Handing down great songs of faith

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 7th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.  Coming next on The World and Everything in It: handing down great songs of the faith.

Earlier this week, our book reviewer recommended Leland Ryken’s book about hymns as our Classic Book of the Month. 

Today, Emily Whitten talks with singer-songwriter Kristyn Getty about teaching kids to love the hymns of the church.

EMILY WHITTEN, REPORTER: When COVID-19 hit last spring, singer-songwriters Kristyn and Keith Getty ended up quarantined at their home near Nashville, TN. Like other musicians, they quickly moved online to stay connected with their audiences. For the Gettys that included a weekly event they called the Getty Family Hymn Sing

HYMN SING: Hi, everyone! Welcome to outside at our house and the chaos that is Tuesday night family hymn sing….

Week by week, they welcomed other professional singers and musicians into their home, often streaming live from their back porch. One notable guest choice—they included their daughters. Here’s a clip from last April. 

HYMN SING: …please help the coronavirus to go away. In your name, Amen… Sing our final song, What love could remember no wrongs we have done? Omniscient, all knowing, he counts not their sum…

When her children were younger, Kristyn didn’t put much effort into teaching them hymns. But on a tour across the U.S., one day their family showed up at a private school in New Jersey. As part of the event, the school presented one of the hymns Keith is best known for creating: “In Christ Alone.” 

Keith and Kristyn and their two children sat in the audience as the school kids prepared to sing. 

GETTY: They invited our eldest to come and join them, and as she walked up the front Keith and I looked at each other and thought, Does she know In Christ Alone? Did you teach it to her? And she got up and sure enough she sang the first two lines, and then just smiled and waved at us for the rest of the time. 

And that moment, seeing their daughter in the spotlight unable to finish the song, something clicked.

GETTY: But we realized not only does it need to be part of spaces where life happens, but there are moments when we have to be intentional and actually teach them you know? 

So, Keith and Kristyn began to purposely teach hymns to their kids. And they found the Hymn of the Month particular approach really helpful. 

Kristyn says some hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” took more effort to learn. They memorized other songs in a snap. 

GETTY: Like “Softly and Tenderly” they loved and got a lot of that early on. We taught them “His Mercy is More.” They just learned it so fast. It’s one of the best songs to teach kids because they just loved it. 

What should you look for in choosing hymns? For one thing, Christian worldview content. 

GETTY: God is the creator. He created you. And then the narrative of the gospel story. What that means so they really understand that. The hope of heaven, and then songs which connect these things to everyday life. 

She also recommends songs that are fun to sing.

GETTY: They love, Hallelujah! Thine the Glory. Hallelujah! Amen. And just wonderful praise songs that cheer up the heart really.

As the month goes on, the goal is to get kids to sing along. If you only accomplish this, you’ve done a lot. For one thing, good hymns give kids the vocabulary of Christian faith. 

GETTY: What we sing is so important to our spiritual development. How we understand the faith and how we share it and speak about it. 

Another advantage of studying a hymn for an entire month is that it creates time to talk about the hymns. One recent hymn of the month was “Abide With Me.”

GETTY: I went through verse 1 again with them and I said Gracie, ‘Remind me again, what does abide really mean? What does it mean to be helpless?’


She sometimes shares her own stories about particular hymns like “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

GETTY: I love being able to tell him I sang this when I was a little girl. And you know Granny and Granddad had that at their wedding. And now you’re going to sing it, and as you go through your life, you’ll be able to add your stories to that song and remember God’s faithfulness.

Kristyn’s perspective as a hymn writer gives some insight into the breadth and depth of the hymns we sing. 

The Gettys also take inspiration from good hymnals. Kristyn says they often cover topics like the attributes of God, Biblical themes and doctrines, and the church calendar year. 

For some families, being cut off from corporate worship during the pandemic means not singing hymns. Kristyn says churches can support parents, by publishing a list of songs to be sung the next Sunday. Practicing hymns ahead of the service can make the songs more interesting for kids. Or if your church worships virtually, pre-record kids singing hymns for the Sunday service. 

But because of the Getty’s profession, they had to keep singing. They ramped up the Getty Family Hymn Sing, and they built a recording studio in their home. 

The Gettys actually face a temptation most of us don’t. Because they sing so often, they might take hymns for granted. 

GETTY: I can remember my daughter Grace, who’s five, kindergarten, saying, ‘Mum, all you want to talk about is sing sing sing sing sing sing sing sing sing!’ And I thought, ‘O great…’ 

But other times, the seeds they’ve planted bear fruit.

GETTY: Just last week I was in my bedroom getting ready and I heard her in the next room and she was singing. She had other dolls out she was pretending to do church with them. I was standing here and I heard her singing, the Christ Our Hope in Life and Death song at the top of her voice.

Children’s emotions are like weather, constantly changing, Kristen says. She perseveres because God calls her to pass on her faith.

For now, Keith and Kristyn have moved on from their back porch Getty Family Hymn Sings.

They aim to release more projects soon to encourage families to sing good hymns. Some of those families, like mine, won’t be as talented as they are. But we can sing along and make a joyful noise. Thankfully, God’s mercy covers that, too. 

HYMN SING: Praise the Lord! His mercy is more!

I’m Emily Whitten.

HYMN SING: Stronger than darkness, new every morn. Our sins they are many, His mercy is more! Our sins they are many, His mercy is more.

BASHAM: Kristyn Getty had a lot more to say on the subject of kids and hymns. So we’ve put together a longer version of this feature. And you can access it this weekend anywhere you find this podcast.

(Photo/Keith and Kristyn Getty and family)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Handing down great songs of faith

  1. Kelly Blankenship says:

    Our family LOVED the weekly Getty hymn sing during rhe shutdown!!! I loved it b/c it was SO not “made for TV”. It was just some other parents (who happened to sing & play things really well) and their kids, sharing their love for the hymns of the faith. And kids being unpredictable, and predictably disinterested, and Charlotte please close the freezer. Haha! Many years ago I married into a very large and well-organized church which reaches many around the world with great passion & professionalism, but this sweet ministry warmed my heart during quarantine and took me back to my own humble faith roots. Thank you Gettys for keeping it real!

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