Contemporary Music, Ageless Wisdom: Using the Language of Teens to Speak the Gospel

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Is it appropriate to use modern music in your ministry to teens? This article says you should!
It is no secret that teens are absolutely immersed in music. The question for those ministering to youth is, "Should we make a stance against the kinds of music kids are listening to or should we use their music to minister to them?" As good Catholics we must say, "Both."

In Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), the Second Vatican Council declared that the "Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy…" In this statement, the Church professed the proper approach toward non-Christian religions is that of affirming the goodness and holiness found in other religions. It seems that this is also the proper approach toward the world in general for Catholics. We have the task of pursuing and seeking out the holiness of the world.

On the other side, the Council also stated that the Church is "duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life." Catholics are to hold in tension the need to evangelize the world and also recognize the presence of God already in the world. Enter today's music.

Music is the teens' language. It affects their manner of dress and their friends. When they are in love they use songs to describe their feelings. When they are depressed, they use music to express their ache. Those hoping to build the faith of teens can also use music to help young people articulate their feelings about God and have a language to understand God's love for them. Music can also serve to question their values and commitment to the gospel.

Here are some ideas:

1. Listen to the radio, all genres. Ask yourself if you can imagine God speaking the words of a song to teens. If so, try using it in a prayer service.

2. Is there a song that strikes you as particularly contrary to the Gospel? Gather the teens to discuss the theme of the song in light of Jesus. You might not keep them from listening to such music, but you might affect how they listen to such music.

3. Take a popular song with a positive message and make it the theme of a youth event or retreat.

4. Give students the assignment of finding a song that expresses their relationship with God. They should be prepared to share that with other young people in the group.

5. Ask the young people to share what music they like to listen to when they are up and what they listen to when they are down. By surfacing such times, you will be able to speak the words of Jesus to those situations.

For more resources and ideas such as these, the Cornerstone Media, Inc, Web site contains very helpful resources.


Copyright © 2009 Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this article to be freely used for classroom or campus ministry purposes; however, it may not be republished in any form without the explicit permission of Saint Mary's Press. For more resources to support your ministry, call 800-533-8095 or visit our Web site at

Published August 15, 2003.