I grew up listening to Christian music back in the days of Audio A’s “Bloom”, DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak”, and Newsboys “Take Me To Your Leader”. These were the days that you begged your mom to drive you to the nearest Lifeway or Family Christian Bookstore so you could spend hours at the listening station scouring what seemed to be an endless selection of new up-and-coming Christian bands. (OK, maybe I was a weirdo) The days that the whole youth group loaded up in the church van and went to see O.C. Supertones at the local arena.
I’m not trying to have a reminiscing party about the “good ole days” of Christian music, or even my personal youth. What I’m really wanting to look at is the cultural shift in youth church culture over the last ten years regarding Christian music.
Some of these shifts are happening globally and not just in Christian music. Naturally, musical styles change and morph into something new and fresh. Also, technology has been a huge factor in the way we consume and feel about music as a whole. We don’t have to drive to the bookstore anymore to get our music fix. It’s all at our finger tips. Above, I mentioned some albums that shaped my youth. Today, it’s single songs that are ripped onto an ipod or iphone and half the time you don’t even know what artist or album it’s from. This is an important piece to the decline in sales of Christian music, but it’s an effect that’s happening globally across all genres.
What ultimately inspired me to take a look back at my own youth group experience happened last summer. I was scouting several bands at various youth groups around the country and what I saw and experienced was similar in format and teaching to what I grew up in, but different in my musical experience. Typically, you’d expect to hear Toby Mac or Switchfoot playing as the background music when you walk into the youth room. Instead, I was hearing songs like: “Glamorous” by Fergie, “Hello Seattle” by Owl City, and “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. Please don’t hear me wrong. I listen to plenty of non-Christian music. None of these songs were overly offensive, but they’re not what you think of when you think youth group music.
What was even more surprising for me was the worship songs that were being sung at some of these youth groups. Of course there was the typical Tomlin and Crowder songs, but other songs I heard during worship: “Fix You” by Coldplay, “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, and “Apologize” by One Republic. Keep in mind this was not over the speakers, but being led as corporate worship and hands raised to Bon Jovi.
It’s important to note that these were regular churches with different denominations. Not all the churches I went to were this extreme. I’m curious to know if my experience was unique? What shifts regarding Christian music in your youth group are you experiencing, if any?