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They Are Listening, But Are They Hearing?

Guest Post by Geoff Stewart

I don’t know about you, but I was not raised in a Christian home and listened to some pretty foul music as a teenager, music I would never play for my mother let alone my students. I may be embarrassed about it the reality was that I owned those CD’s listened to them all the time; it was a part of who I was. The question is, did I know what I was listening too? Did my mind compute the words that I was saying?

Most of the songs are still up there, rattling around in my brain and recently while out bowling with our leadership team, an old rap song from my teenage years came on, I have not heard this song in 15 years and I knew every single word, profane and all. The words stuck, but what they meant maybe didn’t. I was thinking about what the implications of this are for youth ministry and last fall I was reminded when one of our leaders handed me a set list for approval for our Journeween Party. One of the first songs was “Only girl in the world” by Rhianna. I asked him if he knew what the song was about, and he said no, and was he surprised when I told him the first  11 words of the song are “I want you to love me, like I’m a hot pie”

Our students are hearing the words; all of them, but I am thankful that they are not always computing what they mean. I am thankful that I didn’t always understand some of the sketchy things I was listening too that I never felt compelled to act on, but it got me thinking about Worship and the question:

Do our students know what they are singing? Is worship music heard but not received like the music they listen to on the radio, do they know all the words but have no clue what they mean? Do our students know that we are singing songs of praise to God not songs about God. We have been working diligently to remind our students often to think about what they are singing, recognizing the proclamation they are making with their voices, and that God hears them.

I think it would be really easy for a new student to come in like I did in Highschool, and just sing a long. Lets face it, the songs are catchy and even the some of the bad ones are memorable (ie Banqueting Table) but its that moment when the words matter, when you hear the power in them, and its our responsibility to lead our students to that space.  We need to help shape their heart to Worship God with their words, lives and actions, and when we gather to sing corporately, that we do it with clear purpose.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.