I’ve begun a new feature this year to try to engage the young people through the medium of music. Each week, I bring in a contemporary song to play that is related to the theme of what I am teaching. In some cases, I choose a song that articulates the problem that the Gospel lesson is addressing. For example, for the class that I taught on “Trusting in God’s Goodness,” I played a song by Linkin Park titled From the Inside, a song that expresses an unwillingness to trust. In other cases, I choose a song that illustrates the Gospel message for that lesson, such as this past week, when I played Mariah Carey’s Anytime You Need a Friend to illustrate the notion of what it means to be an Advocate (since we were learning about the Holy Spirit).
How do I find these songs? I Google a lot! I often begin just by Googling: popular songs, lyrics, and then a keyword or two related to my theme such as trust or friendship. When I discover a few songs, I go to ITunes and give a quick listen. When I find a song that I want to use, I download it to my IPod and I play it in class through a small docking device I bring with me.
Another good source is Ann Scally’s Web site www.cornerstonemedia.org which provides a subscription to Top Music Countdown/Top 25 Review which evaluates 25 of the top songs on the charts and gives ways to incorporate the songs into your lessons.
In general, I do NOT listen to the music that kids are listening to these days. I’m a classic rock kinda dude. However, I know that music speaks to kids and it’s a great way to “enter through their door” (as St. Ignatius taught) before I lead them out through “my door.” I often “counteract” or juxtapose the contemporary song from the start of class with a traditional church hymn at the end of class which I invite them to listen to and reflect on.
My hope is that I will eventually invite the young people to suggest songs that they think will speak to upcoming themes. Then, I will explore the lyrics (checking for appropriateness) and download the song and invite them to give a little intro to it.