That is a strange title for an article which proposes to deal with children’s songs, but as I meditated on what I would write, I discovered that I needed to address several other, very important, and foundational concepts before hand. And it is from these that I drew the inspiration for my title.
I have been accused of superfluous obfuscation of my verbiage multitudinous times in the past, and I will undoubtedly be arraigned for that fault many more times in the future. I do not apologize for using words that are perceived as gargantuan, or words which exclusively pertain to higher vocabularies than those commonly utilized and recognized in ‘normal’ society. This article is where I intend to expain why.
Although I find it amusing how easily I can confuse people with my words, I rarely do so in malice or pride aforethought. I sincerely strive to use the words that fit the place and time that I use them in. Of course I fail in this many many times, resulting in either undue confusion, or in a perception of arrogance on my part, and for those times I apologize.
But I will not stop using big words.
Because we need them.
Each person has a certain level of vocabulary, intelect, and comprehension. These three are inextricably tied into one another: when one increases, the others increase with it, when one decreases or atrophies, the others fail with it.
This personal level determines a person’s ability to function ably in life and in society. It is therefore important as humans and as Christians, that we strive to improve ourselves in these areas. This is not so that we can show off or boast ourselves over others, but so that we can ably serve our Lord and Master in all that we do.
There is a common idea going around that promotes ‘talking below your audience’ so that they will have no problems at all understanding you. This has some application, I have no doubt, but that application is not where many people generally apply it.
People like things simple and easy.
Therefore we should make things simple and easy for them so that they will like us, right?
Not all the time.
And certainly not most of the time.
If you do not use a muscle, it atrophies. If you do not use an ability, it vanishes. If you do not push harder, you will grow weaker. That is how everything works (there might be some exceptions, but I really can’t think of any at the moment). If you do not think, you will become dumb. Think about it.
If everything a person takes in is below their level that I talked about, their skills of perception and comprehension will atrophy. Their skills of outward communication deteriorate with them, and their overall level will drop. If people continue to aim below their level of comprehension, slowly, the process will repeat and continue to repeat until you have someone like the average teenager today (I will kindly refrain from a precise description of that miserable state).
This same thing occurs in maturity and in spiritual growth as well. If everyone gives you responsibility lower than your capability, your level of responsibility will decrease. If everyone constantly gives you only milk, you will never be ready for meat.
The only way for people to grow is for those who interact with them to talk and be higher than them, so that they have to work to understand, and thereby they grow and strengthen.
Therefore, for the most part, each of us should talk at our own level. Shoot straight. We need to only talk below our level when the situation demands it. We should rarely try to talk above our level, the few situations where we would need to would be when we are deliberately striving to grow in a particular area by talking to someone or about something that is higher than us.
But in those situations, you should mostly be doing the other half of my title: Listen up. Always strive to find input that is bigger and higher than you: waters you need to swim in. Hard things. That includes reading deep literature (the Bible, the Dictionary, old books, etc.), and finding and talking with mentors. Mentors are so crucial that I am planning a whole article on them.
But what in the world does any of this have to do with children’s songs??
What is a children’s song? In the context that I am referring to in particular, a children’s song is a song about Christianity that is made to be easily understood by children. In other words, it is watered down milk, fit only for lazy people and sick people. Not made for helping anyone grow strongly. Of course, there are some “children’s songs” that are truly classic, and give strength and growth to people no matter where they are, but they are by virtue of that fact alone, not children’s songs.
What is wrong with children singing hymns? Nothing. In fact, there is much good to be got out of that.
That is how children grow. That is how they learn. That is how they understand. That is how they realize that Christianity is something that is important, and which needs to be taken as important.
But how can they understand all those archaic words??
How do they understand any words? That is how they learn! And that is how we ought to learn. If they are exposed to it, they will learn it, period. The sooner the better (learning is easier at young ages, especially when it comes to vocabulary and language).
My five year old sisters walk around the house singing constantly: singing ooooold hymns with biiiiig words in them. They might not always get them right, but they try, and they learn from them.
(By the way, if you think that this would also apply to Sunday School and Nursery: it does.)
Expand your vocabulary.
Get a mentor.
With joy and peace in Christ,