Darrell Stetler II
55 Hymns Every Child Should Know
Why Should Your Children Learn Classic Hymns?
This collection is far from exhaustive, but these are 55 hymns that every kid should know. Hymns and the singing of them shaped my childhood. Rarely a day went by from age 8 until age 20 that I wasn't singing at least one of these. I'm grateful that my parents taught me to sing, value, and memorize these hymns as a child.
Great hymns are a treasury of the Church through history.
They function as a repository of truth and passion for Christ. They:
remind and encourage the saints
While there are plenty of modern songs that are timely, there are also some that are timeless, and I think every child should learn.
You probably will have ideas of songs that should be added to this list, songs you'd like to teach your own children, of course. But this list is a great starting place for using classic Christian music to help disciple your children.
How to Use Hymns In Your Family Worship Time
Here are some tips for using these hymns in your own family discipleship time:
1. Have a specific time where you sing them. I'd recommend the dinner table, the morning, or the evening. My family sings hymns such as the Doxology, frequently as we are gathering for the evening meal.
2. Engage the stories. The 2nd or 3rd day that you practice one of these, make a game to find the stories of these hymns. Many of the hymn stories in this notebook are found here: https://sermonwriter.com/hymn-stories/hymn-stories/
3. Sing heartily. I’d encourage you to sing these classic hymns together with your children, even if you feel like you don’t sing well. The only thing worse than singing badly is not singing!
In the modern era, when the arts have been neglected, lost, twisted, and corrupted, people frequently feel uncomfortable singing. They may feel as though only the greatest voices are worthy of being lifted. But this simply not true! Your voice is valuable, and your surrendering of that tool for praise is beautiful to the Lord, regardless of whether it’s “radio-worthy.”
4. Embrace the awkwardness. Your kids will feel awkward – and possibly complain. That is fine – do it anyway. Don’t make an issue of it that sets up a huge confrontation, but over time continually model an enthusiastic singing of praise before them. Create enough volume yourself that they feel comfortable lifting their voices a little louder, and their comfort level will grow.
55 Hymns You Must Teach Your Child
#1: The Doxology
This classic, Trinitarian statement of God's worthiness of praise and willingness to bless ought to be in your child's mind from the earliest memories they have! The word picture of all Creation joined in praise is classic!
#2: Amazing Grace
This is probably the most famous hymn of all time, sung and loved by millions around the world for its simple, testimony-based statement of the Gospel. If you've been in church for long, your children will probably already know the lyrics to this one. But if they don't already, your kids should definitely know the hymn Amazing Grace.
3. Before the Throne of God Above
This theologically rich hymn speaks beautifully of our "great High Priest whose name is Love" pleading for us at the right hand of God the Father. Your children should grow up being discipled to rest themselves in the faithfulness of Jesus, not their own efforts!
4. O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
This beautiful hymn text is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, who lived approximately 1,000 years ago. A meditation on Jesus' crucifixion, that concludes with the beautiful desire, "Oh, let me never, never outlive my love for thee!"
5. Holy, Holy, Holy
One of the greatest Trinitarian hymns in English, this soaring lyric proclaims the majesty and holiness of God. As it says, "All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky and sea!" In a day where the Trinity is not accepted by some large groups, it's important to choose hymns to teach your children that express this doctrine.
6. My Tribute
A Modern classic by Andre Crouch, this statement of the worthiness of God to receive all the glory is marvelous. This Gospel version is passionate. Every child should learn to sing this great hymn.
7. How Firm a Foundation
This hymn expresses the absolute trustworthiness of God to his children as expressed in His Word. The majority of the song is paraphrased and arranged quotes of Scripture. Teach your children to trust the promises of God with this beautiful song.
8. Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
An exuberant musical setting by Beethoven and a powerful lyric expressing the glory of God makes this song one that every child should sing.
9. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Charles Wesley is perhaps the greatest hymn writer in English. This beautiful song expresses the deep desire that Jesus would establish his pure love in the hearts of his people, and let it rule there without rival. What a marvelous hymn to teach your kids!
10. This is My Father's World
My favorite line in this hymn is "That though the wrong seem oft so strong, God is the ruler yet... the battle is not done! Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one." That's a message in this hymn that every child should remember!
11. In Christ Alone
Another modern classic, this hymn's rugged expression of trust in Jesus deserves to be memorized by every child.
12. Rock Of Ages
A great hymn to teach your family, with it's single focus on Jesus as the only source of salvation. Beautiful statement of "Sola Christus" (Christ alone!).
13. Trust and Obey
The value of simple obedience to Christ is lifted up for your child's consideration in this classic hymn that your family should memorize. Imagine the value of your child remembering at the right moment, that the way to be "happy in Jesus" is to "Trust and Obey!"
14. Wonderful Grace of Jesus
A fascinating and fun arrangement of this song, with a fun moving bass line and backtime doesn't obscure the marvelous words. Your child should definitely know this amazing song!
15. My Savior's Love
Is there anything more important for your child to know than the love of Jesus? This song lifts up the sacrificial love of Christ, who "took my sins and my sorrows and made them his very own." There will be a moment in the life of your children where they will be so glad that they know this classic Christian hymn.
16. O For A Heart to Praise My God
Charles Wesley's classic hymn expresses a longing for the transformation of the heart into "a copy, Lord, of thine." Wesley's longing for "Christian perfection" is the cry of every heart of a follower of Christ. This is one of the best hymns to teach your children!
17. Arise, My Soul, Arise
After John & Charles Wesley wrestled for years with doubt and uncertainty about their salvation, their faith took hold of the finished work of Christ on their behalf. This is one of the greatest hymns in the English language, and definitely one of the best hymns to teach your family.
18. It Is Well With My Soul
One of the most powerful hymn stories, the story of a soul at peace after unimaginable sorrow and loss. It has been a source of comfort to generations of Christians. My favorite lyrics to teach my kids include "My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His Cross and I bear it no more..."
19. A Mighty Fortress is our God
The classic hymn of the Reformation, Martin Luther's gutsy, militant lyrics reminds us of the unshakable Kingdom of Christ in the face of all Satan's schemes. If the lyrics of this song are taught to your children, the Lord will bring it back at the right moment in their life.
20. Blessed Assurance
Fanny Crosby, blind since infancy, wrote this classic hymn of trust and rest in Christ, reminding us that "perfect submission" is "perfect delight."
21. Be Thou My Vision
Some of the most poetic lyrics, along with a beautiful tune, make this a great hymn to sing with your family as you gather for a family meal.
22. The Old Rugged Cross
A classic that spans multiple genres, but closely tied to country or Americana music, this simple melody and message makes it a great hymn to teach your family.
23. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
This great hymn to sing with your family is one that we use to gather for supper before the evening meal at my home. Our favorite line is "O, to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be / Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my yielded heart to thee!" This version includes the words "prone to wander, Lord I feel it / prone to leave the God I love." But I grew up singing a version that frankly, I like even better: "Let me know thee in thy fulness, guide me by thy mighty hand / Til transformed in thine own image, in thy presence I shall stand."
24. Take My Hand, Precious Lord
This modern classic is popular in African-American churches. According to Wikipedia, "[Thomas] Dorsey wrote "Precious Lord" in response to... the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932. (Mr. Dorsey can be seen telling this story in the 1982 gospel music documentary Say Amen, Somebody.)
25. What a Friend We Have in Jesus
A simple and relaxing tune with a simple and peaceful message.
26. Great is Thy Faithfulness
This more modern hymn has become beloved far and wide for its powerful lyrics. This one is a favorite of the Stetler family. We sang it at my grandmother's funeral and many times around the table. This is definitely a hymn that I want my children to memorize.
27. I Know Whom I Have Believed
The lyrics of each verse begin with "I know not..." but the chorus comes back each time with a confident assurance in the words of the Apostle Paul, "I know whom I have believed!" I want my kids to know this great song for future times when they need to know some things that don't change.
28. The Solid Rock
So many great songs of assurance and confidence in God, instead of our own works or our own feelings. This hymn is one of the best to teach your kids the vital perspective of trust in Christ alone!
29. My Faith Has Found a Resting Place
This is one of my personal favorites. I don't trust just in creeds or theological systems. My trust rests in a personal Savior who has died for me.
30. Nothing But the Blood of Jesus
The simplicity of this song makes it easy for children to memorize. The depth of it will teach them valuable theology.
31. Jesus Saves
This is an incredible song for teaching values about missions. Jesus is saving the nations, and we ought to be about living out the mission of God in the world. If you want to teach your kids about missions, teach your kids this hymn in the process.
32. And Can it Be That I Should Gain?
We return to Charles Wesley for another powerful hymn of worship about salvation. His description of the lostness and helplessness of people in sin "Long my imprisoned spirit lay," followed by the powerful work of prevenient grace that opens the cell door and frees us, is second to no picture of salvation in Christian hymns.
33. How Great Thou Art
One of the most beloved and most-recorded of English hymns about the greatness of God demonstrated in Creation and in the Atonement.
34. To God Be the Glory
Not to be confused with My Tribute, which we covered earlier, this older hymn expresses the glory of God in his mighty acts of redemption.
35. Victory In Jesus
"But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" When you're discipling your children, you want them to know that victory is possible thru Christ. Teach this classic hymn to your children.
36. The Bible Stands
This song is a more recent addition to the list, by the Nazarene hymn writer, Haldor Lillenas. It expresses gratitude to God for the trustworthy revelation in His written Word, that teaches us to know His Living Word, Jesus.
37. Standing On the Promises of God
Another hymn on the value of God's Word. I am teaching this song to my children because I want them to understand the written revelation of God is trustworthy.
38. A Charge to Keep I Have
Charles Wesley appears on this list more than any other single author. He wrote over 6,000 hymns, and this one is simple, but one of his best. "To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill / O May it all my powers engage to do my master's will." If my child can learn this truth from this great hymn, it will make the work of discipleship with my children worth it.
39. When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts is another of the greatest hymn writers in our language. This hymn is one of my favorites to sing, with it's meditation on the Cross -- and worship and surrender at the foot of the cross!
40. Take Time to Be Holy
Spending time with God is necessary to holiness. It is something I need to remember, and this hymn helps me and my family remember this is true.
41. I Want a Principle Within
Charles Wesley's deep desire to stand firm over temptation and live in victory over sin is expressed in this unique hymn. The sentiments he expresses are an outflow of grace -- not just undeserved kindness, but enabling power to live for Christ with a whole heart.
42. Hallelujah! What a Savior (Man of Sorrows)
As a meditation on Christ's suffering, this song expresses the deep surprise, wonder, and awe of finding that the King of All Kings is also a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
43. Thanks to God, Whose Word Was Spoken
A modern hymn from the 1950s, this unique lyric takes you on a journey from God's Word in Creation to Moses, to Christ as the Living Word, to the Written Word coming through the Holy Spirit.
44. Our God Reigns
Lyrics from the prophets placed into poetic meter, with a rousing chorus. Much of the verses comes directly from Isaiah 53. My children and my church love to sing this beautiful hymn.
45. Just As I Am
This hymn is sometimes treated as a hymn of invitation, as it is. But it is more, and I encourage my family to think of it as a hymn that is appropriate for regular use.
46. The Church’s One Foundation
There are too few hymns written about the nature and power of God's people, the Church. This hymn is the greatest one I've heard. Teaching your children the theology of the church is so important in a day when many abandon the church for solo "Christianity."
47. Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Charles Wesley makes yet another appearance on this list of hymns. "Death in vain forbids him rise." Praise to our risen Savior!
48. Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Beautiful Advent hymn about the longing of the world, waiting for Christ's first coming. Did I mention that Charles Wesley was the greatest hymn writer in the English language?
49. Our Great Savior
Our Great Savior lifts up Jesus is all his titles: Friend of Sinners, Lover of My Soul, Guide and Keeper, Help in Sorrow, Strength in Weakness, Pilot and more. Theologically rich and experientially deep.
50. Jesus Paid it All
This song, in its simplicity, lifts up the fully sufficient work of Christ on the cross to completely pay the debt for our sin & bring us to God. If I was to have my children remember a list of 57 songs, this one would be on it. :)
51. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
A powerful hymn singing attributes of God. His eternality, his power, invisibility, and benevolent Fatherhood are all powerfully represented in these lyrics. This version from Maranatha has a version of Great are You Lord inserted as well.
52. Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
53. Rejoice! The Lord is King
A powerful lyric by Charles Wesley lifts up God as King, and calls Christians to feel rightly about it -- Rejoice!
54. Praise to the Lord, The Almighty
This hymn of worship has one of my favorite lyrics in all of Christian hymnody: "Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been / granted in what he ordaineth?" What a marvelous way to express God's providence!
55. How Deep the Father's Love for Us
This powerful song is one of the newest on the list. And what a powerful message for your family to know! "I know that it is finished."
56. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
One final Charles Wesley hymn. As the only Christmas hymn on this list, I must say it is one of the most powerful Christological lyrics ever written outside of Scripture. "Veiled in flesh, the godhead see / Hail the Incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel!"
57. The Power of the Cross
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend are writing some very powerful songs. One of the greatest is this poetic expression of the power of the Cross and its substitutionary atonement to transform lives.
Well, that's it. There are 57 hymns that every child should know.
Tips for Discipling Your Children
Discipling kids is a huge task. Just a single post of hymns won't get the job done. How do we disciple our children to be faithful and passionate Christians?
The collection of hymns every child must know is included in the Discipleship In the Home Resource Notebook to help with that task.
If you want a resource notebook that helps you disciple your family by using Scripture, hymns, and catechism, please check out the free "Discipleship In the Home" audiobook and other family discipleship resources available there.