Where Do We See the Gospel in These Popular Sunday School Songs?

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
Where Do We See the Gospel in These Popular Sunday School Songs?

When parents drop their little ones off at Sunday school, they trust the people teaching the lessons will make sure the curriculum is pure and points to God. It’s a given that the Sunday school teachers will lead the littles in songs because youngsters love to sing and it’s a great way to keep them occupied. But what’s included in the popular songs they sing as their parents are worshiping in the sanctuary? Do the songs often sung in this environment speak the Gospel to the children?

We’re going to take a look at ten time-honored Sunday school songs, and then we’ll view five purely Gospel-oriented songs.

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Where Is the Gospel in Ten Popular Sunday School Songs?

Young boy holding a paper heart in front of his face

(Unless noted, all the songs on this list are licensed as Public Domain and may be found on the Hymnary website.)

1. Jesus Loves Me

Written by Anna Bartlett Warner

You’re humming this now, aren’t you? I am as I write this, and well, let’s say I’m way past Sunday school age. It’s a great truth and the song’s second verse exposes at least part of the Gospel to those singing it.

“Jesus loves me He who died
heaven's gate to open wide.
He will wash away my sin,
let His little child come in.”

Yes, He will wash away our sin, but not until we come to Him in repentance and faithJesus Loves Me includes a good introduction to the Gospel.

Scripture references: John 3:16, Romans 8:35-39, and 1 John 3:16.

2. This Little Light of Mine

Admit it, you’re going to hum each one as you read its title, right? Me, too.

The only way a person is going to realize the Gospel in this song is if they look up the applicable Scripture references.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
Jesus gave it to me
Shine, shine, shine”

The light, of course, is Christ in us. At least it’s those who keep Jesus as Savior and Lord. Jesus said “You are the light of the world” to His followers. He then told them it’s not to be hidden under a basket, but instead, they should let it shine before others. An astute teacher will explain how Jesus gave them the light to shine, which is another way to share the Gospel with them.

Scripture references: Matthew 5:14-16, 43-44, Mark 4:21-23, and Ephesians 5:8-14.

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3. Jesus Loves the Little Children

Little kids praying

This little hymn is a look at unity. A person’s color does not matter to Jesus; He loves everyone.

Verses two and the first line of verse three include Gospel bits. 

Verse 2: “Jesus died for all the children,
All the children of the world.
Red, brown, yellow, black, and white,
They are precious in His sight
Jesus died for all the children of the world.”

Verse 3: “Jesus rose for all the children…”

Once again, the lyrics are leading but not conclusive. Why did Jesus die, and what does it mean He rose? These are important questions that, left unanswered, will create a hole-filled Gospel.

Scripture reference: Matthew 18:5

4. I’ve Got the Joy Joy Joy Down in My Heart

1. I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy,
Down in my heart,
Down in my heart to stay.

The remaining verses begin:

2. I've got the peace that passeth understanding,

3. I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus

4. For there is therefore now no condemnation…

Believers indeed have joy, and our joy comes from hearts filled with Jesus. Once again, part of the Gospel is in the lyrics.

Scripture references: Psalm 57:7, Romans 8:1, Ephesians 4:7, Philippians 4:7, and 1 Peter 1:8.

5. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

This is a traditional spiritual.

Okay, the Gospel is not in this song — at all. What it has is a wonderful description of God’s sovereignty. He indeed does have the whole world, the weather, and all people in His Almighty hands. The path to the Gospel using this song would be one that says to the singers, “And what does this mean for us?”

“He's got the whole world in his hands…
He's got everybody here in his hands.” 

Scripture references: Job 12:10, Psalm 47, Matthew 11:29, and John 10:28-29.

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6. Deep and Wide

Group of young kids sitting together, making faces

Deep and wide is a very easy song and has no direct reference to the Gospel. It’s catchy and easy to remember the simple lyrics.

“Deep and wide
There's a fountain flowing deep and wide”

7. I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

A decision has been made and part of the cost is no turning back. Once we follow Jesus with all our hearts, we stay the course He has set before us. The cross is mentioned but no mention is made of what it takes to follow Jesus.

“I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back…

The world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.”

Scripture references: Matthew 4:20, 9:9, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:57-62, and John 12:26.

8. My God Is So Big

“My God is so great, so strong and so mighty!
There's nothing my God cannot do!
The mountains are His, the rivers are His,
the stars are His handiwork too.”

“My God Is So Big” is a wonderful introduction to God’s sovereignty, and if applied well in lessons to the children, it will lead to a Gospel presentation.

Scripture reference: Psalm 95:1-7

9. Oh, How I Love Jesus

“O how I love Jesus,
because He first loved me!

It tells me of a Savior's love,
who died to set me free; 

it tells me of his precious blood,
the sinner's perfect plea.”

This song is a genuine response to what Jesus has done for us because of His love. A lot of the Gospel is in this one!

Scripture references: Matthew 1:21; John 20:31; 1 John 4:19

10. Count Your Blessings

By Johnson Oatman, 1897

“When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

We love to count our blessings, don’t we, and look to the One who enables us to be blessed.

Scripture references: Ephesians 1:3, 5; 1 Corinthians 9:23

For these time-honored and well-known songs, it will behoove the Sunday school teachers to add the Gospel elements missing from them.

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What Are Some Other Recommended Kids’ Worship Songs?

joyful mom and daughter singing praise songs with headphones on

Sovereign Grace Music has a great representation of Gospel-centered songs for children’s Sunday School. 

Five are highlighted here with short snippets of the lyrics:

1. All about Jesus

“He died on the cross to take our place
The final substitute and eternal grace
Then He rose from the grave and up to the throne
Until He comes again, to gather His own!”

“All About Jesus” leans into the Gospel with lyrics that beg the question, “What did we do that He had to die?”

2. Because You First Loved Me

“It’s me I love a lot
Stuck here I’m tied in knots
I need a Savior
Jesus, set me free to love You more than me”

The songwriter chose to focus on a person’s prideful nature, the source of our sins and woes. And he directs the lyrics to focus instead on Christ, our Savior.

3. God’s Great Family

“Jesus paid the price
When He offered up His life
So we could be part of God’s great family”

“God’s Great Family” speaks of the great price Jesus paid. It leads a child to wonder why He had to go to the cross.

4. Lord, Help Us Forgive

“Our debt was satisfied
On the cross when Jesus died
And if we’ve been forgiven
It’s gotta change the way we’re livin’
How can we hold a grudge
How can we fail to love
Once we have known what mercy is?
Lord, help us forgive”

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Lordn

5. Good and Faithful Shepherd

Young boy yelling into a microphone

“But Jesus gave up His glory
To seek and rescue the lost
To bring us back to His Father
He gave His life on the cross

These lyrics are solid in their Gospel presentation, which would lead children to wonder if they too are lost and in need of Jesus.

We tend to soften the Gospel for children. But God made it so simple, and its truth reaches hearts for all ages. We ought to give children more credit to understand profound truth. As Jesus said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will” (Luke 10:21).

Just as our worship music sets our hearts for the forthcoming sermon message, so too these songs can set a child’s heart to hear more about the Gospel — Jesus Christ.


“Deep and Wide” - Copyright 1947 by Ruth P. Overholtzer in Salvation Songs for Children No. Three

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” - Songwriters: Leslie B. Tucker / Traditional, Lyrics © Songtrust Ave

“All about Jesus,” “Because You first Loved Me,” “God’s Great Family,” “Lord Helps Us Forgive,” “Good and Faithful Shepherd” are all ©Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Churches. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Administrated by Integrity Music. www.SovereignGraceMusic.org

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Westend61

Lisa Baker 1200x1200Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.