If you think that Songs for Saplings is just for kids, you would be wise to think again. Parents around the globe have shared stories of how their own hearts, as well as the hearts of their children, have been enriched by Dana Dirksen’s songs based on the love of Jesus and the truth of scripture.
As the current Program Administrator for Scripture Memory Fellowship, Randy Williamson is particularly excited about encouraging others to use Songs for Saplings music with their families. He is grateful that the songs are full of Biblical truth yet not cartoonish. As one who spent years training to play classical guitar, he appreciates good music and desires to share that with his children. Many nights when he sits down with his guitar will he play a Songs for Saplings tune - sometimes for himself, and sometimes for family worship.
“May my prayer be set before you like incense.” These words from Psalm 141:2 are from Randy’s favorite track (I-Incense) on the original “Songs for Saplings ABC” album. He discovered that album before he even had children of his own, and that song is one of many from Songs for Saplings that his two daughters now enjoy singing.
His own belief about the value of memorizing scripture took root about eight years ago, but the seeds were planted long before. It was at the age of 10 that Randy came to saving faith through an older cousin who shared the gospel with him. After graduating from homeschool at the age of 16, he passed up a scholarship to study classical guitar in order to attend Blue Mountain Bible College and follow a call to ministry. By the age of 19, he had graduated and was pastoring churches while also working to complete his Master’s Degree and Doctor of MInistry. He was introduced to Songs for Saplings by Ms. Debbie, a dear employee at the Covenanters’ Corner Bookstore in Memphis, Tennessee that he regularly visited while serving as a pastor in the Mississippi Delta. It was also during this time that he met and married his wife, Tricia.
After years of caring for people experiencing a lot of poverty and hopelessness, Randy found himself in a state of ministerial depression. He realized that he needed help to change his own negative patterns of thinking and it was in memorizing scripture that he found this help. Regular scripture memory helped bring about change in his life and also in the lives of those whom he was counseling.
It was also around that time that he learned he and Tricia were expecting their first child, and he began to think even more seriously about the value of memorizing scripture. “There are certain things I want my children to never remember not knowing, certain things woven into their DNA,” he shared. Among these are particular Psalms, catechism questions, and the Lord’s Prayer.
Randy reminds parents that the best time to begin discipling their children was yesterday! As he points out, “If I don’t disciple my children, the world will.” When he first heard the original Songs for Saplings, “it was doing what I was wanting.”
When his daughters were younger, they would play the songs in the background on road trips and at nap times. Now that Audrey is 5 and Kennedy is 8 years old, they incorporate the music of Songs for Saplings into times of family worship. He’s found that adding body movements to the music helps, and is also a whole lot of fun! And because the songs mostly utilize 1, 4, and 5 chords, not only can he play along on the guitar - but now his girls also join in with their ukuleles. The music, while enjoyable to hear, play and sing, provides a natural means to memory.
So while Randy loved using Songs for Saplings with his family, it is natural that he would now share with others about Songs for Saplings as part of his job. After years as a pastor, he is grateful that the “Lord, by his providence, opened the door for him to serve in a parachurch ministry” with Scripture Memory Fellowship. First introduced to the ministry in 2019 while attending a homeschool convention with his wife, he was soon invited onto the board and then asked to join the staff full-time. Randy and his coworkers labor so that others might “Know, Live, and Love Scripture” through the provision of scripture memory tools and curriculum.
As program administrator, he devotes a lot of time to writing content and commentary for the SMF website and VerseLocker app (which has over 64,000 subscribers). He also partners with churches and other organizations to develop scripture memory programs. One of the long-existing programs for kids rewards them with a week of summer camp if they complete a scripture memory course.
An exciting part of their ministry was the launch of a new podcast in mid-March, called The Scripture Memory Podcast. The aim of the podcast is to provide listeners with motivation and techniques for memorizing scripture, as well as to provide a platform to interview partners in the cause. If you listen to the podcast you’ll hear Dana Dirksen featured as a guest on an upcoming episode, talking with Randy and his team about Songs for Saplings!
For both Randy and Dana, none of this work is focused on them, just as the purpose of knowing scripture and catechism responses has nothing to do with the goodness of the individual and everything to do with the goodness of God. As the prophet Jeremiah declared, “but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (9:24)