This is a question I often get as Programming Director or “that girl from large group” as your kids may say. Why do we use motions? We, as adults, don’t do synchronized motions for our worship, so shouldn’t we be teaching kids what real worship looks like?
While I think this is a very valid point, I want to teach kids what real worship feels like. Some kids may be able to earnestly engage during worship without motions but most children need that element to help them focus and think about what they are singing. So here are 3 BIG reasons why we use motions for worship in Crossing Kids.
Reason 1: It is in the Bible!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
Psalm 149: 1-3
There are several references to dancing in the Bible as an act of worship. True, this kind of worship was probably more free-form than what we do in Large Group, but there is something really powerful about worshiping with your whole body if you embrace it. If you have ever felt the impulse to raise your arms or clap during worship then you know what I am talking about. God created us to move, so we can use that as a tool to help kids engage with what they are singing.
Reason 2: Moving Helps Kids Focus
I am sure you have seen the articles; kids sitting on exercise balls instead of chairs in school, teachers taking short “brain breaks” to get rowdy kids active, or even the latest story of a reading room with exercise bikes! Study after study has shown that children need to move and be active to help them focus. Whenever we can appropriately include movement into our curriculum it makes those times when kids do have to sit quietly and listen much more successful. Motions during worship time help make the lessons kids are learning on Sundays stick. Since we have already embraced a child’s need to move it is much easier to engage them when it is time to focus. Giving kids a chance to burn some energy helps cut down on behavior problems too!
Reason 3: Motions Help Kids Learn the Words
I saved this one for last, because it is one of the primary reasons that we use motions – to help kids learn the words! A lot of our kiddos are either non-readers, or beginner readers, and that means they might not be able to follow along with a lyrics PowerPoint like we can as adults. We put a lot of thought into our motions to make sure that they are both fun and helpful. This could mean bringing in some sign language that we pre-teach the kids. Other times it means having consistency with our motions from song to song, like always pointing up when we sing “God” or putting our hands on our heart when we sing the word “heart.” For a kindergartener who has not learned to read yet, or a second grader who can read well just not very quickly, having motions that go along with what we are singing helps them to understand what they are singing about.
One time we had a song where the lyrics were from scripture, particularly something that Jesus said. Every time we sang the word “I” we pointed up, like we usually do for “God” or “Christ” since in this song Jesus was the “I.” Even though we always introduced the song by telling kids that the words in the song were things that Jesus actually said, it was that motions that helped the kids make that connection. “I GET IT! WE ARE POINTING UP BECAUSE JESUS IS TALKING!” an elementary girl exclaimed one day.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we are trying to teach children what worship feels like. By engaging kids with motions we are taking the focus off of them and putting it on the songs. Many kids, especially our older elementary kids, are starting to enter that self-conscious phase. What do I do with my hands? Can my friends hear me singing? What if I am not a good singer? For lots of our kids the motions help them know what to do so that they can stop worrying and start worshiping. We want worship to be a joyful and gospel-centered time. We choose our songs and verses carefully to make sure that worship is focused on the gospel and big biblical truths. We use motions to help kids engage in a fun and developmentally appropriate way.