Uplifting Kids Music (That Won't Drive Parents Bonkers!)
Raising kids in these current times is challenging enough, but add in the enormous influence of popular culture, and it’s practically impossible to keep the innocence of youth intact. While it’s always been a struggle for faith-centered families to find healthy alternatives for their toddlers through tweens, a new movement isn’t just creating wholesome substitutes, but some of the highest quality all around entertainment period. It just so happens that besides possessing all the modern production elements, it’s positive, inspiring and packed with moral fibers sure to keep those little ones on the straight and narrow.
Scan the shelves of your favorite Christian bookstore or do some internet searching and it’s quite possible you’ll find the swinging sounds of Denver & the Mile High Orchestra, the dance pop pleasantries of Jamie Grace, the harmony-heavy stylings of Go Fish or fellow bridge builders like Yancy and The Rizers. There’s even an entire record label dedicated to the tween scene called iShine, and as upbeat acts like Mission Six and The Rubyz lead the charge, they’re selling practically as many CDs as their scantily clad mainstream counterparts.
“...great music for kids that won’t drive parents bonkers.”
“The musical standard of excellence and creativity for kid-friendly music just continues to go higher,” says Denver Bierman of Denver & The Mile High Orchestra, who carved out a successful jazz/swing career prior to becoming a parent. “Being a parent changed my perspective, not only of my life, but also of God’s love for His children. Ten years ago I had no idea I would be so passionate about bringing God’s truth through music to children, but now I couldn’t think of anything greater to do.”
Coming from widespread acclaim in the adult music world singing a cappella, Go Fish can certainly relate to such a career switch over. Having a pre-existing fan base has certainly helped cast their net even wider to now include materials used in Vacation Bible School, but also giving them a unique ability to achieve just the right balance between kid-centered compositions and parent-friendly reflections.
“We are focused on making great music for kids that won’t drive parents bonkers,” assures Go Fish member/GFK Records partner Jamie Statema. “There is not a lack of music for other age groups, but there is an extreme lack of quality music for families…We have been amazed at how parents and children’s pastors have taken our music, videos, and VBS curricula and made it effective in their own ministries. For a band like ours that is focused on ‘fishing for men,’ this has been amazing to watch.”
“The most visible asset that tween and teens need is for someone to be real...”
Speaking of amazing stories, a fresh face on the scene has an especially compelling tale to tell for a slightly older audience, mainly that ever so tricky tween and teen marketplace. TobyMac protégé Jamie Grace is now 19-years-old, though her foundation for full-time ministry actually started at age 11 when she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, allowing her to carve out a niche with youngsters who feel “different.”
“I really like to share my heart [because] I believe the most viable asset that tween and teen generations need is for someone to be real,” she suggests. “Though I’m still a teen myself I remember when a youth leader or a singer would talk about what was going on in their life and you all of a sudden realized that they went through similar things. I talk about my moments of doubting that God loved me and how I eventually realized that He hadn’t gone anywhere.”
“Kids have a higher musical intelligence than we give them credit for...”
Though personal antidotes often earn an attentive audience, younger listeners sometimes are best served with messages straight out of the Bible. That’s where animated act The Rizers come into play, filling up their CD sleeve or website with larger than life characters (think the child-friendly, Christian version of the fellow cartoon collective Gorillaz) who provide a culturally relevant soundtrack to Scripture.
“We write radio-friendly pop songs that sound current and modern and sing straight up Bible verses,” explains co-creator Greg Lutze. “Putting Scripture to music really aids in the memorization department, plus it’s a lot of fun. While music is the fun aspect of what we do, our heart for The Rizers is ultimately Scripture memory. We want our music to help kids remember God’s word and point them towards Jesus.”
Though her songwriting comes from a narrative perspective as opposed to straight up Scripture, singer/songwriter Yancy (who records pop/rock records for both the children and adult marketplaces) is also adamant about making artistically satisfying music to help aid the message being presented. “Kids have a higher musical intelligence than most of us give them credit for,” she asserts. “I think when you can find music that is relevant to culture but doesn’t water down the Bible and message in the music, then you have a win/win! More and more churches are having preteen specific classes and programming. The need is becoming more obvious and parents are looking for positive music and role models they can give their kids. That’s one of the biggest thanks from parents I get!”
Technology + positive entertainment = good roots
“I believe as technology increases and businesses like iShine are formed, entertainment for tweens is as good as ever,” insists 16-year-old Noah Hayden of Mission Six. “I mainly have a heart for reaching kids because I am a kid and I understand the problems and issues that kids are facing. Children are the future and the choices we make now will affect our future.”
Adds label/tour mate Alexis Slifer, 18, from The Rubyz: “Kids are more impressed and listen closely to us because we are or are close to their age. It is so important that we introduce children to God early and help them establish good roots for a life-long relationship with Christ.”
The building blocks for Christ-centered future generations are clearly falling into place more than ever before, thanks to this myriad of positive influences, but as long as society in general continues to put an emphasis on the secular, it will continue to be an uphill battle. That’s why the artists involved in movements like this promote pro-active parenting and plea for their support of such life-shaping entertainment.
“There are hundreds of different things in the media every single day that fight for the attention, adoration and allegiance of the family,” sums up Bierman. “We need to be reminded of God’s truth in our lives and for our children. It is so important to have great faith-based entertainment both in music, movies and television for the family.”
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