Kids learn by doing: Making music work in your ministry

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally written as a “how to use music” primer for volunteer youth leaders, but there are ideas and reminders for all of us in how music can help reinforce Biblical truths with our students.

There is a misconception that many adult youth leaders have bought into. This misconception believes that if we can present the truth to youth people, then their lives will change. You might think of this concept as (where “→” means “leads to”): Absolute Truth → Attitudes/Actions → Godly Lifestyle

However, just because we as adults can move from truth to application doesn’t mean that teenagers will do the same. Most students learn this way: Experience → Discover Attitudes/Actions → Identify Truth → Carnal Lifestyle

So how is a youthworker supposed to get God’s truth into the hearts of teenagers? By changing the formula slightly. Here’s what you should strive for: Experience → Personalized Absolute Truth → Attitudes/Actions → Godly Lifestyle

The Bible studies/meeting guides included in each edition of Youth Leaders Only (YLO) provide you with a step-by-step process that walks you through this kind of learning experience. Each session begins with an experience (Warm Up), moves to helping kids personalize God’s truth (the Song and Bible Study), and encourages students to plan what actions and attitudes they will build into their lives (the Student Guide). Let’s unpack some of these elements to show you how this process can work with your group.

Warm Up
Since young people learn by doing, each of the sessions in Youth Leaders Only begin with some sort of “crowdbreaker” that will get your young friends involved in doing right off the bat. The Warm Up provides your students an experience that you can use to initiate the learning process. By involving your kids in an activity at the outset of your program, you’re sending them the message that your meeting is something they participate in, not just watch.

Transition/Discussion
By asking the well-thought-out questions provided in each session, you can help students identify the issues that you will be dealing with. Here are some guidelines for encouraging good discussion:

  • Ask open-ended questions and avoid “yes/no” queries.
  • Enlist response or rebuttals to answers already given. Young people love to debate!
  • If you have more than twenty participants, breaking into smaller discussion groups is wise. By working with small groups, more kids will get involved in the discussion rather than sitting in the back and daydreaming.
  • Avoid correcting your students’ responses. In a discussion you are attempting to bring what your students think out into the open. Your instruction opportunity will come later in the Bible Study section of your meeting.

The Song
This can be a second experience that you provide your group. To make the most of this valuable resource, make sure you involve not only the ears of your group, but their minds as well. A group listening to a song can soon turn into a “lap looker” experience – something every youth leader wants to avoid. So, you’ll need to get creative to engage the minds of your kids during the playing of the song. An activity such as “fill in the blanks” lyrics or keeping track of how many times a singer says a certain word can be used to keep the students focused during the song.

After listening to the song, another Transition should take place to bridge the group into God’s Word. Lead the group in another discussion, assisting your students to personalize the truth contained in the song. This discussion will serve to introduce the Bible Study.

Bible Study
The outlines provided in YLO are just outlines. Don’t expect to be able to read the Leaders Guide to your group and communicate clearly the points of the lesson. Use the outline as a starting point for your own preparation. Do some background research into the Scriptures used in the lesson. Personalize the outline with illustrations from your own experience. Make the outline work for you, rather than feeling like you have to work the outline.

Wrap Up
Young people always have one unspoken question on their minds as you teach: “So what?” You must answer that question, or your teaching will not be effective. In this Wrap Up portion of your meeting, use the Leader Guide ideas to answer that question for your young friends. Give them a means to personalize the truth they’ve learned, and plan to do something about it!

This information can be applied to most youth meeting situations: Sunday School, mid-week youth meetings, outreach events, camps and retreats. The more experience you gain in teaching-through-doing, the better your results will be. This material should take a lot of work off of your shoulders so you can concentrate on leading students to discover God’s truth, and help them put that truth into practice in their everyday experience.

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