Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

Martin Luther believed in the concept of “say and sing.” This idea was to combine the memorization of God’s word in speech and in song. He firmly believed that children must be taught at a very early age to incorporate the Word into their daily lives. Luther believed that doctrine is taught in part through the music of the church. He emphasized music as God’s—not man’s—creation, and as God’s gift to man to be used in His praise and proclamation. In seeing all of music as under God’s redemptive hand, Luther underscored the freedom of the Christian to use music in the proclamation of the Gospel, working with the Divine service to teach and build the Body of Christ. The music that developed in the “say and sing” concept is the very hymns and doctrine that is found in our hymnals today. Therefore this music and incorporated scripture must be taught to our children.

Secular research supports the beliefs held by Martin Luther. Musical aptitude is a product of innate potential and very early environmental influences. Every child is born with a unique musical aptitude: every child is born with a potential for understanding and performing rhythmic, tonal, and interpretive elements of music. This aptitude fluctuates from child to child in the primary grades, yet every child has this innate potential. However, what is most interesting to note is that research clearly indicates one’s musical aptitude is impervious to practice and training at about age ten. (Gordon, 1971)

The National Commission on Excellence in Education 1983 describes parents as the initial and most dominant educator in children’s lives. Parents begin instruction, often at early ages. They continue that guidance and direction into adolescence. Bensen, Galbraith, and Espeland (1995) in their research, relate that the single greatest need for adolescents is to have parents that really care and are involved in their lives. The Christian psychologist, Dr. James Dobson maintains that our society is one and really only one generation from loosing our distinctive Christian heritage. For example, if we were not to teach our children about Christ, the faith and doctrine of the church would vanish quickly.

We as parents need no further foundation for teaching our children the music of the Lutheran church. Secular research indicates that we must teach our children at an early age and that we must remain an influence in our children’s lives. We learn from Luther the need to “say and sing,” to learn the doctrine of the church and to put it in practice in the Divine Service. Too often parents are influenced by sectarian fads and by what makes our children happy and content. We must remain the guides in their lives by teaching and using the hymns of the Church to teach all purity of the Word. What a tragedy it would be if the doctrine of the Lutheran church were to waiver because either we were not teaching the hymns or we were teaching “watered-down” theology through God’s gift of music.

It is truly a blessing at Christ Lutheran Church to have solid curriculum in our Sunday School. Our pastor and our elders hold high the value of teaching our children firm, confessional Lutheran Doctrine in hymnody and catechesis. Furthermore, it is an additional blessing that we do this from young to old in our congregation with several weekly opportunities for Bible study and the Divine Service.

Coming in November: Hymns of the Lutheran Church

Benson, P.L., Galbraith, J., & Espeland, P. (1995). What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Co.
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on Music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Gordon, E. (1971). The psychology of teaching music, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice- Hall, Inc.
Zdzinski, S.F. (1992). Relationships among parent involvement, musical aptitude and musical achievement in students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 40, 114-26.