The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

In This Issue

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Featured Article: Music-a Door to Transforming Conversations

Music-a Door to Transforming Conversations
By David Smith

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!"

  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 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

A Peek at the Brand New Podcast: Willow's Scott Rubin joins Jonathan and the gang for a hilarious and informative podcast on middle school ministry, going deep, Soulja Boy's song and dance... and more!

Listen to this brand new episode for free on iTunes now!
(CLICK HERE) Or, if you don't have iTunes already...
jump on Apple's web page for a free download,
then click on our podcast page.



In this episode Willow Creek's Middle School Ministry Director, Scott Rubin, joins Jonathan, David and Todd for an informative and funny podcast about youth ministry today. Scott brings a wealth of experience to the table as a 15 year Willow Creek veteran, managing a fantastic team of paid staff, a TON of volunteers and running a ministry that puts caring adults alongside middle schoolers, helping them begin and grow a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ (imagine trying to do this with literally 1,000 kids!). Scott also teaches at the National Youth Workers Convention each year and is currently authoring the newest upcoming additions to the YS middle school book series MY FAITH with Mark Oestreicher.

Episode Highlights:
  • In the "Youth Culture Window" section, the guys discuss hip hop artist Soulja Boy's hit song "Crank That and the craze surrounding it as well as its popular "Superman" dance.

  • Todd actually brings up the J. Geils Band! (80's reference)

  • Scott shares the SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF MIDDLE SCHOOL MINISTRY, wisdom that spills well over into the realm of high school ministry.

  • Jonathan's confesses what he would do to a junior high worker that would put his child in danger!

  • They close the episode by answering some great youth ministry questions in the "Help Me" section.

Listen to it for free on iTunes now!



SCOTT: Sin #1, for me, is "wait until high school to really take students' spiritual growth seriously." If you want to mess this up, just wait until high school. You know, keep them in a holding pattern, or a holding tank, while they're in junior high. In other words, if you just keep them in the church, babysit them until high school, then you can really start the spiritual conversations. It's stupidity.

JONATHAN: It's a mistake, huh?

SCOTT: Absolutely. Too many times we wait. We say we'll get to that later...I have too many pressing issues right now. I think high school ministry becomes rehab when we do that. But if we do junior high ministry right, it can be preventive in so many ways.

JONATHAN: Well, Scott, what couple of words of advice could you give the person who is overwhelmed with their responsibility for junior high, senior high, and college ministry kids who may be kinda "babysitting" their junior high schoolers?

SCOTT: Great question. First, just know that not everybody has to have a passion for junior high ministry. There is permission for other passions, just don't neglect the junior high students. Somewhere in your group of leaders, there is someone you could fire up about junior high ministry. Equip them and encourage them to champion it. They can be your junior high expert. Those leaders do not have to be just can't forget about them!

DAVID: Yeah, I've seen that at work in our own church. We have a strong children's ministry, strong junior high, and now a strong high school ministry. Our pastors kept asking, "Why do we have to wait to do missions until our kids are in high school?" Our Children's pastor even took kids out-of-country for projects. Because if you are not instilling faith in junior high students, what are you gonna do, microwave it at the high school age? It's just not going to work.

SCOTT: Yep. Now, we intentionally leave some things out for high school. You know, we say we're going to get this far, but I want to hold some things out. We save some ministry for high school students.

TODD: I'm wondering how many people are feeling a little guilty, because they stand on that soapbox that says, "Youth are the church of today," but they do hold back their junior high kids. I just am thinking of some of the adults who would rather wait until the kids are out of high school, or out of college, before they take them seriously.

JONATHAN: OK, so what's Sin #2?

SCOTT: Ok, this might surprise you in some ways, but Sin #2, if you really want to mess up junior high youth ministry: NEVER EVER think about your own junior high school years. Just block them out. Never go back there. Don't pull out an old junior high year book. Never go back to the thought, feelings, and emotions you had in junior high.

JONATHAN: But Scott, all of the youth culture sessions we attend and the stuff that we hear and read today says everything is different today. So shouldn't we just block all that stuff out?

SCOTT: In some ways, that's true. A lot of things are different. But, at the same time, the awkwardness, the "trying-to-figure-out-who-I-am, I'm not an adult but I'm not a kid either," those experiences are much the same. For instance, you remember being ticked at your parents, you remember your buddy being a foot taller than you, you remember not being able to understand certain things.

JONATHAN: Yeah! My next door neighbor Matt V. had armpit hair and I didn't.

SCOTT: See. You're still scarred.

TODD: Not only is all that you guys just mentioned true, but, my best friend in 5th and 6th grade was not my best friend in 7th and 8th grade. That was the hardest thing as I look back. I am now able to look back and see how one whole group of us went in different directions, but could not see it then.

SCOTT: That's a good example. I think you will see that a lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same.

DAVID: Yep. You're still asking the same questions: Who am I? Where do I fit in? DO I fit in? Who's like me? The questions have grown in number today. But at the core, kids today are still asking the same questions the four of us asked of ourselves back then.

SCOTT: You know, one practical thing that I do is keep my junior high yearbook on my desk so I can stumble across it occasionally. I flip through it and remember what a dork I was. And that is just from looking at the hairstyles alone.

TODD: Did Scott just say "WAS a dork?"

JONATHAN: That's pretty brave for a guy with no hair! At least he has hair!

SCOTT: Yeah, so that is Sin #2.


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