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Music—a Door to Transforming Conversations
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
12/6/2007

I try to make it a regular habit to visit my neighborhood high school campus. After all, nothing keeps you more current with youth culture than simply hanging out with kids. But as often as youth culture shifts and changes, one thing seems to remain the same: kids love their music.

In the 1980’s kids were analog with their Walkmans. Now they are digital with iPods. Either way they’ve got music blaring in their head—music they not only love to listen to, but music they love to talk about.

Pop Quiz:
This Week's Top 10 Songs


"No cheating!"

  1. Name ANY three of the Top 10 songs in America this week.

  2. How many of the Top 10 songs are rock songs?

  3. How many of the Top 10 songs are R & B/Hip Hop?

  4. How many of the Top 10 songs include lyrics about sex/sexual acts?

  5. How many of your kids would have aced this quiz?

"Pencils down!"

ANSWERS:
  1. No One - Alicia Keys (#1), Apologize - Timbaland (#2), Kiss Kiss - Chris Brown (#3)

  2. Zero. Big fat goose egg. None. (What would Joan Jett say about that?)

  3. 9 of the Top 10 songs easily qualify for their R & B/Hip Hop affiliation.

  4. 5 of the Top 10 songs include lyrics that discuss sex in a range from vague to in-your-face.

  5. Probably every single one, sadly.


NOTE: These songs were in the Top 10 during the week of December 1, 2007. See list at bottom of page.

So, how did you do? If you're like most youth workers, you probably didn't do so hot. Let's face it; most of us would rather watch grass grow than MTV or VH1 to find out how today's music is continually subduing our students with its sexual and materialistic message. But, are we forfeiting anything by NOT keeping our eye, and ear, on it?

Let's presume for a moment that every one of the kids that comes to your ministry only listens to Casting Crowns, prays 5 times a day, and never litters. If so, that's great! But what about the kids in your community that are not a part of your group that you really want to reach with God's love? The best way to reach them is to understand them. One of the best ways to understand them is to understand their music.

I'm not advocating you becoming an MTV junkie...constantly trying to find when it is that MTV actually plays music anymore. Nor am I saying that what you find needs to shape you or dilute your message. All I am saying is that you need to be informed.

Here are a couple of really easy ways to keep up with the music that's hot anytime. Simply...

  1. Take a look at your students' mp3 players. You don't need to be sneaky; most students are quite comfortable showing off the vastness of their musical wealth. By quickly scrolling through the "recent" or "most played" playlists, you can get a feel for what is influencing them. Use what you find as a springboard for discussion.


  2. Monitor www.billboard.com once or twice each month. Click on "Charts" to find any genre you think may be helpful to you in your ministry setting. They have a bunch! (FYI, the music charts are compiled by tracking songs that have the most radio play time, the most requests, and the most downloads.) Once or twice each month will give you a great window, as most songs stay on the charts for several weeks.


  3. Monitor music download sites such as iTunes, Napster, or Kazaa. Each of these has a place where you can view the current "most downloaded song." This gives great insight as to what's on those iPods. Speaking of mp3 players...

Arming yourself (and your leaders!) with this information will enhance your effectiveness in reaching lost kids with God's love. At the very least, you will know what's out there. Hopefully though, the knowledge gained will allow you to have life transforming conversations with students, or perhaps even construct some teaching principles you can pass on to every student that has to wade through what's out there.

TOP 10 SONGS December 1, 2007
No One - Alicia Keys
There is no one else for her in life.
RB Hip Hop

Apologize - Timbaland
It is now too late for her to apologize.
RB Hip Hop

Kiss Kiss - Chris Brown
One guy's resume on why he's qualified to kiss kiss the girl that wants it so bad.
RB Hip Hop

Low - Flo Rida
Describing a girl's very provocative dance. Very provocative!
RB Hip Hop

Crank That - Soula Boy
Describing sexual moves with a girl.
RB Hip Hop

Bubbly - Colbie Cailat
Singer describes the feeling her significant other gives her.

Clumsy - Fergie
Singer describes the powerful effect her significant other has on her.
RB Hip Hop

Good Life - Kanye West
Singer describes the life of a star, including materialism, alcohol use, and sex.
RB Hip Hop

Hate That I Love You - Rihanna
Singer laments her strong feelings for her lover that overcome her hatred for him.
RB Hip Hop

Cyclone - Baby Bash
Singer describes the way his girlfriend dances. Very sexual in overtones.
RB Hip Hop

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.



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