If it seems like music is everywhere in today’s culture, that’s because music is everywhere. We’ve got music on the radio, music on our phones, music on TV, music in elevators, music in waiting rooms, music in our video games, and more. Music is literally all around us.
So why don’t we have more music in our groups? I’ll confess that this has been a failure of mine. I enjoy music personally, but it took me several years to understand how music can make an impact in a group setting—even in a group with “spiritual” goals.
With that in mind, here are three reasons why you should consider using more music in your groups.
1. Music can set the mood.
If your idea of a group meeting is for people to sit quietly and listen to you talk, then music is probably a bad idea. Why? Because most people have been conditioned to associate shared musical experiences with social events. Background music is the stuff of parties, not lectures.
However, if you’re aiming for a group experience that includes conversation and personal interaction, then music is a great way to communicate your intentions upfront. When people walk into a quiet room, they typically respond by behaving more quietly themselves. The same is true when people walk into a quiet room with small clusters of people chatting softly together. In contrast, when people walk into a room that is filled with sound, they feel much more freedom to move about and talk at a normal volume.
In short, your choice of background music can lay some fairly important ground rules about your expected atmosphere and group experience—all without you having to say a word.
2. Music can convey emotion.
Communicating information will always be an important part of your group experiences. But sometimes you want your group members to go beyond learning or understanding information—sometimes you want them to experience something. And that’s another way music can be essential to your group gatherings.
As an example, it’s entirely possible for your group members to have a conversation about the consequences of fatherlessness in today’s society. That’s an important topic, and you could absolutely present some frightening statistics to get the ball rolling. You may even have a group member share his or her experiences with an absent father, provided that person feels comfortable enough to do so and is willing to offer details.
Or, you could ask your group to listen to the song “Do You Even Know Me Anymore?” by Mark Schultz. In this scenario, you allow your group members to have a shared encounter with the emotions connected to fatherlessness. You give them a chance to experience something together on an emotional level—which can be powerful.
In the same way, you could create an interesting group conversation around the topic of joy, including the joy we should all be experiencing as disciples of Christ. Or you could play a song that helps them feel Happy together, right there in your meeting space.
3. Music can aid learning.
As I said earlier, information will always be part of a good group gathering. Learning should be an essential element in your group experiences. And that’s yet another reason why music can be helpful to what you want to accomplish—because there’s a good chance several people in your group have an auditory learning style.
If you’re not familiar with learning styles as a concept, you can get an overview here. The basic idea is that people learn in different ways. Some learn through hands-on experiences. Some learn visually. Some learn by reading or researching. Some learn by getting out into nature. Similarly, there are many people who learn best through hearing. These are often referred to as auditory learners.
Why is there a good chance you have a large number of auditory learners in your group? Because auditory learners typically prefer to perceive and process information by speaking and listening. Auditory learners love to engage in conversations, which makes them a natural fit for group-learning environments.
Can you guess what else auditory learners typically enjoy? That’s right: music. Auditory learners have something in their brains that becomes especially stimulated by exposure to music. It wakes them up on a mental level and helps them pay attention. It gets them in the groove for learning, engagement, and everything else you want to happen during your group experience.
Sam O’Neal is a Content Editor on the Adult Ministry Publishing team at Lifeway. Sam is the author of The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders and the Bible content writer for About.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SamTONeal.
Great article. And helpful for thinking through the music choice for the moment.