With such a short amount of time for instruction, Sunday School teachers can find it difficult to fit music into class time. Especially challenging is having the music support and add value to the existing curriculum. Here are some ideas you can share with teachers at your church for smoothly incorporating music into Sunday School in a meaningful way.
1. Tie the music into the Church Year.
Use the music from the worship service each week. Practice singing the Hymn of the Day for the following week so students can participate during the service, or use songs that are related to upcoming major holidays. By practicing relevant songs in the weeks before the holidays, you can also reinforce each holiday’s importance and meaning.
One resource you can use in the classroom is Songs of the Church Year (and its accompanying CD). Each song comes with activities that both reinforce the theology of the holiday and teach basic music techniques. To continue music education at home, a great book families can use is My First Hymnal, which has the basic melody-line notation for some of the most popular traditional hymns, plus illustrations that put the hymns into biblical context.
2. Choose monthly hymns for students to master.
If a new hymn each week won’t work well for your church’s students, choose a hymn for each month of the school year, and practice that hymn with students each Sunday. Allot a certain time during class that is music time—maybe open or close class with it, or have it in the middle as a break from desk work.
At the end of the month, have the students sing the hymn during worship. This can reinforce the importance of having children participate in worship. It also can serve as a mission opportunity toward students’ families if any parents take their children to Sunday School but don’t attend worship themselves. They likely will come if it means seeing their children perform—and this is a prime opportunity for them to hear the Gospel!
3. Introduce students to musical instruments.
Choir is certainly a great introduction to music, and some students love it. Others, not so much. To broaden the options and continue students’ music education, visit each class and teach the students how to play instruments they are likely to encounter at church, such as handbells, organ, and piano. If you have a very short amount of time, bringing simple instruments for students to play, like triangles or shakers, still can be effective.
Give older students opportunities to play an instrument to accompany their singing classmates during music time. For worship services, invite students to play offertories or preludes, or to join the handbell choir on a few pieces. Making sure each student finds his or her niche will help them enjoy participating in church music.
4. Connect students with adult musicians.
Music ministry is one of the best spaces for cross-generational relationships because anyone can participate. To connect students with adult musicians, start by finding adults who are willing to demonstrate a new instrument in class. For instance, if your church has a regular cello player, ask him or her to play the class’s hymn of the month.
Then if a student takes an interest in cello, suggest that the two play a duet one Sunday. Similarly, buddy up young handbell players or singers with experienced adults. Matching up students with adults gives each student another person to go to with musical questions. At the same time, the adults can serve as mentors and can pray for and with their students.
With a little guidance from you, your church’s Sunday School teachers can deepen students’ music education as well as their theological education. Blessings to you and all the teachers you work with as you fulfill this important vocation!
Start finding music for Sunday School that ties into the Church Year.
Take a look at Songs of the Church Year, which has music composed by me and lyrics written by my wife, Rachael.