The best things in life can be enjoyed by children and adults. This especially includes the music of the Church—specifically, the hymns we sing.
Hymns for Children
Clearly, adults understand and appreciate hymns. There are certain hymns, though, that cater more to children. These include hymns with simple texts, short stanzas, and straightforward melodies. They often include words like little and child. These are the best hymns for lullabies as you coax your fussy little one to sleep. The simple words also make these wonderful hymns to sing to children just learning to speak.
These hymns are some of the best children’s songs you can teach kids. No offense to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but hymns like “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” (LSB 740) remain beautiful and relevant into adulthood. These hymns invoke some nostalgia as adults. But they also bring us back to stating theological truths in simple, concrete, confident, and straightforward ways. As Jesus adjured his disciples to become like children (see Matthew 18:2–4), these hymns allow adults to hearken to the sincere and simple faith of a child.
How Hymns Teach Children
How are hymns the best children’s songs? First and most important, hymns teach children about Jesus. Hearing these hymns sung repeatedly as children fall asleep plants the text in their heads. As they grow and come to understand the texts more, they start to gain deeper insights into the meaning of the hymn.
These hymns also take children seriously. They present children with the realities of life. Often, the realities of life mean the difficulties and worries of life, something we try not to burden children with while they are still young. In hymns, the reality of life is salvation through Christ despite difficulties. Hymns teach this to children in simple but beautiful ways. In “Jesus Loves Me” (LSB 588), the text uses the word know and goes on to say “For the Bible tells me so” to show us Christ’s love for us is real because God’s Word says so.
Children’s Hymns Show Us the Truth of Eternal Life
Children will eventually learn of life’s hardships. Ultimately, they will have to face the fact that we all die. Hymns present this fact in a truthful but comforting way. For example, in the final stanza of “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” (LSB 740), we sing “And when my short life is ended, By His angel host attended, He shall fold me to His breast, There within His arms to rest.” The hymn acknowledges that life is short and it will end. But it goes on to tell that as a child of God, we will be gathered to Him in heaven.
“In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus says in John 16:33. Children know this and seek honest answers to the trials of life. They will gain joy and confidence from the truth, not from total avoidance. In these beautiful hymns, children will find the simple and unadorned truth. Jesus finishes John 16:33 by saying, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This is the best thing for children and adults.
Quotations marked LSB are from Lutheran Service Book, copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Start teaching the joy of Christian hymns from an early age with One and All Rejoice children’s hymnal.