I had the most refreshing observation yesterday in church. As the congregation was singing “It Is Well With My Soul”, I glanced across the aisle at our pastor’s young children. They were holding hymn books, but I couldn’t help noticing that they were not reading the words. They were singing with all their hearts, but not needing to refer to the page for any of the verses. Impressed with this observation, I watched them singing at our vespers service later. Again, they were singing all verses without the use of the words. For all of their lives, those children will have the benefit of having a collection of hymns recorded in their memory. As I thought more about it, I couldn’t help feeling what a blessing it would be to all Christian families to take up a habit of memorizing hymns. Here are some ideas:
• If you don’t already own a hymn book, buy one. Preferably, get one that is the same as the one your church uses. Or maybe you could even borrow one from the church. If someone in your family plays piano or some other instrument, use that to accompany your singing and to help learn the melodies if you don’t already know them.
• If no one in your family can accompany the hymns, choose common ones that have melodies you already know by heart and teach those to your children without accompaniment.
• While the melodies of hymns are beautiful and have an emotional and spiritual benefit to the listener, the most valuable part of the hymn is the words. So, if your family does not particularly care for the melodies (although I’d strongly encourage developing a taste for them), you can still learn the words as poems. In fact, many times we learn hymns by rote and never really hear the words. Try just reading the hymns as poems and see for yourself how precious the messages are.
• Buy a book that gives the history of hymn writers and hymns or do a search on the Internet and share the information at family time. There are some amazing stories behind the hymns. Some suggestions of songs to research might be It Is Well With My Soul or O, Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go. Hymn writers who might be interesting to learn about could be Fannie Crosby or Philip Bliss.
So many parents wish after their children are grown, that they had invested more time and energy into family music. Don’t wait. It doesn’t require a lot of money for music lessons to enjoy music as a family. And putting the great old hymns in the minds of your children is a gift that will definitely keep on giving!