankful for? We then do the verse with their suggestions. To close the song out we do a final verse and ask them to just shout out their responses, everyone participates. Another opportunity was having them add sounds like on “All God’s Creatures,” with verses that end like “the old coyote (howls)....”

· Using hand motions – We always play Barry Ebert’s song “Growing With Spirit.” Most of the kids know the sign language parts for the song. We also do “This Little Light of Mine” where the kids hold up their finger as a light. Lately we’ve added “Give Yourself to Love,” and we made up hand signals for the chorus. It helps the kids remember the chorus and they have something to keep their hands occupied.

· A one line chorus with a simple melody – Barry Ebert wrote the song “Gingerbread Man,” and the chorus goes “run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.” This repeated numerous times throughout the song and the kids sing it without you.

· No more than a four line verse – In almost all these songs, there’s never more than a four lines verse before some sort of engagement.

Having kids clap along hasn’t worked that well for us since we both have instruments and can’t lead them in the clapping. A dangerous way for engagement (sometime good or something bad) is having them dance along to a song. Potentially out of control....

If you have any other tips or suggestions for engaging kids in the songs, please leave a comment.

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