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Rock of all Ages

Patty Smith

Not-S-Elementary Worship
In "God Is for Me," Yancy's upbeat rendition of Romans 8:31, she makes the purpose of elementary worship clear:
"God is for me, not against me / I have nothing to fear
He makes me strong / This I know
God is for me not against me / I have nothing to fear
He loves me so / This I know."

Elementary worship is about children responding to God's goodness in their lives. Yancy describes worship for elementary kids as a journey with clear starting and ending points, with worship leaders acting as guides.

Use these age-appropriate tips to help elementary-age children get the most out of worship.

When choosing songs, consider the message, audience, and time frame. Match each song's message with the points you want to convey. Connecting the meaning of lyrics to the focus of your lesson helps reinforce learning.

Explore how easy a song is for children to learn. Most songs that you can sing after one hearing are perfect for elementary kids. These songs usually have a simple melody and a memorable chorus.

Offer directions and guidance as children praise God. Much like an aerobics instructor, your role is to encourage, champion, and help kids discover how to experience God through the music and lyrics. Help children understand the meaning of each song. "Talk kids through the lyrics to help them find meaning in the words," Yancy says. For example, some elementary-age children may not know the definition of redeemed, but they do know what it means to rescue, restore, or pay off something.

Craft a purposeful, memorable time of worship. A powerful experience for this age group typically begins with two or three fast songs and then transitions into slower ones, creating an environment for kids to experience God's presence. Upbeat songs such as Yancy's "Make It Loud" get hearts pumping and raise energy levels, while slower ones such as "I Love You" provide a more intimate time for kids to reflect and express their love and thanksgiving to God. Combining a variety of tempos in each worship set helps all kids experience God in ways they learn best.

Use the pace of worship to connect to children. Worship can't be rushed, so allow enough time for kids to savor each song. When moving to a new one, provide streamlined transitions. During her concerts, Yancy uses specific strategies to move from one tempo to another. To switch from high-energy to slower songs, for example, she lowers the volume and intensity of her voice. "Change your energy, movements, and actions, and children will change theirs," she says. In her segues, Yancy repeats key lines from a song, prays, or recites a few Scripture passages ("The Psalms are great!"). No matter what type of transition you choose, keep it short and remember your role as a guide.

Aim high! Leaders attempting to be inclusive often program toward younger elementary children. Unfortunately, Yancy says, this often backfires and alienates the older kids, who "check out on the cheesiness." They drift to the back of the room, start talking, or become disruptive. "We have to program 'up,'" Yancy says, because older kids are much more likely than first graders to leave thinking that church is lame and meaningless. Target older kids by choosing songs they love and mixing them with a smaller section of songs for younger worshippers. Design a graphic to introduce this special part of the worship time and use a special song to accompany it. Involve older kids in these "younger" worship moments. Pull aside older kids who are passionate about leading worship and let them model what it means to praise God.

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