This past fall my Mother-in-law sent around her annual “I need Christmas list ideas” email to the family. Being in my mid-30’s, I have a hard time finding something to put on that list most years. I love to open gifts, like any other person, but I just have a hard time thinking of ideas. This year it was different. I knew exactly what I wanted to ask for. I quickly respond with a link to the Hymns of Grace website. “Four pew editions, please.” was my response. I already own a copy personally, but I wanted 4 copies for my children to use during our family worship time. Over the past 10 years we have enjoyed a regular diet of family worship in my home. Usually, it is only about 15 minutes in length. We pray, read scriptures, discuss it, pray again, and then sing a song. Until recently the singing part was either an acapella rendition of The Doxology or another favorite hymn or chorus with a guitar. It’s very informal, yet a special time for our family. My older children are just now starting to read well. My wife and I wanted to get them more involved in the family worship time . . . this is where the hymn books have aided. There are at least 3 areas of benefit I see in using them as a tool for discipling our children.
It Aids in Participation:
With young children, family worship can be challenging. At times, it is hard just to get them to sit still and listen. However, over time through regular worship and training, this aspect becomes much easier. Once they can read it really adds to the family table each night. When we broke out the hymn books for the first time and told them that they could all have one, they were so excited. Now they race each time to see who can find the song the fastest. They look at each word with vigorous intensity and sing even louder than before. Now, they have some ownership in worship. Now it is not just Dad and Mom leading them, but they really get to participate. It has added a level of excitement. When they participate, they glean more. We are praying that as they glean, the Lord will use it to mold and shape them into the image of Jesus. Paul instructed the church at Colossi to, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God,” (Colossians 3:16). Thus we sing. Worshipers are participators. Having a hymn book in front of them has helped them to participate even more.
It Aids in Theology:
Theology matters. It matters in the study of God’s Word, but it also matters in the words that we sing to God. The hymn book that we chose is the best hymn book that I have ever seen. It is rich in theology. However, it is not just rich but it’s theology is singable. This particular hymn book has a wide array of both old sacred hymnody (All creatures of our God and King) as well as new modern ones (Come, behold the wondrous mystery). Singing lines like “And when before the throne I stand in him complete, ‘Jesus died my soul to save’ my lips shall still repeat,” will help remind us of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. When we sing the Getty’s words, “O church arise, and put your armor on; hear the call of Christ our captain,” I pray that it strikes a chord in my children to live out the command that is given to “put on the full armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18. Having a book that has compiled all of these great songs into a single volume is amazing. Even more amazing, is being able to hide the truths of these words in our children’s heart (and ours for that matter) to help them in their pursuit of holy living.
It Aids in Learning New Words:
Let’s face it. Most of us do not speak the King’s English. I for one am very thankful for sound modern translations of the Bible. Yet, some of the older hymns that we sing were written during the time when most people used the KJV Bible. Thus, their wording is a bit different than what we use today. Sometimes there are odd phrasings as well. Take the great hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” This is a song that is often sung in churches. However, how many people really understand the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come”? The word Ebenezer means “stone of help”. We see it used in the Old Testament often (I Samuel 7). So when we sing this line, it is a reminder to the church of how God delivers his people from danger. Old hymns (and some new ones) are filled with this type of biblical illustration. Using them during a time of family worship allows for conversation after the song is over. It will allow you to teach biblical concepts and truths, but also for your children to learn some new (old) words as well.
I cannot express more my pleasure of having a hymn book like the Hymns of Grace. It is masterful in its composition. I look forward to using it for years to come, and passing each hymn book off to my children when they leave our home. Do you have a favorite hymn book? Let me encourage you to purchase some for your entire family. Let them use it as you conduct family worship. Let them pick the songs from time to time. Allow them to participate, to grow in their theology, and their literature. It is a worthwhile investment, one that I believe you will find to be profitable and enjoyable as well.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell