When I was a kid the songs we sang in Sunday School were all from the Psalter — the same book the congregation used for singing in worship. We picked the songs we sang. The fifth-grade boys usually chose “By Babel’s Streams We Sat and Wept.” I never knew why they chose that song but we ended up singing it often. I can still sing quite a bit of it by heart.
In Sunday School in the church I work in now we still have a time of singing for all the children 3 years old to 6th grade. (We actually split them into two groups by age.) I sing with the younger kids (up to 2nd grade). We sing all the kids' favorites — at my church these include “Joshua Fought the Battle,” “Read your Bible, Pray Everyday,” and “Hip Hip Hip Hippopotamus.” The leaders also teach the kids some oldies like “Give Me Oil in My Lamp” and some newer songs “I Love You, Lord.”
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by John Bell from the Iona Community. He spoke about singing songs from around the world. He emphasized that by singing global songs we realize that the church is much bigger than just our town or country. God’s people live all over this world and people from all over the world write songs, too. By singing songs written by people from other parts of the world we can better understand them, what is important to them, and the challenges they face.
Bell introduced us to a number of songs that were new to me. We sang several songs from Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and other places. One of my favorites new songs that night was “We Will Walk with God” from Swaziland. He told us that people in Swaziland would walk while doing their work to get water, to go to the market or in a funeral procession. This information put this song in a new setting for me. Knowing that walking is an important part of their life made this song more meaningful for me. I was surprised at how quickly I felt connected to these brothers and sisters in Christ by singing one of their songs.
So my hope is that as we continue to introduce some new songs to our kids, I will make a point of searching out songs from other cultures. Fortunately, there are some great resources to help me do this. Two of my favorites are:
- Sing with the World: Global Songs for Children by John L. Bell and Alison Adam, published by GIA Publications, Inc., 2008.
- Global Songs for Worship by Greg Scheer. Faith Alive Resources 2010.
Have you had a chance to use songs from around the world? What are your favorites?