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Rock of all Ages

Patty Smith

Discover how to lead meaningful worship -- from, dynamic children's worship leader Yancy.

As she trains worship leaders throughout the country, Yancy Richmond often quotes this mind-boggling statistic: By the time children reach age 18, they have an estimated 10,000 songs in their heads. Richmond, known onstage as Yancy, wants to make sure they're getting the right musical message.

"I want to talk about things that are important for kids to get into their brains," says the 30-year-old singer, songwriter, and worship leader. "If I teach a song filled with God's Word, and kids remember it years later, God's Word doesn't come back void."

Crank up the volume on any Yancy CD, including her new release Stars, Guitars and Megaphone Dreams (Yancy Ministries), and it's apparent why kids are drawn to her music. Her upbeat, pop-style tunes make children of all ages -- and their parents -- want to sing, dance, and shout. Best of all, her Bible-based lyrics make God's truth come alive in cool, relevant, and Christ-centered ways.

In person, Yancy is as colorful and creative as her high-energy songs. While her clothing and hairstyle might be flamboyant, her message is grounded in God. As the daughter of children's ministry veteran Jim Wideman, author of Children's Ministry Leadership: The You-Can-Do-It-Guide (Group), Yancy grew up in the church. For the past eight years, she's combined her musical gifts with her passion for connecting kids to Christ.

Yancy has a pitch-perfect strategy for creating worship that rocks for children of all ages and stages. "As children's ministry and worship leaders, we need to send the message to all kids -- especially the older ones -- that Jesus is relevant yesterday, today, and forever." But how we "package" that important message matters, Yancy notes. By packaging, she means "cutting the right bite-size piece for each person at a particular stage of life."

Read on to discover more ideas for keeping children worship.

Rockin' With Preschoolers
Through fun, upbeat, action-oriented songs, preschoolers learn that Jesus is their friend. "For preschoolers, worshipping God is singing to him out of love," Yancy says. "It's more than wiggling and jumping."

Yancy offers these tips for staying in rhythm with kids this age.

Choose short songs with easily understandable lyrics and lots of repetition. Ask yourself, "Is this being said in a way that fits a preschooler's Monday through Saturday world?" Worship songs with one verse and a chorus that are sung repeatedly tend to work best with this age group. Yancy recommends songs ranging from one-and-a-half to two minutes long.

"Occasionally, it's okay to use slower songs that are a little longer because the beat is longer," she says. "But that's the exception, not the rule." For great preschool worship songs to add to your set list, check out Yancy's Little Praise Party or Group's Play-n-Worship for Preschoolers.

Teach the easiest parts first, explaining lyrics as needed. Yancy suggests teaching the chorus first because it's easiest for preschoolers to pick up. Break down the words for children, clarifying with images or motions when necessary. For example, preschoolers may not grasp that "Jesus is my Savior," but they can understand that "Jesus is my friend."

Make motions purposeful and meaningful. Otherwise, all the random-seeming movements will just be distracting to preschoolers. Have children practice the motions a few times to get a tiny taste of what they'll experience in the song.

At this point, let children sing the song, even though they haven't learned the whole thing yet. It'll seem awkward at first, but preschoolers catch on amazingly quickly. The second time through, they'll know most of the words to simple, upbeat songs.

To teach slower worship songs, take a seat. "When children sit down, it's easier for them to focus," Yancy says, "especially if you've just done a fast song." Sitting redirects preschoolers, allowing them to show God they love him in a different way.

Mix it up and make it fun. Most of Yancy's preschool worship sets begin with a few upbeat songs, transition to a slower one, and then finish with another high-energy tune. This change in tempo and intensity taps into preschoolers' short attention spans.

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