For most people in Catholic Youth Ministry, summers are packed with youth conferences, summer camps, and mission trips. These are exciting times for your teens because they can get out of town for an summertime adventure with their peers. But in a more profound way, these events give many teens their first opportunity to experience the living God, a God who is real and loves them very much. This big experience is narrated with big music that touches their hearts in a way that their everyday iPod music never has.
This is why I’ve gathered together my favorite praise and worship songs–because I believe that good music can take the Gospel message further. So why not give teens the best music? I’ve attended hundreds of summer events for Catholic teenagers in the past ten years, and the 20 songs I’m sharing in these two blogs consistently get the biggest response from the crowd. I hope that you are organizing a summer event, you will not hesitate to try new songs. The right song selections can make a good event into a great event.
When possible, I’ve included some YouTube videos that do the song justice. Click on the link to purchase the song through iTunes. Note: These songs are in no particular order. They’re all #1.
01. Hillsong: “Mighty to Save”
I don’t think its humanly possible to hear this song and not sing along. If you’ve been to a youth conference in the past few years, no doubt you’ve already heard it. If not, here’s your new favorite song:
02. David Crowder Band: “Oh Praise Him”
Let me begin by saying that I do not like fast praise and worship songs…I don’t know, I become distracted because they sound too much like nice-guy light rock hits from the 80s. It’s okay if other people like them, but they just don’t help me pray. However, there are a small handful of quick-paced p&w songs that bring energy and prayerfulness at the same time. Here’s one of them…
03. David Crowder Band: “Here is Our King”
…and now here’s another. Teens absolutely love this song. (BTW, the video is from the Passion: How Great is Our God, a non-denominational young adult conference. If you own this CD/DVD combo, watch this video again on your TV…the set design is beautiful.)
04. Matt Maher: “As It Is In Heaven”
This is a passionate, upbeat reflection based on the Our Father prayer. It is a little challenging to sing in a large-group setting at this pace, so slow it down just a bit.
05. Hillsong / Brooke Frazer: “I Will Exalt You”
Sometimes in a big praise and worship session at a conference people just get exhausted and want to take a break from singing. That’s when you need a song like “I Will Exalt You.” The spaces in between the lyrics give room for prayer. The song takes a few minutes to ramp up, and even when the song gets moving, it’s still keeps its composure.
06. David Crowder Band / Sinead O’Conner: “Thank You for Hearing Me”
Yes, this is the same infamous Sinead O’Conner who stepped in and out of pop-culture in the early 1990s. Her largely unknown love song “Thank You” was given a second life with Christians–ironically enough–after David Crowder gave it new meaning as a praise and worship song. The lyrics are effective in the church setting because of their simplicity: thank you for loving me, thank you for finding me, thank you for hearing me, thank you for healing me. The song builds really well!
07. Traditional / Shelley Niride: “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”
This song is versatile because all you need is a voice and a guitar. They lyrics are all about letting God love you and letting Him write the story of our lives. This song should be a staple on retreats.
08. Hillsong / Brooke Frazer: “His Glory Appears (Age to Age)”
This is not a sing-together-now! type praise and worship song. Rather, it’s a delicate and reflective song that has the vibe of a Celtic lovesong (I have no authority to make that statement, I just feel kinda Irish when I listen to it.) Some vocalists won’t have the skill to pull of this song, but if you do have a talented female vocalist in your music ministry, this is a beautiful transition song that adds depth to a night of praise and worship. This is a good song if you want to transition from a praise and worship session into silence. The instruments can linger after you finish singing the lyrics. (Note: I’ve been told the song loses its dreaminess without the piano and a cello, so make sure you at least one of them.)
09. Matt Maher: “In the Sight of the Angels”
This was a regular at XLT in Phoenix several years ago. Teens loved it because the chorus was beaming with conviction. Awesome! Unfortunately, the song has not yet been released on any of Matt Maher’s albums. So you’ll just have to trust me on this one.
10. Matt Redman, Beth Redman: “You Never Let Go (Even Though I Walk)”
This is one of the few praise and worship songs has rhythm without being goofy. I love the lyrics because it talks about how God is always there for us. Simple lyrics with deep impact.
Part II comes out next week. Until then, let me know: What’s Your Top 20? Your Top 5? Leave a comment and share your favorites with others in Catholic Youth Ministry.