Picking the Perfect Music (using Brain Based Learning)


     I am married to a teacher and we love when educational theory, brain based research and youth ministry collide into a fusion of learning awesomeness. We talk about integrating teaching principles, learning theories,  and educational best practices into youth ministry quite often.  One aspect of brain based learning we are particularly fond of is the influence of music in creating an optimal learning environment. Music affects our emotional state.  Why else would a teenage girl put on depressing country song after country song after a break up? Because she needs a good cry and the music helps elicit such a response. When you want to bust a move in the kitchen and get your dance on, you turn up the Flo-Rida, Lecrae, JLo and Pitbull. When you are angry and want to bang your head against the wall, there is music specifically designed to evoke such a response too!

     I found this article over at Brain Based Jensen Learning regarding how to pick the perfect music for brain based learning and it is completely transferable to youth ministry. When you want to calm a room full of hyperactive, overly sugared middle schoolers, it might be a great idea to play some serene tunes in the background. Caught one too many people yawning and need to energize the room and liven things up? Well there is music for that too! Instead of shhhhhushing (quit spitting into your microphone already!-Yes I am guilty of that too! ) a room full of rambunctious middle schoolers over and over again, try using music as a tool.  Pay attention to what teachers do in the classroom. Teachers use music for seamless transitions from one activity to another. They use music to calm a room or to signal it's time to pack up and go home. So why can't youth workers do the same?  Jensen says:

" Pay attention to what happens to your own body and mind as you listen to a song. Pay attention to the beats per minute (BPM). Songs in the 35- 50 BPM range will be more calming, while those in the middle 55-70 BPM will be more moderate for seatwork. For activities, the pace might be 70-100 and for energizers, maybe 100-160 BPM will REALLY rev it up."  

     I love integrating brain based learning into a youth ministry setting, especially when it comes to music! It's  fun to use our Itunes playlist to get a room revved up and rowdy. Keeps things interesting. Playing music in the background while announcements or games are going on keeps everything fun, upbeat, moving, and also signals (without anyone being tempted to scream shut up!) to everyone what's going on.  If music can educe calm into the middle of chaos or get everyone smiling and dancing, than by all means use music as a tool! Create an irresistible environment using music to create calm or crazy controlled chaos every Sunday morning or Wednesday night. It would be a waste not too. If music works wonders in a classroom setting, it can work its magic in the youth room too. 

     We spoke with a youth pastor some time ago who had demonstrated little fondness (like zero) for back ground music (during announcements or while speaking) in the youth room.  When one youth worker girl with a Master's in Christian Education (me) plus one experienced middle school teacher dude (my husband) with a Master's in Educational Technology mentioned the use of background music during announcements, and for transitions, he looked at us, shrugged his shoulders and had his own reasons for saying "no" to our plea. OK, maybe not, but if it works, if it's based on proven research and if it's working in the highest scoring and most dynamic classrooms in the nation, why not?  Sometimes it can be a challenge, especially for the more seasoned youth worker to step out and adapt teaching styles to better mesh with adolescent development. Another reason I like to keep younger youth workers around me, they are much more eager to mix it up with new ideas.  

     Back in the day my husband and I were at a YS National Youth Worker's Convention where Mike Pilavachi, one of the key note speakers  (a cool youth pastor dude from England) had musician Andy Hunter (another cool English dude!) on stage playing (and mixing) music the ENTIRE time he was speaking. It was phenomenal. Not at all distracting (it was techno music w/o any lyrics) and so incredibly powerful. My husband and I were hooked. We loved the fusion of music and preaching. Something so completely different yet a no brainer as well. When was the last time you watched a movie without a soundtrack? You DON'T WATCH MOVIES WITHOUT A SOUNDTRACK! You would be so distracted and thrown off by the lack of a soundtrack. The movie would be ruined, unfinished, and incomplete.  So why not add a soundtrack to your youth ministry? 

My husband...My favorite teacher!
 I glean TONS of Brain Based Learning ideas
from him. 
How do YOU integrate Educational (Brain Based Research) theory into your ministry? Often the "Pastors" with the MDiv's can speak brilliantly about the Bible, but lack the higher level classroom educational training to teach it in ways that 'stick.'  Keep some school teachers close at hand (I live with one! Ha!!) and learn a thing or two to rock your ministry! 


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