5 ways to make a (music) connection

Guest post by Doug Ranck of Free Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, CA

Here are a few tried and tested ideas for connecting with youth through music.

Rule #1: Everybody has an opinion on what type of music they like

Rule #2: If somebody says they don’t like music please see rule #1

I have yet to run into any person who did not tell me what they thought about a particular genre of music. Conversations have been had with those who claim no desire to sing, not even in the shower. In those talks, even they, after listening to a song, could tell me how it rated.

In the “worship wars” of churches often the debate is focused more on how something sounds rather than the lyrics. Lyrics are priority but when somebody wants to argue style there can be no winner. Everybody has some connection to music.

Given the thoughts and feelings on musical tastes I have found it easy to relate with all ages of people through their musical language. The topic can sneak into almost any verbal exchange. Certain words trigger memories of songs. Many years ago a game came out called, “Encore.” Players were divided up into teams and given a word. Each team had to sing a few measures of a song using the word until one team could not come up with an entry. Having played the game on numerous occasions I have been reminded how easy it is to merge songs with everyday life.

Connecting through music works for every age but offers us as youth leaders a great door for peering into the core of our students. Here are a few ways I have used music to connect with youth (add some of your own in the comments):

1. Listen WITH your youth on trips
For every youth ministry there are different rules on trips for music listening. Some leaders collect all music devices at the beginning of trips or at the beginning of camps. Some have other policies. One option, when you are in a van or a car, is to listen to music together. I have been in youth ministry long enough to remember days before iPods, walkmans, etc. Radio was our only option. There were times a song would come on with less than pure lyrics and I would ask if the people singing it were married. This song-stopping moment allowed youth to think about the message. One time I was driving and oblivious to what was playing when from the back of the van I heard, “Hey Doug, are these people married?” Victory! Plug the mp3 in and listen together.

Need help talking about mainstream music? Check out the re:tuned section in every edition of Youth Leaders Only

2. Ask them about their favorite band or solo artist
This may seem like a standard question but yet it can become an easy conversation starter and give you a quick glimpse into the person’s values. Don’t let students get off the hook in telling you what they think you want to hear. Press it and let he or she know they are in a safe conversation.

3. Ask them about their least favorite band or solo artist
See above and understand this question may further define the profile of the person’s tastes and values.

4. Go to concerts with them
Stretch yourself and go to a concert of an unfamiliar band or two or a style you don’t like. A few years ago I took some guys to Cornerstone festival, in its one and only appearance in Southern California. From 10am-11pm we listened to hard core bands. I took my earplugs but so did they!! It wasn’t my favorite kind of music but throughout the day I was asking them questions about what makes a hard core band distinct or better than another. They loved telling me more and yeah, I mixed it up in the mosh pit for a few minutes.

5. Do lyric studies
Dividing words from music sometimes help discover the deeper meaning. In this setting ask more questions and do less preaching. The goal is getting your youth to talk about music, letting you peer into their soul and teaching them how to make wise choices in not only their music but all of life.

What musical connections work for you?

Editor’s note: Doug is one of a handful of writers who contribute to the YLOand MVL Resource Books each quarter. We’re grateful to Doug for his hard work, and his heart for student ministry.

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