By Jennifer McClure
This a cappella trio shares the gospel with kids and parents
Suited up in red, white and blue hockey jerseys, Go Fish
takes the stage prepared to lead a throng of preschoolers and elementary school
students hyped on each other’s energy in 90 minutes of organized silliness.
Jamie Statema, Jason Folkmann and Andy Selness quickly
transition from song to song. Keeping everyone on their feet and moving has
proved the best method for holding preciously short attention spans. But their
concerts contrast with the band’s 10-year history, which more resembles a path
painted with unexpected opportunities than any strategically planned set of
Last year, fan-created videos on YouTube brought the Twin
Cities-based trio unexpected attention. One, picturing snapshots of the band
set to their song “Christmas With a Capital ‘C’ ” was viewed more than 7
million times by the close of the Christmas season. Another video — which
uses clips from The Passion of the Christ and various films to illustrate “It’s
About the Cross” — has garnered more than 700,000 views.
Of all the songs on Snow, their 2006 Christmas album, those
two songs, founding member Statema says, “most blatantly laid out the gospel.”
Clearly presenting the gospel holds special significance for Statema, who knows
firsthand the influence a band can have on a child’s life.
He was 10 years old at the time. It was his first concert
— a Christian rock concert — and it blew him away. From the music
to the lights to the excitement, he loved everything about the experience.
Though raised in a Christian home and presented with the gospel several times
before, he says that night it just clicked. He accepted Christ as his Savior.
“You never know what kid is sitting in your audience who may
be impacted enough to dig into the Bible and become a preacher or a
missionary,” he says. “The eternal stuff is what makes it exciting. Record
sales and radio singles, in the big picture, are pretty meaningless.”
When Go Fish first splashed into kids music, their 2003
album, Splash, was supposed to be a one-time, “just for fun” project. But five
years, four albums and one DVD later, they’re still producing and performing
energetic Christian kids music and having a blast doing it.
The trio admits the switch to kid-appealing music was
unexpected but refreshing. Goofy photo shoots and casual apparel could replace
concerns of whether they had the “cool factor” to appeal to teens and
“We were very thankful when we could throw that factor out
the window; it is so not us,” Selness says. “We’re just a bunch of good ole
The welcomed transition came when response to Splash sold
out concerts, bringing nearly 8,000 people to six venues their first weekend of
Since that first album, they have sold 400,000 kids albums.
Their 2007 release Snazzy was Dove Award nominee for Children’s Album. Most
importantly, all three have become fathers — with a total of three girls
and three boys ranging from a few months to 4 years in age.
“When you get a little older and get married and have kids,
it’s hard to remain cool in the mainstream industry,” says Statema, who has two
sons, ages 2 and 4. “With us, the more kids we have the more street credit we
have with the parents.”
Not to mention adding to their fan base.
“My two oldest girls absolutely love our music,” says
Selness of his 4- and 2-year-old daughters. “If they could wear their Go Fish
T-shirts 24/7 they would. It’s very rewarding to see my own kids really take
hold of it.”
With “great music for kids that won’t drive parents bonkers”
as their slogan, Go Fish has set a simple standard to guard against producing
kids songs that get on everybody’s nerves or ones that never end.
“If the song is
lame to us,” Folkmann says, “it’s never going to make it on a CD.”
In today’s culture, kids and parents sometimes seem to be
traveling at warp speed in opposite directions. Having entertainment that young
children, older siblings and parents can all enjoy is something Brian Dollar,
kids pastor at First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Ark., says he
appreciates about Go Fish music.
“Every opportunity that provides something parents and kids
can get into, while at the same time strengthening family relationships, means
a lot to God because families mean a lot to Him,” says Dollar. He and his wife
with their 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter are all Go Fish fans, owning
several albums and listening in the car or at home.
The response to Splash showed Go Fish the need for
kid-friendly music that doesn’t get on everybody’s nerves while delivering
Christian, biblical messages in fun, energetic music.
“This is a market sometimes lacking substance and content,”
Selness says. “There’s super kidsy stuff targeted toward preschool or young
elementary audiences, but there just seems to be a huge gap for anything in
between that and jumping into the pop world.”
Research from the Barna Group shows 43 percent of Christians
in America accept Jesus Christ as Savior before their 13th birthday, and 64
percent before they are 18 years old. Go Fish questions why the Christian music
industry has not put more emphasis on reaching kids.
“Kids music has this stigma that it’s un-cool, and we just
think it’s the greatest thing ever,” Statema says. “If Christian music exists
to share the gospel, then we need to be focusing on these families with young
JENNIFER McCLURE is assistant editor of Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel and blogs at Going Up? (jmcclure.agblogger.org).
TPExtra: MP3 download of “American Kid”
by Go Fish
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