Connecting through music
What does it look like to love your neighbour as yourself when that includes sticky fingers, smelly nappies and tired parents? An introduction to mainly music. By Jo Hood
Created in New Zealand in 1990, mainly music is a framework for your ministry to community families with young children. Designed for churches to pick up and run with, mainly music not only provides your church with a sustainable ministry model, the organisation considers itself a partner with you in this vital community connection. There are on-going resources and support provided to ensure the journey is less strenuous and more achievable.
So what actually is mainly music?
Each week, families or carers and pre-school children come for a thirty minute, fun and interactive music session. Less obvious, is that the material has been selected for its usability with pre-schoolers, it’s interactivity between grown-up and child/baby, and its developmental impact. Follow the music with eat/play/chat – snacks and refreshments for the children before the toys come out; and hospitality for the adults where they manage to finish a hot cuppa, talk with adults, and find themselves enveloped by care from the church-based volunteer team.
It was the end of term featuring an animal theme day. Sally had gone into room to get the toys out. A mum came in, giving a big sigh. Finding out that things were not great, Sally asked the mum to stay put. Sally returned with a cup of tea and sat for 30 minutes listening to mum’s struggles. She felt bold enough to offer prayer. A moment of deep connection.
A story from a Baptist church in the UK
Let’s pull the session apart.
The music session has been designed to be presented by anyone with a mustard seed of courage. You don’t need to be musical. The whole session is an experience of attachment theory, so needed in today’s hurried and pressured family life. Attachment is the lasting emotional bond that a child forms with a specific person, preferably their parents, that provides safety, comfort, soothing and pleasure. Children who are securely attached are more likely to be resilient under stress, have better relationships and enter school ready to learn.
Children will engage with educational concepts, waving scarves, participating in a song while holding a section of the Lycra panel, finding the beat with claves, and importantly, hearing messages about how they have been created and who God is. The majority of material is selected because of attachment and development outcomes. The ‘God songs’ (up to three) are selected carefully to convey messages about who God is, how each of us has been created, and a smattering of songs about Bible characters.
During the session, the volunteer team members are encouraged to present a message of faith, something applicable to being the parent or carer of a pre-school child, providing a word of encouragement for life. This is often where the rubber hits the road as the volunteers grapple with what faith means to them, how they can make it real for others (and not use Christianese) and whether people will chat about the content afterwards. Material is provided to make these messages easier to share.
Following the structured portion of the session, children enjoy refreshments before playing with toys, providing them with social interaction. Unstructured play is also rich with developmental outcomes.
As children have been provided with 30 minutes of focused attention, they (for the most part) are happy to play unsupervised, providing mums, dads, grandparents and carers with an extended moment to appreciate the hospitality of the church and chat to people who oftentimes become friends for life. This is time for the team members to get to know people deeply, listen for the prompt of the Holy Spirit, and speak encouragement. It is also a time when team members can offer to pray when families are caught up in difficult situations, and provide care and support.
The vast majority of mainly music teams comment how they realise everything has been carefully thought through and designed to be a platform for ministry.
Here’s a UK story that provides a window into what occurs. We’ve changed names and details to retain anonymity.
The group had two mums who joined mainly music a year or so ago, Alice and Lisa. They were friends before coming and weren’t really interested in joining in. Basically, they wanted ‘entertainment’. Melissa, the Team Leader, made it her mission to get them involved. Not only did she succeed, Lisa joined the team a few months ago. She just wanted to help out and be part of the team. Melissa identified her as a person of peace. After months of working with the team who have been sharing Jesus with her, Lisa has now become a follower of Jesus. She even prayed at the team prayer time before the session. Alice now also wants to join the team. She overheard Lisa praying and began asking questions, wanting to know more about Jesus!
The Revd Dave Morris, minister at Hope Baptist Church in Stourbridge, is an advocate of mainly music. He says,
'During 25 years in local church paid ministry I have regularly been involved in toddler group work. Since restarting our toddler work as a mainly music group just over a year ago I have seen more fruit in that one year than in the previous 24 years! Because the God-content is a natural part of the sessions we can naturally have conversations about faith and offer prayer as appropriate – and even a baby dedication in one case.
'I wholeheartedly commend this ministry to any local church struggling to find a way in for the Christian message during their toddler group sessions.'
Images | mainly music
For more information – email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit mainlymusic.org– to find out how your church might partner with mainly music
Jo Hood leads mainly music