Music Discussions

The Impact of Secular Music

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The Impact of Secular Music

Main Point:
The influence music has on us is really powerful so we need to make sure the songs we listen to do not negatively impact our relationships, worldview, or faith.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: The following info should help you navigate the tricky topic of secular music 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. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, Spotify, and iTunes, 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.
  • Instead of focusing on just one song like we usually do, this discussion plan addresses secular music as a whole by using a YouTube video on the subject.
  • The video features the thoughts of vlogger Joseph Solomon who produces content for his channel called Chase God TV. He gives a wonderfully fair and balanced approach to secular music in this video. In addition to discussing what qualifies a song as secular, he raises some great questions to challenge our thinking. Even better, he also employs some pretty good humor to make his points.
  • The video is a little longer than usual (10 minutes), so you might choose to show just one section. Use it in whatever way best benefits your family.

Introducing the Video – You Say This:  Hey guys, I want to show you a great clip on the issue of secular music. By secular music, I mean the music that dominates most radio stations, most movies, and most playlists on mobile devices. The guy in this clip, Joe, does a great job making us think about the music we listen to. I encourage you to keep an open mind to what he has to say regardless of your musical preferences. After he has his say, we’ll get a chance to break down his ideas. Cool?  

The Video Clip:
You can access the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLCQZPBgN_M&feature=youtu.be

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

Q: The video we just watched was about secular music. How do you define “secular music”?

A: In basic terms, secular music is simply music that isn’t sacred (religious). It can be about hundreds of topics (some good and some bad), and be presented in different ways (healthy or unhealthy), and represent multiple genres of music (for example, pop, rock, hip hop, country, dance, etc).

Q: ASK A FEW: Can you name some secular songs that are fairly positive? Can you name some secular songs that are clearly negative?

A: There are plenty of examples for both, but your kids will probably be thinking of songs currently in the Top Ten on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. If your child suggests a song that you are unfamiliar with or are unsure of, take about 30 seconds to simply do a search of the lyrics on your smartphone.

Q: Honestly, have you ever noticed music affecting you? For example, the way you view yourself, the way you think about an issue, the way you treat others, etc.

A: To get this discussion going, you may want to talk about how a certain song tempts you to drive a little faster than usual or reminds you of someone you know/love.

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 – You Say This:  Alright, so Joe gave us a lot to think about. Even some of his jokes and illustrations were eye-opening to me. Maybe you agree with everything he said…and maybe you disagree with everything he said. Either way, it’s hard to ignore the obvious fact that music influences us on deeper levels than we usually think about. For that reason alone, we need to make sure the songs we listen to do not negatively impact our relationships, worldview, or faith. Let’s talk about that now.

Discussion Questions:

  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: Let’s all take a second to share our favorite song of all time…and why it’s your favorite.
  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you agree with the following statement? “All secular music is bad and shouldn’t be listened to by Christians.” Why or why not?
  3. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Speaking of positive and negative, can music have positive or negative influences on us? If not, why not? If so, in what ways?
  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How can we determine which music is good…and which music is bad?

Read the Following Passage:

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

  1. ASK A FAMILY MEMBER: The Apostle Paul wrote this part of the Bible. Can you list the kinds of things he tells us to think about? I’ll give you a hint: there are 8!
  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: I’d like for us to slow down for just a moment. Can we discuss each of those eight qualities in more detail? I’m going to list each of them one by one and you tell me what each of them means. Ready?True, Honorable, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, Worthy of Praise
  3. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In your opinion, is Philippians 4:8 a good standard for gauging the music we listen to? Why or why not?
  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How much of today’s secular music meets the standards Paul outlines in Philippians 4:8? Why is that?

OPTIONAL (BUT STRONGLY RECOMMENDED):
Check out the top ten songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. (You can access the ever-changing list of music by clicking here.) These top ten songs are, without a doubt, the most influential songs at any given time. But just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they’re pure.

Let a student in your group pick a song from the top ten, and then search the lyrics on Google. Analyze the song based on the 8 qualities Paul lists in Philippians. (If you have time, you may also want to gauge the song’s official music video by the same standards. They can almost always be found on YouTube.)

  1. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: How difficult would it be for you to change your music selection to make sure it fits within the boundaries of Philippians 4:8? What would it cost you? What would you gain?
  2. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: What immediate changes will you make to your playlists because of the instructions found in Philippians 4:8?

Wrap Up – You Say This:
I had a blast with this conversation! You know I like music as much as you! But like most people, I don’t always think about how much a song influences me…or whether that influence is good or bad. So that’s why I got a lot of out of this discussion, personally. 

Let’s be honest with ourselves; we use music in a variety of ways. For example, as Joe joked in the video, husbands and wives don’t “set the mood” by playing rap music. Likewise, your schools don’t use opera music at pep rallies! Bottom line: secular music is a huge part of our lives! But that doesn’t mean we have to let harmful secular music influence us in negative ways.  

I want to emphasize something Joe did a great job talking about in the video. Just because a song is “secular” doesn’t mean that song is bad. I mean, the national anthem is technically a secular song. But that’s not a “bad” song, is it? There are hundreds and hundreds of songs about friendship, love, hard work, sacrifice, etc. that might technically be “secular” but also contain a wonderfully true and positive message.  

I think the point is pretty clear: if a secular song is demeaning towards someone, or promotes a “do whatever you feel at the moment” mindset, or is overtly sexual, or something else that is obviously unbiblical, then it should be avoided. If a secular song is clean, promotes love or help toward others, or encourages you to be better, then it’s probably OK.

So, I’d like to issue you a challenge. I encourage you to swipe through your playlists before you go to bed tonight. If there is a song – or even a full album – that you know blatantly opposes the qualities of Philippians 4:8, delete it. In fact – and this might be cool little experiment – keep a list of the songs you delete from your playlists and how your mindset, attitude, and behavior changes over the next few weeks and months. I’d be really interested in talking with you about that going forward.

Close in Prayer

Written by David R Smith

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David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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