Music Discussions

A Change is Gonna Come


A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Main Point: Followers of Jesus are called to be agents of change in this world as they live out God’s incomparable love toward others.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: The following info should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.

  • IMPORTANT NOTE TO PARENTS: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce teens to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most teens, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos like this one. Thanks to YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away. If you decide to use this, do so by catering it to fit your family’s needs.
  • Born in Mississippi, Sam Cooke was known for huge hits like “You Send Me,” “Wonderful World,” “Chain Gang” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.”
  • Cooke grew up in Chicago where his father served as a minster. He began singing gospel music at a young age, and eventually joined the popular group the Soul Stirrers.
  • Cooke became known for his business smarts, establishing his own publishing company in 1959, and negotiating a strong contract with RCA in 1960. The contract allowed him to own his master recordings after 30 years, which was remarkable for any recording artist at that time.
  • After hitting it big with several popular songs, Cooke was shot and killed in December of 1964. There are questions about the circumstances concerning his death, but no questions about the legacy he left behind. He was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 1986.

Introducing the Song – Say Something Like This: After being turned away from a Holiday Inn in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1963, Cooke had a strong reaction to the racism he experienced. As a result, he was arrested and jailed as this event was in the peak of the Civil Rights Movement. A few months later, Sam Cooke wrote this song to be a universal message of hope, and this song became an anthem for many people in the 1960’s.

DISCLAIMER: The video contains images that some could find offensive. We encourage you to privately screen the video for discernment. The video is not necessary for this discussion as it is based solely on the words and message of the song.

The Music Video:  The music video can be viewed for free at

Song Lyrics: A Change is Gonna Come

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river I’ve been running ever since

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me don’t hang around

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say, “Brother, help me please”
But he winds up knockin’ me
Back down on my knees

There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

Three Questions to Ask in the Car (with thoughts to dive deeper with your kids):

Q: What kind of things went through your mind during this song?
A: A simple and non-threatening question to get their initial thoughts on the song.

Q: What kind of change do you think needs to come when it comes to racism?  
A: Puts them in the position to share what they think needs to happen where racism is concerned in this world.

Q: Why do you think we can do to live out our faith and help bring change in the world where racism is concerned?
A: Gets practical, let’s you talk with them about what actual steps you can take to demonstrate the love of Jesus in the world in tangible ways.

Where to Take It from Here: Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful!  (There is a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged – the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion:
(If your kids seem into diving in deeper and looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)

Want help getting your teenager engaged in conversation? CLICK HERE for a helpful article from our “Parenting Help” page providing you with 3 Essentials to Talking with Today’s Teens.

Transition Statement – Say Something Like This: Written nearly sixty years ago, the message resonates with many today. As we experience many strong reactions to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, how are follower of Jesus to respond? Let’s talk about this and see what God’s Word has to say.

Discussion Questions:

  1. ASK ALL FAMILY MEMBERS: What are some things that went through your mind when you heard this song?
  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What do you think the lyrics mean when they say, “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die ’cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky”?
  3. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: React to the line, “Then I go to my brother and I say, ‘Brother, help me please’ but he winds up knockin’ me back down on my knees.” Share what you think he wanted to express when he wrote this lyric.
  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What kind of change do you think Sam Cooke was hoping for? What do you think he means when he says it was a long time coming?
  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why do you think Sam Cooke was filled with hope that change was coming?
  6. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Why do you think racism is part of the world we live in?
  7. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What are some ways things have changed in America since Sam Cooke died in 1964? What are some ways things still need to change?
  8. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: When you think about things happening today, what kinds of change do you think God wants to bring in this world?

Read the following passage:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What comes to mind when you hear the word “love”?
  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How is the love described in these verses different from love you sometimes see in this world?
  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: When you think of the lyrics to this song and the reality of racism in this world, what are some things in these verses that stand out to you as a way to respond?
  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What are some ways we can insist on our own way when it comes to dealing with wanting to see change in this world? How should we respond to that?
  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What do you think the Bible means when it says to not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoice with the truth? What are some ways you see that lived out in this world?
  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: When you look at today’s increased awareness on racism, how might God be calling you to demonstrate His love in this world?
  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you really think loving people with God’s love can change the world? Explain why you think the way you do.

Wrap Up – Say Something Like This: There are different types of change we can bring into this world. There’s systemic change, where systems and structures are recreated to produce a different outcome. There is also person to person change. This is the type of transformation that comes through personal interaction and the influencing of a life. When you consider God’s calling on your life, you may be called to influence systemic change. If that’s you, then enlarge your prayer life. Ask God to move mountains and to show you the steps to take. However, every follower of Jesus is called to love others in a way that brings person to person change. God has invited us into His story. The truth of 1 John 4:11-12 says that since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. As you consider your role in God’s story, what are some practical ways He might be inviting you to love someone as a way of bringing change in this world, especially where racism is concerned? Maybe it’s listening to someone, showing concern in a practical way, or simply being present. Take a moment and ask God to show you a tangible way to demonstrate His love.

(Pause and give them a quiet moment to mediate and pray silently.)

Those who follow Jesus simply cannot be silent when it comes to oppression and racism. We are called to go beyond social media activism and invited to engage other people with the incomparable love of God. You have everything you need to take a step into someone’s life to demonstrate His love in a practical way. Take a moment and confess any fears you have or to ask God to remove any barriers you might see – so you can faithfully take action. 

(Pause and give them a few moments to pray silently.) 

Sam Cooke believed change was coming, and in many ways it did. The work is not yet finished. In fact, things in this broken world will not be repaired until Jesus returns. Until that day, He has called those who are His followers – called His Church – to love others with His amazing love. Let’s be people who are willing to wade into the mess and be agents of change as we bring His love anywhere we are able.


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Rob Chagdes

Rob Chagdes is one of the pastors at Prairie Lakes Church in northern Iowa. In the years since he met Jesus as a sixteen year old, Rob has spent his life working to raise up the next generation to love God and invite others into His unending story. He spends most of his free time with his wife Leslie, their three amazing daughters, and their energetic dog Jedi. You can reach Rob at

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