Closer, Farther OR Bubblegum…
In light of the recent VMA awards, I wanted to share with you a favorite “goto” lesson I do often with my students. This works as either part of a series or as a “Quick” in between curriculum.
Purity goes way beyond the body and should be brought up often. Purity is about the mind, the heart, AND the body. One of the most difficult parts of navigating life as a teen is trying to figure out practically what living for the Lord means. Our tendency as those in ministry can be to give our students a list of “do’s and don’ts” that are really our opinions. You know: DON”T wear that outfit, listen to that music or watch that television show or movie. DO only wear this thing, watch G movies, and listen to worship music. The problem with that approach is that it can encourage a student to modify their behavior without ever looking at what is going on in their heart. Instead, when we help them look at what they are they putting into their minds through their eyes and ears we can help them navigate if they are filtering it through a Christ centric world view,or if they even want to.
In this lesson you are going to be taking the lyrics of a popular song and go line by line through it asking if students know the reference or what it is about. If they don’t understand something, you are going to explain it. The point is to not be judgmental but instead to help them really learn what they are listening to and what it means. We want them to be honest if the song is bringing them closer to the Lord, away from HIm in what they are thinking on or is it “bubblegum” (just fluff),
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
The WEEK before you plan to do this lesson ask students to brainstorm their favorite songs on the radio. (Blurred Lines, especially the rap version would be perfect for this right now.) Tell them next week you have a surprise lesson planned. (You can also pick a song off the radio but it works best if you use current songs students are listening to. You can pick two or three. It is up to you if you want to add that you don’t want to work with songs with explicit lyrics. Try to get them to be honest beyond what they think you want to hear.)
Find the lyrics online and print a copy for everyone in small groups the following week.
*Note: It doesn’t hurt to have 2 or 3 songs ready to go just in case they are “quick” You may need to send a note home to parents letting them know what you are going to do this week. In addition if a small group leader hasn’t heard the song you pick that is fine. You might want to encourage them to listen to a snippet so they know the sound. However, what’s more important is the prep in making sure they have each read the lyrics and know what it is saying.
Opening Activity (Optional):
Name that song:
Play one or two lines from about 5 to 10 Different Songs.(Depending on the time you want to take.) You will want them to be a mix of Christian Music, Worship Music, Oldies, And Even Current Popular Songs (That you know and would consider “positive.”) Do NOT play the whole song!
The person who can name the most songs gets a pack of Bubblegum.
Say Something Like:
Tonight in our small group time we are going to see if you know what you are listening to. We are going to go line by line through a song that is played often on the radio right now. (Tell them the song) We are going to decide together if this song helps us learn about God, brings us away from him or is what I call “bubble gum.” Those are songs that are full of “sugar” they aren’t overtly “bad” but they don’t necessarily help us get closer to the Lord. Our goal for the evening would be that you can begin to truly pay attention to what you listen to
Move to Small Groups
We are talking tonight about (insert song) Why do you like the song?
Answers will vary.
Take the time to walk through the song line by line, explaining the song as you go.
Stop often and make sure they are understanding “hidden” references. Pull it apart. However, avoid judging whether or not they “should” be listening to it. If they ask if you like it, give your opinion. Tell them why you do or don’t like it. Sometimes you might even say, ”I understand why it’s so catchy and you like it, but it doesn’t mean it’s a song that is bringing you closer to the Lord.”
- What is each line about?
- Is it obvious or is it an underlying reference to something else?
Don’t judge the song or the thoughts just go through and help students understand it.
Now have them look at the song as a whole and ask:
- If you are honest does this song help you think about the Lord and grow in your relationship with HIm?
Answers will vary based on the song.
Say Something Like:
I am not attacking your music selection. I am also not saying you ONLY have to listen to Christian music or worship music. What we are talking about tonight is that what we listen to matters. Those words, even if we think we are only listening to the “sound” are coming into our heads. Have you ever realized you know the lyrics to a song from the radio you don’t even like? There are times when music from the radio that isn’t written FOR Jesus makes us think about Him. There are times love songs are like that. We have to decide beyond Sunday morning what in the world around us helps us to not only focus on the Lord, but learn to live for HIM. Let’s take a minute and just look at two really short verses.
Read Mark 5:8 & Philippians 4:8
- What do you think it means to be pure in heart?
- Why will they see the kingdom of God?
- Why do you think we are supposed to think on things that are true, pure, lovely, etc.?
- What does that mean?
Finish by saying something like:
Being pure in heart is not about being perfect. It is about making choices that help us grow closer to the Lord. Seeing His kingdom is about knowing HIm. Everyday we can make small choices in what we listen to, watch or absorb that either bring us closer or farther away from God.
Take some time to talk about other ways they can focus on the “pure” from Phil 4:8 in a practical way. Challenge students to pay attention to the lyrics of the music they listen to in the coming week. Follow up the next week by just asking them about pure, noble, etc.
*Note: You can also do this lesson focusing on movies, television, youtube, or any media. It’s great to come back to it several times over the year as a reminder of what purity is, and that it isn’t just about our “bodies.”
Let me know if you have questions, Feel free to pass this on.