One of the biggest lessons I learned about singing on stage as a child was contained in one word.
My parents encouraged us not to stand like statues or mannequins or even like the presidential carvings at Mount Rushmore. Rather, they wanted us to be happy on the stage, or at least appear to be happy that we were singing–although I am sure at times that may not have always been the case. Especially when 1) we noticed that people’s eyes glazed over, possibly due to the volume of kids and instruments 2) or when we had a touch of the flu.
As a kid, I remember watching other families sing, families who traveled like we did. Or the occasional special by a church family. Somehow smiling did not always seem to be a part of the special. Of course, some songs contain a serious message and leave no room for grinning. But far more often than not, the smiles were absent.
Some children do not enjoy being on the stage in general, and it is harder for them to express happiness on their faces. But they should still learn to have a pleasant expression. Nobody will be encouraged by a solemn face or a grimace or a frown . . . but they will naturally respond to a happy person singing with joy.
My older brother Jonathan firmly believed in being real on the stage. As a kid, he yawned or frowned or . . . whatever, depending on his mood. But he did not like fake smiles or pretending.
I am not advocating that you teach your child to be a fake or pretend to be happy. But at some point their face has to show that they agree with what they are singing.
Here are a few steps you can take:
- Choose an easy song. If your child has never sung in church before, make sure you pick a simple song with an easy-to-understand message. Do not choose a deep theological song for your four-year-old. She will not be able to pronounce the words, let alone sing them.
- Read through the lyrics. Absorb the meaning first. If you cannot understand the words yourself, six-year-old Tyler probably will not understand them.
- Explain the lyrics. Explain the meaning of the song to your child. Perhaps you could even research the writer together and learn why the song writer wrote the song. What was the song writer facing at that moment in his life? What was he teaching through the song?
- Practice the song. Teach your child when and where it is appropriate to smile within the song. You do not want them to grin throughout the entire song; you want to teach them how to accent the song in the right places.
Over time, your child will develop a natural ability to feel comfortable in front of the members of your church. Adults love watching children sing, so your child will have an advantage that you may not have. Seriously, all your child has to do is walk up on the stage and instantly everyone will smile. Trust me.
To which I say, take advantage. Use this opportunity to its fullest.