February Youth Sunday School Lesson: How can I use Church music to learn about the plan of salvation?
I substituted for a youth Sunday School class yesterday and wanted to share my lesson.
First, let’s all read the title of the lesson and wonder, “What a strange obscure topic!” While the YW and YM manuals are focusing on the plan of salvation this month, the Sunday School manual is about learning/teaching the plan of salvation.
After I told the class the topic (even the teens did a “Huh?” with the topic), we started talking about how music can help us learn. I would have listed them on the board if I had chalk, but I didn’t. Some ideas that we came up with were:
- Educational lyrics (they mentioned Sesame Street)
- Mnemonic devices
- Listening to music to help you study or accomplish a goal (like cleaning your room)
- Using music for meditation
- To evoke emotion
To demonstrate that last bullet point, I made a little slideshow of generic sunset pictures. I’ll share it here:
I played the slideshow twice while playing music from my mp3 player. I used a rock cello piece and Queen’s “We are the Champions” but you could use whatever music you have on hand. I chose these two because they are both rock music pieces, but they still evoke different emotions. I didn’t want to set up a particular genre of music as “bad.” Rock music is good stuff!
I asked them if they felt different emotions about the sunset pictures while they listened to the different music. We talked about how music in movies can let us know what is happening: a character reading a letter to herself might not share what the words are that she is reading, but we can tell if the letter brings good or bad news based on the music.
To bring it back to the Plan of Salvation, I said, “Well, I think the big picture of the plan of salvation is that we can be with God again. I think music is a great way to bring us closer to God and humans have been using music to feel the divine for millennia. All sorts of music can bring us close to God.
Our ward building has wifi, so I made a Spotify playlist of world spiritual music. You can see it here: spoti.fi/1dBCEbS
Explanation of each track:
- Gregorian chant. Traditional sacred music of the Roman Catholic Church, sung by monks in Latin.
- Kumbaya. The version in this is from the American folk rival of the 1960s.
- Krishna Arati. Hindu kirtan. Involves chanting, some instruments, sometimes dance.
- Piyyut: God is Alive. A piyyut is a liturgical poem chanted during Jewish services.
- Ogun- Nation Ketou. Afro-brazillian spiritual dance music. Sung in Portuguese.
- This Little Light of Mine. African American Gospel
- Tori-Kagura. Japanese Shinto music for dance that tells stories
After we listened to a bit of all the music, I asked the class if there was a time that music helped them feel closer to God.
If you don’t have Internet or multimedia access for this lesson, I think the suggestion to go over the song, O My Father, from the hymnbook is a good one. One of Eliza R. Snow’s original titles for O My Father was Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother.
Another aspect I wanted to bring in, but didn’t because of time, was the hymns of the early Christians that we have in the New Testament. For example, Colossions 1:15-20 is considered to be an early hymn about the nature of Christ. I think discussing what it teaches us about Christ would be a lovely parallel to the topic given. You can find more about other early Christian hymns about Christ in Eric D. Huntsman’s powerpoint here. Dr. Huntsman is a religion professor at BYU. I had him for New Testament and found him to be demanding and historically rigorous.
I hope that gives you some material for an otherwise obscure topic!