As part of our after supper routine, my wife and I have started teaching our children Christian hymns. I see it as beneficial in so many ways, and here I share a few of those ways:
First, it is unifying. There is something unifying about singing together. Think of the solidarity fans share at a sporting event when they sing a national anthem, or even more so perhaps when they sing the “Goodbye Song” near the end of a game knowing their home team has all but trounced the opponent. It draws them together in one voice and cause. How much more when we sing together to our Lord? On a regular basis we as a family must join our voices under the supremacy of Jesus Christ to the praise of His glory. It creates a sense of solidarity in the Gospel together.
Second, it teaches us together. Being unified in worship we are also unified in learning. So many of our English hymns teach us doctrine. One of the first hymns we sang as a family was “Amazing Grace.” The line”’tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home” points to the persevering grace of God. Not only does His grace justify us, but it also keeps us until the end. Always looking for ways to teach the children truth, English hymnody offers a great opportunity.
Third, it calls us to joy. Anytime you put a bunch of people together conflicts arise. Family life is no different. Regularly pausing to sing about God and to God points our hearts heavenward away from our otherwise real but comparatively petty concerns. By nature Christian worship produces thankfulness and awe. That brings joy to any people.
Fourth, it roots us in history. English speaking Christians are deeply rooted in hundreds of years of history. Because of that each hymn brings with it the history of an era. Teaching the children to sing the songs of Cowper, Wesley, and Newton creates a sense of belonging to something that has longevity. I suspect that not being rooted is so common that most people today don’t even realize they’re not rooted. People sell homes, change jobs, and move between cities regularly. I’m not necessarily lamenting that, but that experience was uncommon for many previous generations. With that, few today have any sense of being part of an historical narrative. Teaching the children these old songs teaches them they’re part of a people in an old real story.
Fifth, it’s something we can do with their grandparents. On a few occasions, we’ve gone to see Nana and Grampa and they’ve attempted to lead the children in a hymn sing. It is something that is fairly simple. Nana plays the piano, and we all sing. With that I suspect that one day, if God wills, it just may also be something we can do with our grandchildren.
Sixth, it’s something we can do in the future together. Any family’s future holds many significant events from weddings to funerals to Christmases, etc. Learning simple hymns by heart allows for spontaneous worship with no planning at all. I imagine singing together at the birth of a grandchild one day or the news of an engagement or around a sickbed. Learning various types of hymns now trains us for simple spontaneous worship in the future together.
Seventh, it creates memories. The things we do often with repetition are the things we remember easily. Repeatedly singing the same songs over and over forges memories that we share of worshiping God as a family.
Eighth, it brings glory to God. He is “holy” and “enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).
That’s eight benefits I see in singing hymns with the children. I know some of those benefits could also be had by singing contemporary songs, but for now we’re focusing on English hymnody. It’s been fun, and I’m looking forward to reaping what we sow from it.