My family and I recently visited a little country church for Sunday services. There was no band other than the faithful piano player at the front of the sanctuary. There were no screens projecting the lyrics to the songs of the morning. Iindeed there were no songs sung that day that were younger than 50 years. Tried and true hymns were the music of choice for this little country church.
I grew up on these hymns and love to sing them when opportunity arises. However, these opportunities are increasingly rare. Christian culture has shifted in the last generation to utilize more modern styles of music and lyrics for times of corporate worship. While I love all types of music (as my Spotify account would confirm) and I see value in new styles of worship, sometimes I miss the hymns of my youth.
This post is not to add to the ongoing argument over which music style is superior. Nor is it to bash contemporary music. God continues to bless his people creatively leading worship leaders, musicians, and songwriters of today to produce quality and God honoring music. Rather than condemning contemporary music, my goal is to honor the music that led previous generations in worship and encourage families to use all sorts of creative forms of worship, including old hymns.
Here are 3 reasons we should sing hymns with our kids.
1. Old hymns tend to teach good doctrine.
The hymns I’ve sung from my childhood are full of good doctrine and theology. Hymns tend to follow a progressive pattern of storytelling that illuminates the Gospel story or how one moves from spiritual death to life. Familiar lyrics like those of Amazing Grace follow this pattern.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see …
The hymn ends triumphantly with its last stanza celebrating eternal life in Heaven.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun!
This classic hymn teaches that grace alone can save. It teaches that total transformation because of Christ is possible and that eternal reward for trusting Him is certain. Hymns were a way of teaching good doctrine to believers and non believers alike.
2. Old hymns teach church history.
Henry Cowper is one of my favorite hymn writers. He suffered from “mental anguish” and was seen by his peers as a frail and sensitive man. Despite this, he wrote one of the most beloved hymns of redemption, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” The lyrics go like this:
There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
When this poor lisping,
Lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing thy power to save
In the face of his melancholy and own spiritual doubts, Cowper penned words that have encouraged and lifted up others for 200 years. Diving into the history of old written words enlightens us today on the history of the church.
3. Old hymns connect us to our roots.
Hymns like “All Creatures of our God and King,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” personally connect me to the saints who have come and gone before me. Knowing they sang the very words I sing to strengthen their faith, steel their resolve, and praise the Lord God bring me comfort and strength.
Additionally, hymns like “For the Beauty of the Earth” are set to traditional Scottish melodies – connecting me even deeper with my own heritage when I sing them. This is a privilege that I and my children can enjoy. I’d best not squander it. Others would jump at the chance to know the melodies of their ancestors.
Growing up in a little old country church similar to what we recently experienced with our kids created many memories of singing old hymns in those pews. I wonder what memories we intentionally create for our own children with the spiritual music to which we expose them. Will they look back and be flooded with the songs of many-a saint gone before them or will there be silence echoing in their minds? WIll there be words sung that have captivated their hearts or will the lyrics be blurry on the pages of their mind’s eye.
May it be that we teach our children good doctrine through song. May it be we teach them of saints gone before us whose struggles resulted in great victory and beautiful words. May it be that we connect them to the past, giving them as the hymn goes, “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” May the words of old hymns ring out from young lungs.
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