In the last two posts we have discussed the importance of using music to reach the next generation. You may want to read the first post here and then read the second post here.As we continue that discussion, it should be pointed out that since young people often use music as a means of communication, they prefer music that allows them to talk to God instead of just about God. They want their music to be a conversation with the Living God; they do not just want it to state theological facts about God. That is why young people often do not like singing hymns. They may ﬁnd some hymns too impersonal because hymns often talk about God in the third person. Young people want to talk to God directly. They do not want to sing, “I will praise Him.” They want to sing, “I will praise You.” It is interesting to note that some of the older hymns that are more of a conversation with God are actually coming back into popularity because the next generation has discovered that those hymns express to God exactly what young adults are feeling. For example, “Be Thou My Vision,” an old Irish hymn written by Dallan Forgail in the sixth century and translated into English in 1905 by Mary Byrne, has become one of the most beloved songs of the next generation looking for a vision from God. A number of young musicians have taken old hymns and changed the pronouns from the objective third person to ﬁrst person, thus addressing God directly and expressing their love for the Lord in a fresh way. Churches that are willing to select songs that either already speak directly to God or that can be converted into such communication with God will ﬁnd young adults are more interested.
Regardless of how comfortable we may be with our own sacred music traditions, churches that desire to reach today’s young adults will work through this issue and come to terms with the reality that music is a key factor in reaching them. The next generation wants to sing to God, not just about God. They want a variety of musical instruments. They would prefer that at least some of the music be more upbeat, though they enjoy quiet songs as well when they are used in a time of reﬂection and contemplation. If churches can learn to speak the same musical language as these young adults, they may be surprised at just how many young adults will become committed to the church.
Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.