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Music Discussions

Just The Way You Are
A Quick Music Discussion Guide
07/20/2012

Main Point of Discussion: God loves us—completely, fully, perfectly—despite the way we are.

The Song: “Just the Way You Are”

Bruno Mars has caught our attention quite a bit at The Source for Youth Ministry in recent months. We’ve already penned curriculum for two of his hit tunes (“Billionaire”—which he cowrote with Travie McCoy—and “Grenade”).

Now comes “Just the Way You Are,” an almost entirely sweet love song that garnered Mars a Grammy last month for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. “Just the Way You Are” spent time atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as its Radio Songs, Digital Songs, Adult Contemporary, and Adult Pop Songs charts. It also topped the iTunes singles chart and finished 2010 as the site’s 18th best-selling single. Not too shabby.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO LEADER ABOUT DISCERNMENT: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce a student to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most students, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.

That said, be mindful regarding some marginally suggestive lyrics in this song that could lead to problems if you ignore them. Specifically, Mars declares that he’d kiss the lips of the subject of his song “all day” if she’d let him and that her laugh is “so sexy.” Certainly not Eminem-land by any stretch, but you may want to mention something to your group that just because you’re studying this song doesn’t mean everything about the song is kosher. (It would be a great love song from husband to wife—much milder than Song of Solomon, in fact. But if the song is indeed from the perspective of a single guy to his girlfriend, he’ll quickly discover that kissing all day usually leads to something else—as God intended—which is a problem if you’re an unmarried Christian couple.)

Leader Tip: A set of questions will revolve around each of your students substituting two of their best inner qualities for two of the outer qualities that Mars admires about the girl in “Just the Way You Are.” So prepare that ahead of time, along with the regular lyric sheet, and make sure there are enough pens/pencils available for everybody. (You can check out an example of the shortened, alternate song lyrics further down; revise and tweak as you see fit.)

Leader Tip 2: Have some candy on hand for prizes—see first few questions below.

Introducing the Song:
Pass around lyric sheets or display them on a wall, then say: Let’s listen to a tune I know you guys have heard—“Just the Way You Are.” Afterward we’ll take a look at the worldview behind its lyrics. Let’s check it out. Show the music video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk) or play the just the song (easily downloadable via the Internet).

    Song Lyrics:
    Oh her eyes, her eyes
    Make the stars look like they’re not shining
    Her hair, her hair
    Falls perfectly without her trying
    She’s so beautiful
    And I tell her every day

    Yeah I know, I know
    When I compliment her
    She won’t believe me
    And it’s so, it’s so
    Sad to think she don’t see what I see
    But every time she asks me, “Do I look okay?”
    I say…

    [chorus]
    “When I see your face
    There’s not a thing that I would change
    Cause you’re amazing
    Just the way you are
    And when you smile
    The whole world stops and stares for a while
    Cause girl you’re amazing
    Just the way you are”

    Her lips, her lips
    I could kiss them all day if she’d let me
    Her laugh, her laugh
    She hates but I think it’s so sexy
    She’s so beautiful
    And I tell her every day

    Oh you know, you know, you know
    I’d never ask you to change
    If “perfect” is what you’re searching for
    Then just stay the same
    So don’t even bother asking
    If you look okay
    You know I say…

    [chorus]

    The way you are (2x)
    Girl you’re amazing
    Just the way you are

    [chorus]

Transitional Statement:
“Just the Way You Are” is a big-time catchy single that a whole lot of people love—but is that only because of Bruno Mars’ smooth singing and pretty melodies? Or could there be a deeper message in the lyrics? The Bible definitely has a few things to say about God’s love for us—and believe it or not, it’s not a “just the way you are” kind of love.


Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.

CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.

Discussion Questions:

  1. AROUND THE CIRCLE: Before we dive in, everybody tell us your name. (Have candy prizes ready for the first person to correctly answer your follow-up question…). Okay, now I have a prize here---and it’ll go to whoever can recite the first verse of another song titled “Just the Way You Are,” written in the previous millennium by a guy named Billy Joel…and there’s an extra prize if you sing it!

    Leader Tip: If you don’t know the answer, it’s “don’t go changin’, to try and please me, you never let me down before…” (And if any students are brave enough to sing the lines, trust us, you’ve heard the song and will know if the melody is correct!)

  2. AROUND THE CIRCLE: In the new “Just the Way You Are,” Bruno Mars sings the praises of the girl of his affections. What does he like about this girl? (Leader—answers you’re looking for: Her eyes, hair, lips, smile, face, and laugh.)

  3. SOMEBODY: Would you describe these as inner qualities or outer qualities? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Outer qualities.)

  4. Read the following passage from the Bible:

      1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV 2011)
      “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

  5. SOMEBODY: According to 1 Samuel 16:7, what qualities does God care more about—inner or outer? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Inner qualities.)

  6. Leader say: Okay, we’ve figured out that God isn’t concerned with outward appearances—just our hearts, our inner qualities. So…let’s try an experiment. (Along with pens/pencils for those who need them, pass out lyric sheets for the shortened version of the song with blank lines in place of the girl’s outer qualities Mars sings about. See example just below…)

      Shortened, Alternate Song Lyrics:
      Yeah I know, I know
      When I compliment her/him
      She/He won’t believe me
      And it’s so, it’s so
      Sad to think she/he don’t see what I see
      But every time she/he asks me, “Am I okay?”
      I say…

      [chorus]
      “When I see your ______
      There’s not a thing that I would change
      Cause you’re amazing
      Just the way you are
      And when you _______
      The whole world stops and stares for a while
      Cause girl/boy you’re amazing
      Just the way you are”

      Oh you know, you know, you know
      I’d never ask you to change
      If “perfect” is what you’re searching for
      Then just stay the same
      So don’t even bother asking
      If you’re okay
      You know I say…

      [chorus]

    Leader continue: I want each of you to read these shortened, alternate lyrics as if God were singing them to you—all you have to do is fill in the two blank lines with your two best inner qualities. I’ll give you a minute or two, and then we’ll continue with the questions. (Wait for a minute or two, resume study…)

  7. A FEW OF YOU: Okay, now that the song is “fixed,” and God is singing about our best inner qualities, let me ask you a question: Do you believe our best inner qualities are the REASONS why God loves us? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: No. God loves us because God decided to love us—not for anything we do or have done.)

    Leader Tip: If any students reply “yes,” avoid embarrassing them by telling them how wrong they are (or letting other students embarrass them). Instead, have a dialogue, choosing some students who said “no” to tell the group why they answered that way and choosing some students who said “yes” to tell the group why they answered that way, too.

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      1 John 4:9-10 (NIV 2011)
      9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

  8. SOMEBODY: According to verse 9, how does God show his love among us? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: God sent Jesus to us so that we might live because of him.)

  9. SOMEBODY: According to verse 10, does God love us because we love him? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: No. God loves us because God chooses to—not because we loved him.)

    Leader say: The Bible’s “lyrics” dismantle our self-righteous attitudes as well as how we view our good inner qualities—even things about us that please God! We see, first of all, that while God delights in our good choices and attitudes, they don’t have anything to do with why God loves us. But that’s not all—God’s love for us goes even deeper and more radical than that. All our goodness, even our great inner qualities that God delights in, are tainted by sin…which keeps us countless universes short of what God expects…and without any chance of entering into a relationship with God on our own.

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      Romans 3:23 (NIV 2011)
      “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

  10. SOMEBODY: According to this verse, what is the sticking point that keeps all of us from reaching that ultimate level—God’s glory? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Sin.)

    Leader say: So not only does God choose to love us, and not only do our inner qualities fail to cause God to love us—but…

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      Romans 5:8 (NIV 2011)
      “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

  11. SOMEBODY: According to this verse, God loves us despite…what? (Leader—answer you’re looking for: Despite us being sinners.)

    Leader say: That’s the gospel right there: God loves us—period. And God shows his love for us through Christ’s death on the cross—period. According to the Bible, Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb paid the price for our sins in God’s eyes, paving the way for us to be able to join Jesus in Heaven through his gift of eternal life. And how does that happen? Check out yet another important passage from Romans…

    Read the following passage from the Bible:

      Romans 10:9-10 (NIV 2011)
      “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

  12. AROUND THE CIRCLE: What are some things you can do this week to express your gratitude to God for how much he loves you?

Wrap Up:
Still liking that Bruno Mars song? I only kid Bruno—“Just the Way You Are” is (mostly) a sweet love song, and there’s nothing wrong with songs like that. This discussion isn’t meant to disparage Bruno or his song; we gathered here to use “Just the Way You Are” as a springboard to look at love on a different level—God’s level. First, we discovered that God cares a whole lot more about our inner qualities than about the qualities Bruno’s song puts on a pedestal. Second, we learned that even when we focus on and develop our inner qualities—and even when God is pleased with our progress—God doesn’t love us because of those things! On the contrary, God loves us…just because God loves us. God decided to love us. Third, how can we be sure God’s emotions aren’t driving his love for us? Because of our HUGE sin problem. Because of sin, “all…fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God isn’t thrilled with our sin—that kinda kills any potential for God having warm fuzzies when it comes to us. The good news, however, is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and all we have to do is declare with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead—and we’ll be saved (Romans 10:9-10). That’s how God shows he loves us.

If any of you want to learn more about following Christ with all your heart and spending the rest of your life (and then some) with him, the other leaders and I will be here for you to talk to—and not just today…anytime! Let’s pray.


Leader Tip: Depending on how you want to approach “the sinner’s prayer” or becoming a Christian theologically, you may or may not want to close the meeting with a prayer that opens the door for students to ask Christ into their hearts—it’s your call…)

Close in Prayer

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Comments on this post

   Mak YOung         3/15/2011 1:55:12 PM

Extremely relevant material. I am leading an all girls retreat next month and our main theme is "Everyone tells me to be myself, but I don't know who i am". One of the topics that we are focusing on is media's influence on a teenage girl's appearance. This would be a perfect approach to teach them about what beauty really his and where it comes from: God. Thank you very much!















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