FirstLife Blog

A Child Will Lead Them

Posted by Rachel Bell on with 1 Comments

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.

Often, children say the most enlightened and illuminating things, unmarred by societal pressures and expectations. What they do, they do in earnest, with all their heart regardless of what anyone else might think of them. Children sprint, children belly laugh, children dance. Their exuberance is undeniable, and that is the beauty of them leading us in worship.

In our society, age groups are separated until adulthood. Children with children, high school students with high school students, college students with college students. This segregation strips us of the opportunity to learn from those both older and younger than us. At First Baptist, we seek to invite children from their dutiful place at their parents’ sides to a place of leadership in worship, engaging them in the broader church body.

Susan Tatum, our Minister with Children and Families, recognizes that adults can learn from children and vice versa. She believes one of the responsibilities of a church is to teach children about worship, giving them the chance to lead.

“Allowing children to lead in worship is the best way to engage them in worship,” said Susan. “It shows them a worship service is not just something they must endure, but something they may actively participate in. This takes much preparation on the part of many, and we are blessed to have adults that ‘get it’ and are willing to take the time to pass this on to generations to come.”

Our children’s choir directors, Karisa Engle, Elizabeth Pemberton, and Melanie Simpson, are some of those adults dedicated to raising up a generation of worshippers. All three women were in children’s choirs when they were young and had adults teach them what it means to worship. All three understand that including children in worship has an intangible effect on the entire congregation.

“There’s a time when a child’s voice makes more of an impact than any other voice,” said Karisa. “There’s just a sweetness and pureness about it that seems to capture many people. The best baritone singer in the world can’t do what a child does, and they’re only given that voice for a short period in their life. So it’s a very precious instrument, and we need to treat it as such when we’re teaching them.”

Karisa has been leading in children’s music ministries for over 30 years, and she feels music is one element that every generation can participate in together. She likens a music ministry for children to a foundation for a church as a whole. The children learn characteristics of Christ through the music, they learn how to respond to Christ in worship, then they grow up and carry on that knowledge as church leaders and musicians.

Elizabeth Pemberton, who has been leading children’s choirs since 2000, has songs from her childhood that meaningfully impact her. She loves seeing her students and her own children worshiping with songs she sang when she was their age. The interconnectivity from one age group to the next shows her that music spans generations, has no age limit and no end.

As a young person, music brought scripture to life for Elizabeth and drew her closer to God. As an adult, she sees how music – especially singing in choirs – teaches people to be an active part of a whole and gives them the nudge to get out of their comfort zone in a safe way.

“A lot of adults don’t see themselves teaching or preaching or leading a prayer,” said Elizabeth. “But joining with the voices of people around us gives us the opportunity to actively participate in worship, and it helps create an environment where we’re more receptive to teaching, preaching, and praying.”

The same can be said for children’s choirs. Each child is necessary to make the group function, and within the group, there is freedom to learn and grow.

Specifically, Elizabeth loves children’s choir because it draws children to Jesus in a pure and honest way, rather than through attempts to entertain them. It shows them that their voices are equally necessary as the adults’ voices.

“At First Baptist, every children’s choir leader I’ve known makes it a priority to use music and other elements of worship to help children develop and grow their relationship with Jesus,” said Elizabeth.

Melanie Simpson, who describes children’s choir as her “happy place,” agrees with Elizabeth and enjoys being able to invest in children’s lives through music ministry. She views it as another way to share the Gospel and loves watching the children not only come to know Jesus, but also connect with the church.

They learn music skills like rhythms, pitch, dynamics, and performance; they also learn how to appreciate worship and the people who make worship a communal event.

“Children are sponges and soak up new information and experiences,” said Melanie. “We talk a lot to our kids about different types of worship, different types of songs, how everyone can be part of worship, and how we can worship in many different ways and in many different spaces. We hope our kids look back and remember the fun times we had in choir, and we believe that we help develop a lifelong appreciation for music and worship.”

So, First Baptist welcomes children into our service not as congregants, but as leaders. They will lead us in song, scripture, and prayer, and we hope your hearts are softened to Christ’s message through them. We hope that as a little child leads, our faith from our childhood might surface and let us see Christ in a new light.



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dianna mercier Oct 15, 2017 12:31pm

I can't imagine parents reading this without desiring their children join these choirs. wonderful accurate portrayal of these women and their desires and goals for these choirs.