During the Webinars on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, I received MANY questions about using contemporary music in a catechetical setting as a way to engage a young audience. Allow me to address some thoughts about that here (and as always, I invite you to weigh in as well).
- For young people, contemporary music is a huge part of their life. It speaks to them in a way that no other medium can.
- I often use contemporary songs to get the attention of my group and to hook their interest.
- Truth be told, I really don’t listen to the same music that kids listen to, but I’m aware of the names of the artists that they listen to: Linkin Park, Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Shakira, etc.
- I start by knowing what the BIG idea of the lesson is and then and only then do I begin searching for a song to use. Let’s say that that the BIG idea of the lesson is: as a result of this session, the participants will be able to express their TRUST in God.
- I often begin my search for a song by simply Googling. In this case, I Google: songs about trust; or trust songs, or trust lyrics, or variations thereof. I look for songs that speak about trust or the opposite: lack of trust.
- As you search through songs and their lyrics, you need to wear “hip boots” because you will encounter a great deal of objectionable material. Look through the lyrics carefully…you need to be sure that you’re not bringing in anything that has objectionable words or suggestive ideas.
- When I find a song, I go to ITunes and download it…usually 99 cents.
- When I bring it to class, I either dock my IPod or I transfer the song to a CD and play it on a CD player.
- The song is simply a “hook” to get their attention and to engage them. Rarely do I spend more than 10 minutes listening to and focusing on the song. From there, we transition to EXPLORE the content of the lesson: the teachings of the Gospel and the Church, which make up the bulk of the lesson. Throughout the lesson, however, we are able to refer back to the song to make the connection and reinforce the BIG idea.
- A good resource that can help to cut down the amount of time you spend searching is a Website run by Anna Scally called Cornerstone Media Inc. They produce both print and audio materials to “help parents, teachers, youth ministers, pastors, and others to…use the music that young people listen to everyday as a tool to spark dialogue about values and relationships.”
- I don’t hesitate to bring in church hymns to play later on in the session as a “response” to the contemporary song. For example, with the theme of trust, I used a song by Linkin Park called “From the Inside” that speaks of the difficulty of trusting others. At the end of the session, I led a reflection that ended with us listening to “On Eagles’ Wings” which, of course, is about absolute trust in God.
Many people asked if there are lists of contemporary songs that can be used for religious education purposes. I’m not aware of any such catalogue but Cornerstone Media is about as close as you can get. If anyone knows of other resources, please chime in!
Some months ago, I posted about a Confirmation Intensive session that we did at my parish in which we used contemporary music to introduce the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Virtues, and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. That post includes a chart of all the songs we used as well as links to the lyrics of those songs. Click here to access that post.
I look forward to hearing from you about your take on using contemporary music in religious education!