I am a proud father of two boys. As far as I can work out, the Bible doesn’t directly command me to evangelise my boys. Instead, it tells me to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
In other words, I am to teach my kids as Christians – in much the same way as a pastor teaches his church.
My lullaby to my children
Both my sons came out of their mother’s womb through C-section, which meant that I got to hold each of them for the first couple of hours, whilst my wife recovered. It was then that I began my job of teaching my kids in a Christian way.
For me, the most intuitive way to do that was by singing to them. I had written a lullaby for the occasion, which I sang to them over and over.
It went like this:
Make Christ Jesus number one
In everything you do;
Seek God’s kingdom first
And all your needs will be given to you.
Don’t worry about the food you eat
Or all the clothes you wear;
Just trust in Jesus Christ
And God will keep you in his care.
This song expresses my greatest desire for my children, and in many ways it’s appropriate that music is the medium through which I express this desire.
Songs are ideal for teaching God’s word to kids
Music is a great tool for letting the Word of God dwell richly amongst Christians. In the New Testament, corporate singing fits into the ‘teaching’ context. Christian music may be more than teaching, but it is certainly not less.
What it teaches is the Word of God. And when the Word of God is taught and proclaimed, God is glorified. At one and the same time then, the song that teaches truth is also the song that praises God. When my eldest son sings the above lullaby to his younger brother (in a rather cute attempt to settle him down at night), I think he is praising God.
Insofar as my sons obey the teaching in the song to “make Christ Jesus number one”, (which is basically a theological paraphrase of Matthew 6:33), they will be bringing honour to God in their lives as well.
Singing about Jesus
Broadly speaking, the Word of God is a story - a story that should affect our lives in certain ways.
The story is ultimately about Jesus. When I teach my boys that story, and when I teach them about the way it should affect their lives, I should be making either implicit, if not explicit reference to Jesus.
Colin Buchanan’s song, Don’t bop ‘em on the head, is one of my favourites. It doesn’t mention Jesus by name at all, but it so clearly applies some of his teaching to our lives in a way that honours his lordship.
Conversely, Colin’s song Real Hope is very much about the story of Jesus’ life and death, with only implicit application to our lives (although Colin sings about how it affects him personally). This too, I think, is a brilliant song.
The teaching in both these songs will help my boys to “make Christ Jesus number one”. If there are kids' songs that neither expound something of the big story of Jesus (that is, the Word of God), nor give teaching that is clearly consonant with his person and work, then I tend to avoid them.
This doesn’t mean I don’t let my kids listen to secular music (they get heaps of it!), but secular music doesn’t claim to be edifying for Christians.
Sing to your kids whenever you can
If there was one other thing I could say to parents about Christian music for kids, it is this: SING TO THEM!
The songs my sons know best aren’t the ones they’ve heard the most, but the ones my wife and I have sung to them.