Matthew Burt is an organist, choir director, and liturgist who has been a presenter at Music that Makes Community events since 2010. He lives in Palo Alto, California, and currently serves as West Regional Councillor of the American Guild of Organists.
Jesus said, “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4), yet for centuries many churches have taught and required children to sit in respectful silence as adults lead their worship and song. As the father of a two year-old, I think that possibly the greatest humility we can embody is to view the world through the lens of a child—inquisitive, appreciative, and unencumbered by the prejudices and fears of our adult society. How then can we approach this in our liturgy and our music?
In my experience as music director in a suburban Episcopal parish, I have found paperless music to be one of the best tools for incorporating children as leaders in worship. Not only is literacy not required of the performers, but the relational and inclusive qualities of this music often bring out a childlike sense of wonder and praise in adults as well. One of my favorite songs with which to conclude a worship service with an intergenerational group is “You Shall Go Out with Joy,” written by Steffi Rubin and Stuart Dauermann (two American Messianic Jews), which paraphrases Isaiah 55:12, and has been published in a number of hymnals and other sources.
I have found that leading the song using actions that represent the lyrics helps the congregation to feel confident as it sings. (It also seems, in my experience, to reduce inhibitions and increase participation from the adults who are present.) As you may notice in the video, as the leader I generally make the actions about a second or so in advance—to help the singers recall which phrase comes next. Since the piece is written in a Jewish musical style, it seems appropriate to repeat it getting faster each time (as some Klezmer music does)— something that is invariably enjoyed by children of all ages, including adults!
Find more songs to sing with children using the "Children" filter under "Contexts and Gatherings" in our MMC Songs Database.