Most music in the Christian subculture genre is off-putting to me, at best. Reason being, whether we're talking about the category of worship music or Christian pop, it's all being produced with the same lack of creativity and artisan craftsmanship that didn't start out defining music overtly made by Christians but has come to over the last 25 years. Concerning this, there are three problems I'd like to address:
1. We need to demolish this unnecessary and make-believe line between the sacred and the secular. Everything that is good is good and everything that is not is not. When God created the world, God looked at creation and said, “It is good.” Creation is good because it is infused with the presence of God. The best and most redemptive music out there is often far from the Christian music industry namely because the Christian industry is trying to create a product that fits into an assumed perception about music as opposed to honest art. Create good art. That's it; it's that simple. Art is a reflection of life, so reflect your life. Stop regurgitating tired phrases that don't reflect the tensions and joys of your soul and worldview.
2. Just because the words Jesus/the cross/my sins are forgiven, etc., are included in the lyrics doesn't automatically make it poetry. If anything, the overuse of those wonderful themes makes it suspect before anything else. We need fresh statements of beliefs and worldviews. We need musicians who are reading and practicing theology as well as absorbing the works of T.S. Elliott and James Joyce. For both are needed to produce great art as a Christian.
3. We need honest sounds, real music. I'm not talking about level of technical skill here. New York, L.A. and Nashville have some of the top musicians in the world playing on these records. What we need are the Son Houses, Bob Dylans, Jack Whites and Billie Holidays of this world to step up—people who make music that is real and that sticks to your ribs, not because of their level of musicianship (which is often great too) but because of the weight of the conviction in which they write, play and sing.
As youth workers, we play a big part in the formation of our students. Let's stop encouraging the use of bad art, whether this be in our youth group's worship music or in the encouragement of our students’ personal discovery of music and culture. I understand that because of the context we find ourselves in as Christians, it might be offensive to some families for you to encourage their teenager to take their art serious enough to look beyond the Christian genre. It's worth it, though. Take that risk of offending and being offended for the sake of protecting and guiding the journey your youth are on to becoming the artists they were created to be.