Growing older is especially difficult for those who work with young people (youth ministers, teachers, coaches) because every year you are introduced to an even younger version of the teenagers you knew last year. Each year you feel more out of touch, your experience of youth is far detached from any reality of the present. It happens.
What never changes is that music is important to teenagers and it always will be. So knowing new music helps you understand the world of a teenager. Here’s why:
- Music is the narrative to their lives. Everyone remembers the music of their wonder years! Music is new and exciting to teenagers because it adds spice to life. It’s something they choose for themselves as they develop their identities. The ideas and trends in music in some way influence teenagers in your youth group and their friends. Know those trends!
- Entertainers are role models. A artist’s lyrics are not always the biggest influence on a young person. Sometimes it’s their larger-than-life persona that can captivate a young mind. So you need to know what those role models are saying.
- Teenagers respect an educated opinion. It’s one thing to say that Lil Jon is bad, it’s another thing to explain, “Lil Jon’s music is easy to dance to, but most of it is insulting to women and quite frankly, he’s predictable. He uses the same themes and same sound in every song. He seems more interested in being popular than making good music.”
So how do you do it? Nobody tells you what’s popular more conveniently than FM radio. If you are into multitasking, learning about “teen music” through the radio is pretty easy because you’re already in the car, and well, what else are you going to do? So brave through it! It doesn’t matter if you don’t like hip hop or country or hard rock, give each of those music stations a chance. You’ll find that each station has one thing in common: they play 30 songs over and over. Within two weeks you’ll know most new music. Within a month, you’ll know about new bands before kids in your youth group find out. It’s that easy.
If you are careful with what you “support with your dollar,” have a little bit of peace that you aren’t buying the CD or downloading the MP3s of these artists. The radio is a responsible way to be educated on new music without supporting decadence. And if you are concerned that you tell teenagers not to listen to some music and you don’t want to be a hypocrite, you need to have at least an idea of what it is you think is bad music. From a different perspective, you’ll never know if there’s uplifting music that’s popular if you don’t give it a chance.
If you don’t have access to an FM radio or you don’t own a car, you can always read our music reviews on lifeteen.com. Although we write the reviews for teenagers, we like to think these reviews are cliff notes for busy youth ministers. Our format keeps things consistent and easy to understand:
- At a Glance: We let you know why the band matters, and give you a clue what they sound like.
- Pro-social Content: We read through the lyrics to look for positive themes, then listen to the album for positive sounds.
- Questionable Content: Sometimes it’s just a couple songs on an album that can be negative. We find them and tell you why.
- Summary: If you only have 20 seconds, skip here and we’ll tell you whether a CD is worth your time or money, or worth recommending to teenagers.
Don’t forget, the teenagers in your youth group need you to be a student of the Gospel than of pop-culture. So if you have to make a decision between listening to Fall Out Boy or an audio Bible study on your drive into the church, opt for the Good News.