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Reaching young people online
The power of music
Since the 60s, most young people have listened to music for hours every day, read music magazines, and defined themselves and their culture by this interest. Music is the wallpaper of their lives and a very deep part of the identity of most teens. It shapes their worldview and defines them more than clothes, films, even TV. It is therefore a prime bridge point into youth culture. Is this potential being used for online evangelism? Very little.
It may be that Christians are afraid to make use of cultural elements which include negative aspects. Or probably we just don’t actually understand youth music culture anyway. But a model already exists for a powerful web outreach based on youth music – Dave Bruce's Hollywood Jesus. His purpose is specifically not to review films, or make recommendations about their suitability and content. (Other sites do this ably.) Instead, he examines new films and find specific Christian parallels and insights on which he can build and add extra related Christian comment and input. What is remarkable is how many films contain embedded eternal truths, even when they have not been written from a conscious Christian worldview.
Note that Bruce demonstrates a genuine enthusiasm for the medium, and offers many background links, officially-sanctioned movie clips, plus much more. If you wonder whether this approach is effective, check how many hits the site has had in the last few years.
Using this approach with pop musicIt would be wonderful for someone to have the vision to produce a similar site for young people based on popular music. The site would have features such as:
- latest releases
- information on band members and discography
- links to best official and unofficial band sites
- exciting graphics
- match the ‘feel’ of secular music sites
- communicate a genuine interest and enthusiasm for popular music, not just use it as a quick jumping-off point for the Gospel.
There are resources to help Christians understand how to listen to and analyze modern culture, such as: Damaris | Relevant Magazine | Facing the Challenge | Ranson Fellowship | Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture by William D. Romanowski (Brazos Press, April 2001) ISBN: 1587430096.
If you feel, “Can any good thing come out of pop music?” – in terms of using it as a starting point for evangelism – check out the lyrics of Where is the Love? by Black Eyed Peas, which was at top of the charts for many weeks in 2003. Is this not a ready-made jumping-off point? Print it out, and then read some extracts to other people without identifying the source. Ask them who wrote it, when, and why!
If it is your role to reach or minister to young people from 10-25+, make it your business to look up latest song lyrics online, and use them redemptively.
Dave Bruce comments on the need for a website like this:
“I like this idea. It needs to happen. I am surprised it hasn't happened yet. Music is so important in our culture. It reflects so much. Before the JFK and MLK Jr assassinations we sang ‘Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bed post overnight?’ and ‘Yellow polka dot bikini’. After the assassinations we sang ‘The eve of destruction’ and Dylan’s ‘The times they are a changin’. Music connects in a very powerful way.”Pray that someone will see the incredible significance of this strategy. Although some teen sites may contain individual pages that relate to music, there is no site devoted to this approach alone.
A similar approach can be used for novels, plays, poetry, or fine art.
related pages within the Bridge the gap & Using culture menu links
recommended books on reaching outsiders, including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry