8 Tips for Leading Elementary Kids in Worship

This Sunday morning I experienced one of the greatest joys of leading worship.   As I looked down from my position on stage during our closing song I saw my daughter, Rebekah.  She was standing next to her friend Ginger and both girls had their eyes closed and little hands raised in worship as they sang “How Great is our God”.  The song was in their hearts as they weren’t staring at us or the lyrics.  These girls have professed Jesus Christ as their Lord and they were truly worshiping Him.

These girls are 8-years old.

Leaders & Kids in KidJam at SSCC

I had the privilege of leading our KidJam worship this past weekend at SSCC.  KidJam is the 1st – 5th grade elementary service.  It’s usually high energy with a lot of moving parts and segments. I’ve been asking you what your questions were about church music and leadership and several of you asked about leading kids in worship.

When approaching a kid’s worship service I want to accomplish two things.  First, I want to captivate them with exciting music so that they are interested.  Kids are used to Disney Channel, color, sound, movement, and interaction so I want to be sure they will connect.

Second, I want them to experience a true encounter with God as they worship.  I want to give them more than an energy boost.     Kids will clap, shout, and sing along but without some instruction they may not really understand what worship is all about.  They can very well just be excited for the sake of being excited.

When planning or leading a children’s worship service there are many things to consider.  Today I’d like to discuss eight tips that may help you as you consider the worship culture of your children’s ministries.

1.  Try to get your most passionate, active leaders on stage.

You’d think that stage presence wouldn’t matter with kids but they are watching everything and if you’re excited, they are excited.  They learn by imitation.  If you aren’t an expressive worshiper they will not be expressive either.

2.  Go with lots of energy.

They like fast and furious.  Songs that they can clap to, jump to, shout to are all great songs.  Kids naturally have a lot of energy and if you can get them engaged they will light up the room with response.

3.  Bring it down to simple worship.

The mistake we can easily make when leading kids in worship is to only lead them fast and furious.  Remember we are leading them into a place of worship.  At some point, dial it down and do something more simple so the kids can begin to sense God’s Presence around them and in them.  Drop your instrumentation down at some point so you can hear them singing in the room and follow them.

4.  Teach them

Kids aren’t going to listen to a 20-minute discourse on theological worship and the Hebrew words for praise.  They will; however, respond to simple, bite-size encouragements about why we sing, why we worship, how we respond to God, and how to be aware of His Presence.   Take advantage of this in your song setups and intros.

5.  Get them involved.

Nothing leads a kid like seeing another kid in action.  Get some of your other kids involved.   Reach out to your older students from middle school and high school.  Be sure they are passionate worshipers and have good stage presence.  Consider getting a few of the elementary kids to volunteer to come and help you lead the songs.  You can switch this out each week.  They are honored to be asked and by having them on stage it makes the kids feel like this really is about them.  (and while it is about them, it’s not about them at all, right?)

6.  Keep it short.

Don’t overwhelm kids with 30 minutes of singing.  2-3 songs is plenty.

7.  Keep if familiar.

Keep your setlists down to maybe 7-10 songs for most of the year.  If you’re only doing 2 songs per week this means some may not get repeated for an entire month.  You want the kids to remember the songs.

8.  Sing songs that are understandable.

Review the lyrics and help kids understand what they are singing.  This echos my point about teaching them.  Try to use simpler songs that they can explain.  If the kids cannot explain what the song means you probably shouldn’t have it as a regular song unless you are going to explain it.

In Summary

These are a few tips that I’ve found helpful in planning worship for kids.  The greatest reward is seeing them with their eyes closed in worship and hearing them after the service still singing those songs to God.

I’d love to hear from you.  What tips would you add?  What are some of your favorite songs to use for kid’s worship services?  Share in the comments below.

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Fred McKinnon is a Pianist/Composer from St. Simons Island, GA. Checkout the full BIO for more information and a complete bio. Worship Interludes Podcast - This podcast features instrumentals for prayer, meditation, soaking worship, relaxation, study music, and rest. Visit the Podcast page to listen or subscribe. Follow on Social MediaFacebookYouTubeInstagramTwitter

18 comments on “8 Tips for Leading Elementary Kids in Worship

  1. You should add #9: Nail the transitions. Haha

    1. fmckinnon says:

      I think the adults pay waaaaaay more attention to that than the kids. Fred McKinnon
      —————-
      email: fred@fredmckinnon.com
      twitter: @fmckinnon
      facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fredmckinnon

  2. I’m interested in the Set List? What songs did you do?

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Shannon,

      It was a straight-forward kick-off:

      We opened with Happy Day .. .which of course, they’ve done in KidJam for several years. Then, we taught them the new “We Are the Free” from Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons. A bit wordy and fast for them to sing at first, but I knew the “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa” stuff would get them fired up. It’s a song we’ll repeat MANY times throughout the year.
      Then, we dialed it down and did “How Great is our God” ….

      Also, you’d be interested in the band …

      Myself on keys
      Russ on electric
      Greg Hawthorne on drums
      Moncus on bass
      Justin Henshaw on acoustic
      Anna Hawthorne on vocals

      Sweet time!

  3. Russ Hutto says:

    Great article!

    Love your tips! I think these are all applicable in their own way to adults too, but the trick is in finding the best way to implement them without rocking the boat too much!

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Exactly — so many are applicable no matter which age group you’re facing. Thanks for the twitter share, too, Russ!

  4. Adam Ranck says:

    I really appreciate you sharing some of your ideas. From my own experience trying to find resources on simply how to lead children in song and worship, I haven’t seen too much.

    From my own experience, I can attest that they really respond to #1. If you are trying to lead them with no expression or passion, they will learn that from you. While in the same way, if you are authentically excited + 1 and show it, many will respond and follow you. You may have to get expressive more than your “normal comfort level”, but it really helps you connect with the kids and build respect with them.

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Adam
      I actually love it because I WANT to be more expressive and sometimes feel quenched (considerably) in my ability to do that in “adult services”.

      1. Adam Ranck says:

        I completely understand and can relate. I wonder if leading “adults” and “children” are more similar than we think. If being a lead worshiper means we set an example for others to follow and emulate, I wonder if allowing intimidation to keep us from being as expressive as we feel or God is moving or calling us to is affecting negatively the “adults” as much as it would the “children”. Basically, as worship leaders, we have no excuse.

        1. fmckinnon says:

          Adam,
          Well honestly my restriction isn’t intimidation, it’s submission. I’m in a church where, especially in our Sunday services, being “too expressive” is likened to being “too charismatic” which isn’t ultimately our church’s culture.
          Fred McKinnon
          —————-
          email: fred@fredmckinnon.com
          twitter: @fmckinnon
          facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fredmckinnon

          1. Adam Ranck says:

            I understand that you are submitting to your people out of a desire to serve them and love them. Your heart is a good example.
            May I say as I only mean to edify and ask you about it: when you say you are being submissive to your people with restricting your outward expression of praise to God, are you maybe instead putting your submission to people over your submission to God?
            I think of the passage in 1 or 2 Samuel where David as king is dancing before the Lord in a very humbling way during the processional of the tabernacle and Michael (spelling?) (his wife) is angry because he is acting in a way she doesn’t approve. Authentic praise to God was more important than approval of people.
            What it -seems- is that the desire to be like the “major collective of your community” is more important than worshiping God the way He made you and the way He might call you to praise Him in any moment (bowing on the ground, jumping, dancing, etc.).
            It’s not that you’ll always express yourself a certain way, but what should our response be if the Holy Spirit is leading us to lay prostrate in humility to the cross or jump in celebration in thankfulness? I also can’t think of a better example to encourage our people to be honest and expressive in their praise to God but the leader’s example and willingness to do so and acting on the Spirit’s moving or just following their natural response to the greatness of God.

  5. Rob Still says:

    Hey Fred, great article! What other songs are in the kids repertoire?

  6. Sara says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. I’m serving as the vilunteer worship leader for our kids service each week and it has been a challenging transition though not impossible. The volunteer before me was a self-professed “non- singer” so she taught our kid leaders (kids who help lead) and the kids in the service motions. A LOT of motions. So many it was like watching a Sunday morning aerobics session – and no one sang – they just kind of mouthed the words and gasped for breath in between motions. When she left and I came on, the children’s pastor and I talked. I shared my concerns from a musical and worship standpoint and he agreed, he wanted the kids to learn about worship. Though we are limited by use of our instruments (DVD driven – no live band), we are making progress and doing a lot of what you’ve suggested here. Just shared our set list with our kids team that we’ll work from for the rest of the year, we have 12 songs on there, and we do two upbeat songs and one slow song each week. The kids haven’t had any experience with slow songs so it’s a teaching process every week and like you said, it has to be passed on in short simple nuggets. We were about to sing our slow one and we’ve got kids who want to sit and when I asked everyone to stand back up I heard a couple of groans (these are 1st-5th). With a big smile on my face I paused and gently asked the question “does anyone know why we stand during a slow song?” after a couple of kids shared their answers, I explained how just as we stand up when someone really important enters a room, we stand for God because He’s the most important, and standing shows how much we love him and respect Him. It was a sweet teaching moment and I saw several little faces raised and eyes closed as we sang the song after. Thanks for the tips and the confirmation we’re moving in the right direction!

    1. fmckinnon says:

      Sara,
      SO sorry for my late response to this – but it sounds awesome, and like you are on the right track!

  7. Ashley K says:

    Thank you for these tips! I would love to know an example of #4’s bite-sized encouragement you’ve used? Thank you!

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