I recently heard about a church official who had strong opinions about children's praise and worship DVDs. Upon hearing that one of the music leaders was looking to add to the children's department's DVD music collection, he said, "I thought we determined that DVDs were no longer allowed. It's just another video that the kids sit in front of." He promised to talk to the music leader and put his foot down, so to speak. In this official's mind, DVDs (and other media based items) constituted "passive entertainment" and were not worthy of the goals of Christian education.
And I agree: DVDs and other forms of media are, indeed, passive entertainment . . . if used passively!
The fact is, many churches do not have a band, musicians, and song leaders that can effectively do live contemporary children's praise and worship. I don't have enough technical knowledge to tell you what distinguishes modern kids praise music from adult or even teen music, but there is a difference! And so several companies have attempted to bridge the gap with music videos that have music, words, and even motions. It's like bringing in a band to help lead your music.
But music DVDs are a tool . . . and like most tools, they have to be used properly. If you stick in a DVD and tiredly expect the kids to sing along, you will likely get tired results. But even the musically challenged among us can get good results using the tools in the right way. I am not a singer and I probably lack certain motor skills to do complicated choreography (although I've got a little game). But in my years in kidmin, I've learned some principles in working with DVDs.
- Look at the kids, not the screen. There are two reasons for this. One, it keeps you from having to contort your back and neck to look over at the screen for the lyrics, and second, with your attention on the kids, you can pick up those subtle signals that every children's leader needs (like the two fifth graders who are sitting in the corner with their arms crossed).
- Interact with and use the music. By knowing the music and words of the DVD, you can interject prompts ("a little louder now!") at the right spots, or take advantage of longer musical gaps to insert a quick devotional thought ("and Jesus loves you too and you can love one another, so let's sing it together..").
- Move it, move it #1. Clap your hands, try the moves, shuffle back and forth . . . do something! If you can't pull off all the moves, try to do the major ones. You may not be able to get those fifth graders moving, but you can virtually guarantee they won't move if you won't move.
- Move it, move it #2. Recruit some kids to help with the moves. Be on the lookout for the children who are into the music and motions and bring them up to help. Kids love seeing other kids in action. You can even try bringing the two fifth graders up and ask if they would be willing to help lead songs (they might just surprise you with their enthusiasm).
- Transition smoothly. Try to eliminate that awkward time when you are switching songs. Have something happening while your sound guy makes the switch. Or if you are your own sound guy, designate someone to do an announcement while you work controls. Better yet, have all your songs lined up and ready to go in a "mix." One of the more recent innovations is the availability of songs on MP3, where they can be mixed and lined up seamlessly on a computer, which sure beats cuing up VHS tapes (yes, I am that old).
- Put the songs in context. Relate the songs to the lesson or theme when possible. And that requires advance preparation, not just loading a DVD in the player that morning.
Does your church used contemporary children's worship DVDs or other media, or is your music live? What resources do you use? Feel free to respond in the comments below.