Each year St Bart’s, Toowoomba holds a FOCUS weekend away at Coolum. The weekend is an opportunity for parishioners to take time out and gather together to relax, study the Bible and enjoy fellowship together.
Last year’s FOCUS weekend theme was ‘God’s Providence’ and we turned to the Psalms to better understand that God is not only our creator, but also our helper and protector.
Throughout the weekend, the children engaged in a variety of hands-on activities exploring God’s greatness and the ways he cares for and provides for our needs.
In one of our FOCUS camp sessions, the children were given the option to try something new – songwriting. A small group of interested children came forward and worked collaboratively to write both the lyrics and the catchy melody of a song they titled ‘God with us’.
As the seven children, Abraham Mayen (10), Anaiah Arthy (8), Evie Levingston (7), Emily Bell (6), Grace Dutton (5), Joash Arthy (5) and Bethany Reich (4), sat with me, we opened the scriptures and began to look at the words in Psalm 121. The key words identified by the children were: mountains, help, Lord, God, creator, watches and protects.
We used the beginning line from Psalm 121.1, “I look up to the mountains”, to open the song and then one of the children suggested: “Let’s add, ‘I look down to the ground’, because when we look down we can also see some of the things God has created and it reminds us that he is our helper.”
The lyrics then fell into place. As each of the children enthusiastically contributed suggestions, I madly wrote down their fabulous ideas. What they said showed that they have a profound understanding of both the majesty and gentleness of God.
The children decided they wanted two verses. They structured the song with the first verse considering the question, “Who will help us in our time of need?” The second verse explained what David says in the rest of the Psalm – that at all times, God will protect us. And, the chorus gives a clear answer to the original question the song asks about who our provider is – God.
The children also created actions that point to God as visual reminders – that he is the ultimate source of power, strength and hope.
They taught the song to their peers and on the Sunday morning they got up in the service and led the FOCUS congregation in singing it as one of the worship songs.
The Rev’d Canon Dr Rhys Bezzant, the Dean of Ridley College in Melbourne, who spoke at the weekend later commented, “Teaching our kids the Scriptures is part of our Gospel responsibilities in the world. How terrific that the kids of St Bart’s are learning the Scriptures by singing them! Have a listen to this and praise God for his providence.”
When we returned to Toowoomba, the children were very keen to take their songwriting skills to the next level, and so we began arranging to record and produce the song.
We organised an early morning hike up the local Table Top Mountain to record footage for the video, utilising both a camera and drone. Other children were invited to join in the recording of the song. After a few takes and a bit of editing, we have produced the song that the children wrote and performed.
We pray that this upbeat song will be an encouragement to others, reminding them that God, our creator, strength and helper, is always there for us.
You can check out the St Bart’s Kids ‘God with us’ song on YouTube. Parishes and ministries are welcome to use the song in their services and communications.
‘God with us’ song lyrics
I look up to the mountains
Who is there? When I’m in need
I look down to the ground
Who created all I see.
God, God, God
He is our creator
God, God, God
He is our strength
God, God, God
He is our helper
He is everything we need.
When I’m scared, he protects me
When I’m worried, He is near
When it’s day or it’s nighttime
He puts his shield all around me.
Top 10 tips for working with children to write and record a song:
- Open up a Scripture with the children and ask the children to identify five to 10 key words.
- Ask the children to decide on a basic song structure (for example, two verses and a chorus).
- Work with the children to write simple lyrics using the key words and the agreed-to structure.
- Ask the children to speak the song lyrics out loud a few times to ensure the lyrics flow and then work with them to develop an upbeat melody.
- Encourage the children to practise the song with instruments, such as a guitar.
- Ask the children to create simple actions (such as hand gestures) that are repeated throughout the song. The key words are often ideal for basing actions on. Invite other children in your congregation to learn the song and actions.
- Record the song using a good quality phone camera for close-up shots (holding the phone on its side if it is to be hosted on YouTube or played on large screens), as well as a drone if possible (a drone is great for sweeping aerial footage – ensure that the drone is moved smoothly and slowly). Invite older teenagers in your congregation to assist with recording the song.
- Edit the video using paid-for platforms, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, or free online platforms, such as Apple iMovie or HitFilm Express.
- Add lyric captions to the video so people listening to the song can learn it.
- Host the video on YouTube and then share the song on your social media channels and play the song in your services.