We asked music producer from the South Coast of England, Gareth Mathews, what he thought about creating and recording worship music that children and adults could enjoy together. Here are some of the things he’s been learning and reflecting on:
My name is Gareth Matthews and I am the worship pastor at The King’s Church in Portsmouth. I also lead the worship in the Rock Solid venue of New Wine and have produced two children’s worship albums.
Producing Worship Albums
When I was initially asked to consider producing a children’s worship album, I found the prospect mighty daunting! Firstly because my high standards for any production that I’m involved in would mean a busy few months ahead! But also because, as a father of two children under 5, I knew it would be highly likely that if the project went well, we would be listening to the album over and over again as a family for months (even years!) to come!
When approaching the project, I listened to quite a lot of children’s music (in particular children’s worship music) and talked to many adults and kids about it. I observed that generally kids will actually listen to most music – whatever the style and production quality. My own kids enjoy some worship songs that to my ears sound like they were thrown together on a Casio keyboard (possibly using the ‘Demo’ button) – yet my children love them! However, the adults I spoke to enjoyed music that sounded good, wasn’t too repetitive, ‘cheesy’ or annoying.
So where is the middle ground? If children will listen to any-old music then do we really need to spend time and energy on it? Can there really be music – and in particular worship music that appeals to everyone?
Sounding good to Adults
I believe that it’s actually really important that the music we produce for our children or for family worship time is something that is going to sound good to parents. It’s likely that if the parents enjoy listening to it then they will be more inclined to let their children enjoy it too. From my view as a producer that means real instruments, excellent singers and players, exciting arrangements, great sounds, a polished and professional mix and not forgetting some crazy and whacky moments to make us smile! I’m sure most parents have a few CD’s which make their hearts sink when their children request them on a long car journey. That changes when we, as parents, enjoy listening to the same music as our kids!
Drawing in Children
Children have an amazing ability to pick up songs, lyrics and melodies – far beyond what we would normally give them credit for. I learnt this one day when my daughter was colouring on the table in front of me – busy with her pens, in her own little world. From nowhere, she started singing… and word-perfectly came a new ‘adult’ song we’d be singing in church written by Matt Redman. She knew the words better than I did – and she was only two! Children are like sponges! They soak up everything that is going on around them and this includes the music they hear, the worship they encounter, the teaching they receive and I believe the presence of the God that we hunger after as we worship.
It is our job as adults to then take those words and songs and shape them into understanding for our children. That’s why worshipping with our children is so important – for our children are not only hungry to soak up songs and tunes but are also hungry to know how to worship. Who better to teach them than their parents? My children really enjoy the song from the ‘Bigger Than Big’ CD from New Wine that says ‘The Lord is with You wherever you go, Joshua 1v 9’. But it was only one morning when my son really didn’t want to go to nursery school that we were able to take the song from being something fun to sing, to being filled with truth – and a truth that he understood and could relate to. He went off to nursery singing the song, safe in the knowledge that God was going with him.
For our children, we need to create music that will make them smile and laugh and will also nourish them in the truths of our amazing God, drawing them into relationship with Him.
We all believe that God deserves our best – and that is as true for adult worship music as it is for children’s worship music too. Albums specifically for children or families should not sound like they were made ‘on a budget’. They need to have all the energy and creativity that they can possibly have and aim to be enjoyed and appreciated by the whole family. What we invest into our little ones will not only bless us as we worship with them (and enjoy it!!) but will also leave a legacy, which will ultimately out-live all of us.