Why Are Our Camp Songs Older Than the Campers?

by Matt Bassford — Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, the Joliet church held our annual youth day. We invited young people from across Chicagoland to come to Joliet for a Saturday to participate in Bible classes intended for their age group, sing, and hang out at the homes of various members. As we typically do, Josh Collier and I divided up the songleading between us, and we solicited hymn requests from those in attendance. Here are some of the requests I remember:

· We Bow Down

· Here I Am to Worship

· As the Deer

· We Will Glorify

· You Are My All in All

· How Deep the Father’s Love

· Glorify Your Name

On a surface level, these hymn requests appear to justify a point that is often made during discussions of contemporary hymns. Even in cases where the content of a contemporary hymn is lacking, brethren often defend its use in worship because “It’s what Our Young People like to sing.” Clearly, that’s the case. All of the hymns on the list above (some good, some not-so-good) come from a contemporary/camp strain of hymnody.

However, that answer merely invites another question. If Our Young People like to sing those hymns, why do they like to sing them? It could be that this is an example of popular, contemporary Christian music forcing its way into the kingdom. You have Christian teenagers who encounter these songs online or at a friend’s house and demand that they be introduced into a camp setting.

I think there’s some value in that, provided that it isn’t carried too far (I don’t think you want the least spiritually mature members of the congregation setting the worship agenda), but it doesn’t appear to be what’s actually happening. The praise songs in question are too old.

“We Bow Down” was written in 1984. “Here I Am to Worship”, in 2000. “As the Deer”, in 1984. “We Will Glorify” has a copyright date of 1982. “You Are My All in All” was copyrighted in 1991. “How Deep the Father’s Love”, in 1995. “Glorify Your Name”, written in 1976, is older than I am.

The most recent song on that list, “Here I Am to Worship”, is 15 years old. I remember when I first started getting interested in pop music, back in 1989. A lot of the music I started exploring came from my brother, who is 13 years older than I am. Even with his help, though, the very oldest bands and albums I started listening to came from no further back than 1980, about 10 years in the past. Anything older than that, I would have identified as “oldies”, coming from a musical era different than my own.

This suggests to me that whoever is pushing the body of contemporary hymns and praise songs (and I think somebody is), it isn’t Our Young People. I think it’s their parents. A few months ago, when various Joliet kids returned from summer camp, “Sanctuary” (copyright 1982) made a couple of Sunday-morning appearances, which thankfully have not been repeated. Afterward, I overheard one of the brethren in my age cohort talking about how “Sanctuary” was to him one of those core Bible-camp experiences.

Here’s how this works. 40-year-old camp counselor is preparing an evening devotional. He thinks back to the time when he was a teenager at camp, and he remembers the praise songs he loved to sing then. He introduces them into a spiritually and emotionally charged setting. Forever after, the campers associate those praise songs with the spiritual high they felt that evening, so they ask for them to be led (or lead them) whenever the opportunity arises. Other Christians observe this pattern, conclude that Our Young People really like contemporary hymns, and push for their inclusion everywhere.

In reality, the driving force here is not progress, but nostalgia. Contemporary praise songs are benefiting not from their innate appeal to Our Young People, but from the camp devotional experience. I suspect that any hymn introduced into such a setting will quickly become a camper favorite, even if it’s 300 years old.

Counselors, then, have a golden opportunity to spiritually shape their young charges. There are good, emotionally powerful hymns from every era of English hymnody. Introduce those. Don’t lean on the mixed body of contemporary hymns, just because they’re contemporary. Singing a spiritually pointless praise song from the early ‘80s is a waste. Admittedly, it does reflect a certain set of preferences, but those preferences don’t belong to the campers. They belong to those who are supposed to be instructing them.


Gallup: Older Americans’ Moral Attitudes Changing

Gallup: Older Americans’ Moral Attitudes Changing

Older Americans’ Moral Attitudes Changing

Moral acceptance of teenage sex among the biggest generational divides

by Joy Wilke and Lydia Saad — June 3, 2013 

PRINCETON, NJ — Americans across the age spectrum are in broad agreement on the morality of a variety of societal issues, and older Americans’ views on several once taboo matters related to sexuality — such as premarital sex and gay relations — have significantly evolved. Nevertheless, young adults are far more accepting of two such matters — pornography and sexual relations — than older adults, possibly signifying an eventual cultural shift on these.


These data are from Gallup’s 2013 Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 2-7. Gallup has tracked Americans’ views on the moral acceptability of 12 issues annually since 2001 and several others annually since 2002 or later. This is the first year the poll has measured public views on sex between teens.

As previously reported, Gallup’s trends show majority acceptance of two — having a baby outside of marriage and gay or lesbian relations — being reached in the past decade, while acceptance of others has increased over the same time from a smaller to larger majority.

For many of these items, moral acceptance has seen significant change across all age groups, with the largest changes in acceptance of certain issues among Americans aged 55 and older. This is particularly true in Americans’ attitudes toward gays and lesbians and having a baby outside of marriage, resulting in a shift from majority opposition to majority support over the past decade.

Other items — such as divorce, premarital sex, and embryonic stem cell research — have seen a slight increase in support among younger Americans and a dramatic increase among older Americans. Only on one issue — attitudes toward animal testing — has acceptance significantly declined, with the shift concentrated among those aged 18 to 34.

Older Americans’ Support for Gay Relations Up 25 Percentage Points Since 2001

Americans’ attitudes toward gay or lesbian relations have shown the greatest overall change over the course of Gallup’s tracking, with moral acceptance increasing 19 points between 2001 and 2013.

Much of this change has occurred across the age spectrum. Acceptance of gay or lesbian relations among Americans aged 55 and older is now 25 points higher than it was in 2001. While Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have consistently reported support for gay and lesbian relations at higher levels than older age groups, their support has also risen by 22 points in the past 12 years.


Those Aged 55 and Older Now More Accepting of Having a Baby Outside of Marriage

The percentage of Americans who say it is morally acceptable to have a baby outside of marriage has risen markedly over the past decade, from 45% to 60%, with the majority threshold first crossed in 2003 and consistently staying at that level since 2005. Since 2002, acceptance is up 16 points among adults aged 18 to 34 years and up 28 points among those aged 55 and older.


Overall Greater Acceptance of Premarital Sex Result of Older Americans Acceptance

Americans aged 55 and older are largely responsible for the overall 10-point increase in moral acceptance of sex between unmarried men and women since 2001, from 53% to 63%. Among this group, acceptance of premarital sex has increased by 22 points in 12 years, while these numbers have risen slightly among Americans younger than age 55.


Older Americans Also Driving Overall Increased Acceptance of Divorce

The overall change in Americans’ opinions on divorce is also largely a result of shifting views of those who are 55 and older. These Americans are now 21 points more likely to find divorce acceptable than they were in 2001. Meanwhile, attitudes toward divorce among those younger than age 55 have remained relatively flat.


55+ Population Warms to Stem Cell Research

Much of the increase in moral acceptance of stem cell research has been driven by a change in the opinions of adults aged 55 and older. Acceptance among this older age group has risen by 20 points over the past 11 years. At the same time, support among Americans aged 35 to 54 has fallen off somewhat since its peak of 66% in 2005, but it remains about six points higher than it was in 2002. For the past few years, acceptance of stem cell research has leveled off among all age groups.


Less Support Among Younger Americans for Medical Testing on Animals

Though opinions on animal testing were essentially uniform across age groups in 2001, that pattern has changed over the past 12 years, as the overall percentage supporting it has declined from the mid-60s to the mid-50s. The greatest change has been among Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, for whom support for medical testing on animals has dropped by 18 points. Older Americans are now slightly less supportive of medical testing on animals compared with 12 years ago.


Bottom Line

Americans’ fundamental views on several issues that define the nation’s culture have changed in important ways since the start of the last decade. Gallup trends by age show that (in every case) increasing acceptance of several matters relating to sexual relations, as well as divorce and stem cell research, have moved closer to the views held by the youngest generation of Americans. In some cases, this has resulted in transformative change, with majority acceptance emerging in the past decade, and in others, it has resulted in expanded majority acceptance. Pornography and teenage sex now stand out as issues that could emerge as more broadly accepted in the future. However, this will largely hinge on whether today’s young adults maintain these views into middle age — i.e., teen parenting — or whether they soften. Currently, overall acceptance of both is low, but this masks large generational gulfs with nearly half of young adults supportive versus roughly one in five adults aged 55 and older.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 2-7, 2013, with a random sample of 1,535 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup’s polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

Flight Paths – Dene Ward

Flight Paths – Dene Ward

That You May Teach Your Children (2)

Someone recently asked me what I thought a kindergarten aged child should know about the Bible.  All I can tell you is from my own experience.

I believe they should know about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—and that all of those beings love him no matter what.  They should know every major Bible story, and be able to name the books of the Bible, the apostles, the sons of Jacob, and the judges.  They should have some major memorizing done, individual verses here and there, and larger passages as well, e.g., the 23rd Psalm, the beatitudes, scriptures like Rom 12:1-3 and good old John 3:16.  And those things should be explained as well as a five or six year old can understand them, which may be more than you think.  They should have a large repertoire of spiritual songs, not just children’s songs, but some of the hymns from the songbook as well.  They should be praying several times a day.

The person who asked looked at me, dumbfounded.  “That’s impossible,” he said.  No.  It’s not.  I could do most of that, and my children could do all of it.  I can still hear five year old Lucas reciting the twenty-third psalm, and three year old Nathan singing all five verses of “Twust and Obey.”

What’s that? “It isn’t about learning facts.”  Of course, it isn’t.  But tell me, which do you teach first, critical analysis of the poetry of Keats versus that of Milton, or memorizing the alphabet?  They will never understand faith till they see it working in the life of Abraham; or courage, until they know the stories of David and Esther; or unselfish devotion until they hear about Ruth gleaning in the field.  Isn’t that why God put those facts there in the first place? …things…written aforetime were written for our learning, (Rom 15:4).

And you know what works even better?  Learning about the generosity of Barnabas and then seeing a father like mine, who gave so generously that the IRS audited him.  And learning about the compassion of Dorcas and then a seeing a mother like mine, who took food off her table to give to a neighbor whose husband was killed in an automobile accident, and then organized a food drive for that same neighbor and her five small children.

And as to the amount I think a child should know so early?  The problem is not a child’s capacity.  The problem is adults underestimating their capacity. And maybe the problem is we do not want to spend the time it takes to do this.  This is not something you accomplish in 15 minutes a day of “quality time,” that great myth that has been foisted on American parents.  God never expected that meager amount to be the time we spend teaching our children.

Hear, O Israel:  Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.  And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might.  And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.  And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes, and you shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates.  Deut 6:4-9.

I think that pretty well covers it all, don’t you?

Dene Ward