As we beam with pride at the Kids Choir leading us in worship this morning, soaking up their sweet smiles and varying voices, we may not realize all the preparations that happen before they take the stage. 

The Kids Choir rehearses for three Wednesday nights leading up to singing on a Sunday, led by a team of staff and volunteers. Julie Scichowski, Worship Ministry Administrative Assistant, says of the leadership team, “We work together to plan rehearsals that incorporate times for music, motions, and activities—like Zumba and Game Time—that are fun and engaging. We also include Story Time with a Bible story that emphasizes the truths that we’re singing. Of course, these rehearsals would not be possible without our amazing team of volunteers!”

“From the first rehearsal, we emphasize the Kids Choir motto: ‘We are here to learn to sing God’s truth to ourselves and to others.’ This is exactly what corporate worship is all about. Not only do we express our individual praise to God, but we also encourage those around us to join in singing these incredible truths. As we prepare the kids to sing on the stage, we emphasize that they are not just performing, but truly leading our church in worship.”

However, getting up on stage to lead worship can seem intimidating, especially to young children. Julie says, “Many times, rising 1st graders or kids who are new to Kids Choir are nervous to attend their first rehearsal. By the end, they are begging not to leave (Game Time and candy also help)! As they lead on Sunday morning, it is so rewarding to see how their confidence has grown in just a few short weeks. As the 5th graders prepare to ‘graduate’ in the spring semester, we give them the opportunity to share about their favorite parts of Kids Choir. It is amazing to see how kids who entered the choir as 1st graders (perhaps apprehensively) have grown into confident leaders who encourage those around them.” 

Julie’s most rewarding experience with Kids Choir came a few years ago. “There was a child getting baptized who shared that God had used the song from Kids Choir to open their heart to the gospel. It is an amazing privilege to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of these children.”

It is life-changing moments like this that drive the song selection and songwriting of the Worship Team as they make arrangements for Kids Choir. The song being sung this morning, “Mercy,” is an example of that. It was first introduced last summer on the Rock the Block album put together by our Worship Team. Daniel Renstrom, Worship Pastor at Brook Hills, recalls, “Phyliss Wright, Associate Children's Minister at Brook Hills, asked if we would consider writing some songs that they could use for Rock the Block. As she and I talked about the lessons they were writing, one recurring theme was the mercy of God. So, that afternoon I started tinkering with some melody and lyric ideas we might use. I loved the idea of singing the letters to the word, ‘mercy,’ and then explaining what it meant to have mercy from God.”

“One thing I enjoy about writing kids’ songs is the challenge of saying something deep in a simple way. For me, what makes this song deep is our explaining the idea of mercy from Psalm 23. The word in that Psalm for ‘follow,’ as in, ‘surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,’ actually means ‘pursue’ or 'hunt down.’ The picture is more of an army chasing down an enemy than a puppy following after its owner. So in the bridge we wrote, ‘I wake up every morning, Your mercy follows me, through every hill and valley, You’re walking next to me.’ I hope that when all these kiddos think of mercy, they think of God right beside them, all the time, in happy times and sad times. I want them to remember that they are pursued by God so that He can give them mercy.”

Tiffany Hailston, who has served as the Kids Choir Director for the past several years, also contributed to the writing of “Mercy.” She says serving in this way felt like a natural fit after directing an international children’s choir for several years, touring around the U.S. with children from seven different countries who spoke English as their second language. She recalls, “It was a little different than what you see on a Kids Choir Sunday at Brook Hills. Instead of around 100+ kids crammed on risers, it was 15 kids moving all over the place. And instead of standing on the stage with my back to everyone (in case you're wondering, this part does NOT feel natural), I directed from my seat on the front row. One thing is the same though—the rich truths we sing about. The melodies and lyrics may be simplified for kids, but the truths are not watered down at all.”
In fact, one of her favorite parts of Kids Choir is that it creates an opportunity for people to hear these truths. “It opens the door for some people to come into our gathering that would otherwise not step foot in a church. They come because their grandchild, niece, or nephew is singing and are exposed to the gospel as a result. I have had a mom tell me this more than once, and I think it’s amazing!”
“Kids Choir isn’t just for the adorable faces on the risers. It’s for our whole faith family. We never outgrow the need to be reminded of what’s true—from the littlest kid swaying the wrong direction to the person who’s been walking with God the longest. In a fresh way, we hope ‘M-E-R-C-Y...’ gets stuck in your head too, and more importantly, in your heart.”