Club Music: A Deeper Look (Guest Post from Eric Hoskins)

554232_4730598506888_682735897_nRecently I posted some resources for club music. One of the resources was from Eric Hoskins, Area Director in Sarasota, FL. He was nice enough to write up some great thoughts about club music and I wanted to share them with you all!

When I joined the Young Life staff in 2000, I remember receiving a myriad of training documents from one of the great pioneers of Young Life, Mal McSwain. These old documents were loaded with great information and many challenged the ways that I had viewed certain aspects of this ministry. But, amidst all the great nuggets of wisdom and the questions intended to cause me to evaluate whether or not I truly desired excellence in club, there was one that stood out, and it’s one that has changed how I view most of what happens in my club: “Would a kid be able to receive all the attributes of the Gospel if there were no message?”

At that point, I began to evaluate the different aspects of club to determine if there were a place I could really do something that would tangibly (and with subtlety) help my team and myself communicate the Gospel more clearly. And I landed on music (secular music, to be specific) as the place where we could most intentionally and effectively set up the message.

It has been a challenge over the past 12 years to consistently do this part of club well, but it has been worth the time and thought that has gone into it. And with that in mind, I wanted to offer our club set lists for this semester, with a bit of explanation behind why some songs fall where they do. (Note: not every song is where it is for a reason; some we sing simply because they are fun to sing and kids enjoy them.)

Club #1: Intro/Incarnation Message. Most of these songs were chosen because they are sure-fire winners. I want new kids to go home from Club that night thinking “I didn’t know we’d sing that at Young Life! That was awesome.”

Clubs #2 and #3: Person of Christ. Most of the songs at these clubs are “love songs.” These are songs that say “I love you as you are; you are beautiful to me as you are. I want to be the most important person in your life.” None of the songs are about broken dreams or heartache, but about the goodness of love. When viewed through the lens that these are the ways God feels about us, they are perfectly suited to setting up a message about a God who loves us so much that He left Heaven to come down and get involved in our lives because of His great love for us. An exception to this thought is “God Gave Me You,” which is a bit of a response, in the sense that it allows us to sing about life being a mess until God sent someone into our lives who stands beside us through our mess and our storms. Though we don’t explicitly suggest that this is how we feel about Jesus, the implication is incredibly real. (This song would also be an excellent fit on the night of the Cross Message.)

Clubs #4 and #5: Need and Sin. Notice the change in the message of these songs. They begin to turn toward brokenness and pain, even though they still are fun songs to sing. Compare what we say in these messages (“though God loves us, there is something not quite right in our lives… there is still heartache and struggle. And the reason these things are a reality in our world and in our lives is because we’ve turned our backs on the God who made us and loves us”) to the messages in these songs: “I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing…” “Now I’m trying to make sense of what little remains, because you left me with no love, and no love to my name…” “I’m falling to pieces.” (from Breakeven); “I’m good without you. Yeah, I’m good without you. But how many times can I break ‘til I’m shattered” Over the line, can’t define what I’m after…” “Give me some space, let me make my own pattern…” (from Shattered); and even Bieber gives us a glimpse into brokenness with “Said there’s another and looked right in my eyes. My first love broke my heart for the first time…” and “I’m in pieces, baby fix me, and just shake me til you wake me from this bad dream. I’m going down, down, down, and I just can’t believe my first love won’t be around.” (Baby) “If happy ever after did exist, I would still be holding you like this, but all these fairy tales are full of it, and one more stupid love song I’ll be sick” (from Payphone); “Throw your sould through every open door… you reap just what you sow… We could have had it all” (from Rollin in the Deep.)

Clubs #6 and #7: The Cross and the Resurrection/Life with Jesus: In the midst of our death, Christ came to give us life and freedom from our Sin! We are given a fresh start, a new chance at life! Even Katy Perry gets it: “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind wanting to start again? Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin, like a house of cards, one blow from caving in? Do you ever feel already buried deep? 6 feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing. Do you know that there’s still a chance for you…” (from Firework.) Or consider these lyrics from Mumford and Sons: “Now let me at the truth, which will refresh my broken mind…” and “So come out of your cave walking on your hands and see the world hanging upside down. You can understand dependence when you know the maker’s hand…” and “Cause I need freedom now and I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be.” (The Cave.)

Certainly, these are just a few lyrics from a few of the options we have in our Club music, and I could go on and on about numerous others. But, they are lyrics that explain the exact realities we’re talking about in our Club messages! The hope is that we’d all begin to see secular music as more than simply a “time filler” or even just a “crowd unifier,” but that we’d begin to see it as a way to use pop culture to illustrate and attest to the truth we find in scripture! The dream is that we’ll all learn to use music effectively as a tool to communicate the Gospel to our young friends. If you have thoughts, comments, or questions, please don’t hold back. I’d be happy to discuss the how’s and why’s behind building a Club Music Matrix that tells the story of the Gospel, and even steal some of your ideas for my own Club! Blessings on each of you as you use Adele and Katy Perry and Maroon 5 to help you share the Gospel with your middle and high school friends!

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