Socially Responsible Children's Church Songs

I think it's about time for our children’s church songs to reflect God's heart for justice and the realities of our current world. Many of the songs I grew up singing in VBS and children’s church, like "Father Abraham" and "Jesus, loves the little children," are still used today, and given our social and political climate, are in desperate need for some updating. So, here's my humble attempt, to turn our favorite churchy children’s tunes into socially responsible songs.

Father Abraham (and Sarah!)

Lesson: This song has been called “Father Abraham,” because so much of our history has been male dominated. That’s why they call it “his story.” But women have always played important roles in God’s story. Remember Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene? Women are created equal to men so we need to tell their stories too. The descendants of Abraham and Sarah (and Hagar who we will talk about another time) became the father and mother to many nations. The Muslims trace their ancestry through Abraham so they are part of the family too. Instead of fighting each other like families sometimes do, let’s praise God together.

Father Abraham (and Sarah!) had many sons (and daughters!)

Many sons and daughters had Father Abraham (and Sarah!)

I am one of them

And so are Muslims,

So let's just praise the Lord…

[cut the body motions since they are ableist

Or point out that not everyone has a right and left arm or foot

But they are our brothers and sisters too]

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Lesson: Jesus loves the little children. Jesus doesn’t just love some children, he loves them all. Let’s think about children in different parts of our community, country, and world who may need to know how much Jesus loves them. Let’s sing this song to remember to treat all God’s children with love and respect.

First verse: traditional way

V. 2 Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

War is evil in God's sight

Bombing children isn't right

Jesus loves the little children of the World

V. 3 Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Hating refugees is sin

Welcome immigrants as kin

Jesus loves the little children of the world

V. 4 Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Black lives matter

Standing Rock

When friends are racist

Make them stop

Jesus loves the little children of the world

V.5 Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

L, G, B, T, Q, I, A

God is love so let's go play

Jesus loves the little children of the world

Zacchaeus

Lesson: Let’s read the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10. Notice that this is much more than a cutesy story about a “wee little man” wanting to see Jesus. He was overtaxing the poor and taking more for himself (“yes, Billy, kinda like the recent tax plan”). Even though he was doing an evil thing by exploiting marginalized communities, Jesus continues to offer him kindness and hospitality. When Zacchaeus experiences the generosity of Jesus, he vows to give back four times what he took. He made reparations. You know what that is? It’s when we make an attempt to repair damage and pay back a person or group of people for a history of exploiting them. Some countries have given reparations to their indigenous populations for the terrible things they did to them. They publicly acknowledged the hurts that were done, they made financial restitution, and even constructed monuments to remind future generations not to make the same mistakes. Our nation has still not made reparations for the genocide of our indigenous peoples or for centuries of slavery. We need to be more like Zacchaeus don’t we? Now, let’s change up this song so it’s a little more accurate to the story shall we?

Zacchaeus was an oppressive little man

An oppressive little man was he

He exploited the poor in his community

But the Lord he wanted to see

And as the Savior passed his way

He looked up in the tree...and said

"Zacchaeus

You come down

For I am coming to your house today...

(To show you that your oppression has

Isolated you from community

And you can’t be free until others are free

And repentance requires making things right

Which includes giving reparations when you’ve

Exploited people and taken their resources)

Yes, I’m coming to your house today”

Jesus loves me

Lesson: The heart of the gospel is love. Yes, God loves us, but you know what? God has a special heart for the poor and oppressed. That’s why there’s over two thousand verses in the Bible about God’s heart for the poor. Wow, that’s a lot isn’t it? (optional: “let’s stop and read a couple of those verses now. Let’s practice using our interpretation skills, you know, what we believe the passage is telling us.”). Well, God must really, really be concerned about those in poverty and injustice. And if we say we love God, that means we need to be concerned too. Let’s sing about Jesus’ love for us and those suffering in oppression.

Jesus loves me this I know

For my biblical interpretation tells me so

The poor and oppressed to him belong

They are resilient, blessed, and strong

Yes, Jesus loves me

And yes, Jesus loves them

Yes, Jesus loves us

My biblical interpretation tells me so

I'm in the Lord's (nonviolent) Army

Lesson: Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers.” But Christians have been disobedient and have supported war and violence from the Crusades until now. (Optional: Martin Luther King Jr., a preacher and a prophet, said "America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." What do you think he meant by that? Why do you think there’s so much violence in our country?) God is calling us to be nonviolent and stand up against the violence and hatred in our world, even if it might cost us our lives. That’s what Jesus did on the cross and we are invited to be part of his nonviolent revolution. Who wants to join?

I refuse to fight in the infantry

Ride in the calvary

Shoot the artillery

I refuse to kill indiscriminately

Cause I'm in the Lord's Army

I'm in the Lord's Nonviolent Army (heck yeah!)

I'm in the Lord's Nonviolent Army (that's right!)

I may never vote for Republicans

Side with the Democrats

Agree with Libertarians

I may never act like a partisan

Cause I'm in the Lord's Army

I refuse racist ideology

Class inequality

American hegemony

I refuse to support white supremacy

Cause I'm in the Lord's Army

I refuse to hate on my enemy

Fear the minority

Appease White fragility

I refuse to ignore my own hypocrisy

Cause I'm in the Lord's Army

[so now can someone please update this]

The B.I.B.L.E.

Lesson: The Bible is a diverse book with stories from many different viewpoints, representing different times, places, peoples, and cultures. The Bible teaches us to be humble because none of us sees, thinks, or interprets Scripture perfectly. Nobody likes a self-righteous know-it-all, right kids? The Bible shows us God’s heart is for liberation, so let’s never use it to hurt or oppress other people. Ok? Now, let’s sing this song!

The B-I-B-L-E

Embrace God's diversity

Let's make room for a different view

The B.I.B.L.E.

The B-I-B-L-E.

We see through a glass dimly

So we pray now for humility

The B-I-B-L-E

The B-I-B-L-E.

We all read contextually

We exogete from a certain street

The B-I-B-L-E

The B.I.B.L.E.

It was meant to bring liberty

So don’t obsess and don’t oppress

The B-I-B-L-E

[Lastly, if you're going to use puppets, and please don't feel like you have to use puppets, make sure that they reflect the diversity of our world.]

photo credit: thepuppetstore.com


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