My name is Jesse Saunders, I am The Austin Stone Kids band coach, and I lead worship with our grade schoolers (1st-5th grade) group at the St. John Campus. Shortly after my wife and I began attending The Austin Stone regularly in early 2010, we began looking for ways to serve. When I heard about the need for musicians in KidStuff (the predecessor to Kids), I jumped at the chance, and it has been a great to serve with our Kids staff and volunteers.
In our Kids Large Group worship times, our primary goals are to:
- Teach sound doctrine.
- Create an exciting and fun environment for kids to learn.
- Model and teach what our church’s corporate worship service looks like.
- Allow regenerate (saved) children an opportunity to worship God.
While trying to meet the first two objectives, a lot of thought and prayer goes into our song selection each week. As a part of our large group worship time, we lead the kids through two songs each week. In order to help our kids learn and retain the songs we are teaching and provide continuity across services and campuses, we have one song-of-the-month that is done by all of our bands and campuses each week. As often as possible, the song of the month is a new song to Kids, and is tied to the overall curriculum theme for that month. Likewise, the second song each week generally addresses themes tied to the scripture being studied in the classroom and being taught in The Word.
Many of the songs used in our Kids Ministry are the same ones that the bands in the main service lead with every week. We do this to in order to help send the kids out the door singing the same songs their parents are. However, to ensure that our kids are able to engage with the songs lyrics and themes, we look closely at each song in light of the children’s ability to understand. Given the broad range of in our grade schoolers (5 to 10 years old), there isn’t one clear line we can draw on what our kids can really understand. In some cases, I have been nervous about whether or not kids would be able to really connect with certain songs, and in nearly every case, I have been amazed at how the kids relate to them after a week or two. I have found new songs to be particularly effective when I have taken the time to teach the kids about thematic elements that may be unclear to them, as well as how they relate to the scripture they are being taught.
In addition to the theological elements involved in week to week song selection, we try to ensure that at least one of the songs being sung each Sunday is high energy, to get the kids excited and engaged in worship. This, along with having a full band, a sound system, and lighting, help to give kids a sense of what ‘big church’ worship is like, while offering those who have chosen to follow Christ the opportunity to worship God on Sunday morning with their friends in Kids
Leading worship with our Kids Ministry is a lot of fun, and it’s exciting knowing that we are helping to shape the next generation of worshippers.