Hymns have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of singing hymns in the little country church where my dad served as pastor.
Sadly, the old hymns have been replaced by modern “praise music” in most of today’s churches, and many children and teens are missing out on the rich heritage of Christian hymns that earlier generations enjoyed.
Hymn study is a simple way to keep hymns alive in our modern day. It can help the entire family learn the words and understand the meaning of the great hymns of our faith.
Don’t know where to start with hymn study? Here are the most important things that should be included whenever you study hymns with your family.
5 Important Things to Include in Hymn Study
Learning the story behind the hymn is very important in understanding the context of the hymn. When we know about the life and faith of the author, as well as the circumstances behind the writing of the hymn, we can appreciate its meaning in a new way.
For example, Horatio Spafford penned the words to “It Is Well with My Soul” after losing his daughters in a shipwreck. The words “when sorrows like sea billows roll” are a specific reference to the tragedy.
Knowing this, how much more powerful are the words of the refrain:
“It is well, it is well, with my soul”!
Every hymn has a story. Use those stories to capture your child’s interest and help them understand the meaning of the hymn better.
Check out this list of recommended hymn study resources for more hymn stories for kids.
One of the main goals of hymn study is to help our kids learn the words of favorite hymns so they can sing them. This is especially helpful for young children who can’t read yet, but even older kids benefit from memorizing the lyrics.
This past Christmas, the young children in our church helped to sing “Who Is He in Yonder Stall” for the Christmas program. Even the ones who were too young to read were able to quickly pick up the words of the refrain:
“Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!”
Learning hymn lyrics doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Try one of these simple ways to help your kids learn hymns.
Learning the melody of a hymn is an important part of being able to sing it. Many kids are not able to read music and won’t be able to pick out the tune by following notes. Being familiar with the melody enables them to sing along.
You don’t even have to actually sing the hymns to be able to learn the melody. Try listening to hymn recordings or making a hymn playlist on YouTube.
It’s difficult to understand the meaning of a hymn if you don’t know what the words mean. When you study a new hymn, go through and pick out any unfamiliar words and help your child learn what they mean.
For example, in the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” we find words like forfeit, cumbered, forsake, and solace. Younger children may not be familiar with words like these.
Vocabulary study can be as simple as discussing the new word together. Or you might choose to have your child write the definition of the word or use the word to write their own sentences.
While hymn lyrics may not be direct quotes from the Bible, every hymn is based on Scripture. It is important to point out the Scriptural references contained within the hymns we teach our kids.
For example, consider these words from the hymn “Amazing Grace”:
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!”
We can see a direct correlation between John Newton’s words and these words found in Ephesians 2:8:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith . . .”
Take time to point out these related Scriptures. Even children can appreciate the fact that hymn lyrics are based on the Word of God.
Have Questions About Hymn Study?
Please ask in the comments below—I’d love to chat with you!