“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Ps. 5:11).
This quarantine season is an unexpected opportunity for us to create healthier rhythms in our lives and to speak to our troubled family and friends “the beauty of thy peace.”
One lost treasure of Christian home life is the ability to sing together as families. For most of Christian history, “congregational singing” was happening both in the church and also in the home. From Luther and Calvin to Wesley and the revivalists, singing at home was encouraged and assumed. Many of us who grew up in Christian homes remember parents or grandparents finishing evenings with singing hymns. Today, this has often been replaced by Netflix or other amusements.
Since we started our Getty Family Hymn Sings, people have asked, “How can we do this if we haven’t been used to it?” “What do we do if we are not musical?” and “What’s the easiest way to get started?”
Here are five suggestions that might spark new ideas for the singing culture of your home.
1. Sing Along with the Smartphone (or Other Devices) Around the House
Play beautiful worship songs that you love to sing or listen to. Don’t fill your family with just any songs because they’re of the moment or on Christian radio, though. Play songs your family will carry with them for life. Aspire to create a “family playlist” that reaches for the big themes and depth of a great hymnal. Similarly, don’t make it all about theology; value melody and singability too. Horrible songs that are theologically rich are still horrible songs!
Play music when and where life happens in your home, and when your family is gathered. The start of a day can be good; if we sing a song first thing in the morning it often stays with us throughout the day.
2. Sing at Bedtime
This is how we started four years ago. We taught our girls one hymn each month at bedtime. Some nights it led to deep conversation; other nights it was lighter; sometimes it was hard to do at all. But overall it has been well worth it. The lyrics have inspired questions and answers about the Christian faith. This rhythm has helped unite our family, and it has brought comfort and peace to our kids as they go to sleep. Four years on, we are all healthier for it.
3. Sing with Your Sunday Streamed Service
This season presents a situation where it is almost “natural” to sing as families. While singing along to livestreamed worship should be relaxed and comfortable, we advise not making it casual or optional. Everyone should be encouraged to sing along. If you are leading these services, consider sending the songs out in advance, so families can play them routinely around the house during this season (you may even want to continue this after you’ve gone back to traditional gathered worship).
4. Encourage Family Members Who Play Instruments to Play Along
This is a great way to encourage family singing and to encourage the joy of music making, which brings our kids into a love of the church and church music. This was huge for my faith, my music, and my love for local church.
5. Sing Before Meals
We grew up singing grace in our house (usually the doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . .”). It’s a fun gathering tradition and a way to musically give thanks to the Lord.
So that’s a start. Our hope and prayer is that as families become “singing families,” it will help foster richer devotional lives, deeper and closer families, and stronger churches—united as we sing of the only hope for the world.
Soli Dei gloria.