Warning: The devil does not want you to read this: he did everything he could to stop it.

As Christians, there are two important questions we must ask about the music we are exposed to and expose others to.

1. Will it glorify God?
1 Corinthians 10:31NIV "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" "This is the over-riding biblical principle.  Anything that cannot meet this high standard will weaken our experience with the Lord." SDA Philosophy of Music, 2004

2. Is it the noblest and the best?
Philipians 4:8NASB "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." "Seventh-day Adventist music-making means to choose the best and above all to draw close to our Creator and Lord and glorify Him" SDA Philosophy of Music, 2004.

"On these two foundations—glorifying God in all things and choosing the noblest and the best—depend the choice of music we will use in both, our personal lives and in our public lives.  Whether we are leading out in a Sabbath School division, Children’s Church, Happy Holiday Hour, or any other programme that we may be involved in." SDA Philosophy of Music, 2004.

Music in the Bible

The following texts show the purpose of music in worship:How Music affects the Mind and the Body

1 Chronicles 16:23-24 - a part of David's song of thanksgiving when the ark arrived in Jerusalem.

Psalm 29:2; Psalm 47, epecially verses 6-7; Psalm 96:2; Hebrews 12:22-23; Revelation chapters 4-5.

Samuele Bacchiocchi in his book The Christian and Rock Music p. 180 states "God is holy and we worhip Him with deep respect, awe, and affection.  Both in the Jerusalem Temple and in the heavenly sanctuary, God is worshipped with great reverence and respect.  The same attitude should be manifested in our worship today, because God does not change."

The purpose of music in Sabbath School is to: (Building Little Christians p. 171 Alice Lowe)
  1. Create moods and atmosphere for worship: sacredness, reverence, participation, quiet, happy contentment and at times, quiet listening. 
  1. Teaching about God
  2. Help children to verbalize their love for and commitment to God
  3. Provide an opportunity to express thankfulness to God
  4. Reinforce a story and increase the potential of understanding the story or lesson.
  5. Prepare children for an activity eg. prayer - Alice Lowe says "It can tell them when it is time to commence Sabbath School, prepare for prayer, or tiptoe to class.  If worshipful music that the children understand is played as they enter the room, it will help to lead their minds and feelings into worship." Building Little Christians p. 171
As E. G. White says, "There are few means more effective for fixing His words in the memory than repeating them in song.  And such song has wonderful power. It has power to subdue rude and uncultivated natures; power to quicken thought and to awaken sympathy, to promote harmony of action, and to banish the gloom and foreboding that destroy courage and weaken effort.  It is one of the most effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truth. How often to the soul hard-pressed and ready to despair, memory recalls some word of God's--the long-forgotten burden of a childhood song, --and temptations lose their power, life takes on new meaning and new purpose, and courage and gladness are imparted to other souls!"  Education p. 167, 168

Choosing songs for Sabbath School
If as a leader you have no understanding of music then I would suggest that you work closely with your pianist when choosing new songs.
  1. Choose only Christ centered songs - The words, actions and music should all reflect Christ.  "Music about God should be like God... suitable to praise God in Heaven" The Christian and Rock Music p.338, 339, 341 Eurydice V. Osterman
  2. What thought associations the song will have? - Remember that many children spend time in daycare, playgroup or school where they learn songs such as "Twinkle twinkle little star", " I went to visit the farm one day" and many others.  They associate these songs with "school" - they are secular and changing a few words will not change this association for them.  
  3. Are the words suitable?
  4. The song should not be too long: 2-4 phrases are plenty for the Beginner child.  However, avoid repeating either a song or part of a song, mindlessly over and over again.  Excessive repition causes a state of subconsious anger, this is a technique used by the devil to gain a foothold in the minds of the listeners.  For more information see our page on How Music affects the Mind and the Body
  5. Is the music suitable?
  6. Wherever possible, include some songs the children already know. - For younger children, keep the welcome, birthday, visitors, offering, prayer and closing songs the same all year.
"Are we seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our choice of both secular and religious music?  We must remember that spiritual things can only be discerned spiritually.  This means that we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our choice of music.  This is especially true today when we have been exposed to so much information, musical and otherwise, that has desensitized us… We must allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us on whether the music we are listening to has a spiritually uplifting effect, or is making a rebellious, depressive impact."  The Christian and Rock Music 380-381 Brian Neumann

Preparing songs for Sabbath School
  1. Have the music in correct order for your pianist.  An A4 plastic sleeved folder is great for doing this.
  2. You need good instrumental accompaniment -  a poor accompaniment can be worse than none!  The instrument also needs to be kept in good repair and in tune: children’s ears are more perceptive to the tone of music than the adults.
  3. If you need to use a CD player, write a list of the order of songs and how many times it is repeated, and have someone else run the machine on the day: as leader you need to be focused on the children.  Click here for instructions on making a DVD with music.
  4. Music should be comfortable loudness to support the singing: remember children's ears are more sensitive than adults.
  5. The pianist and any relief pianists need to have the music ahead of time to learn it.
  6. Learn the new song ahead of time yourself: you need to lead the others in the singing.
Eurydice V. Osterman in The Christian and Rock Music p. 336 states "When leaders are weak or afraid to take a stand, they tend to yield to the whims and desires of the parishioners.  Instead of leading, they are led, causing their own eternal loss as well as that of the people entrusted to them. …When leaders fail to lead the people into paths of righteousness, they allow them to follow the path to self-destruction... Often in Contemporary Christian music, the holy is mixed with the profane, because the ultimate concern is to make sales, rather than to save lost sinners." 

Teaching New Songs:
  1. Have the pianist play the melody then play it and sing with them 2-3 times; repeat 2-3 times for the next few weeks till the children have learnt the song.
  2. After the children have learnt the melody, the pianist can add a simple harmony
  3. Have an enthusiastic attitude when teaching a new song.  It is contagious so the children will enjoy the new song as well.
  4. Including songs the children already know, will give them a chance to enjoy some of the singing without the extra stress involved in learning each new song.
Song Words, Actions and Visual Aids:
  1. Sing the song through first then give the child the visual aid while you sing the song again as small children cannot do two tasks at once.  We want the children to learn to sing too.
  2. Have the words available so helpers, parents or older children can read them to sing
  3. Only actions which represent appropriate Sabbath activites should be used - "Great care should be taken, however, to prevent the unruly behaviour characteristic of rock concerts..." The Christian and Rock Music p. 315 Guenter Prues

As a Sabbath School leader you have a very strong influence over the young minds in your care; the music that you choose will greatly increase the power of your programme to win these children for Christ; poor choices in music will weaken your programme, or may even start the children on the path that eventually leads to destruction.  Working with children under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is, I believe one of the most rewarding things we can do; and the joy of seeing children make a decision for God makes it well worth the effort.

If you would like to know more about the power of music for good and evil, see our page on How Music affects the Mind and the Body

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