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1.1 Background of the study

Faith shapes our life purposes, meanings, trusts, loyalties, character, worldview, and values, power. It determines our ultimate condition of existence. Whether or not one belongs to a particular religious group, each person is engaged in forming relationships with others based on trust and loyalty. Each person’s commitments reflect what he/she chooses as his or her courses or centers of value. The center of value refers to where people place their hearts, and focus their lives on persons, causes, ideals, or even institutions that mean so much to humans. The center of value gives meaning to our lives Fowler, (1991). This research is centered on the role music plays as a center of value for adolescents and how it influences their faith.

Music plays an important role in all cultures. According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Report (2010), children aged 8-18 averagely listen to 2 hours 31 minutes of music per day. 86% of children from the ages of 8-18 have access to CDs or MP3 players in their bedrooms. Music is widely accessible. Further, more it has been used for years to enhance play, Griffin, (2010), demonstrate patriotism, express love Watson, (2012), deal with pain, and help calm anxieties.

Music expresses faith, affects the mind, and touches emotions. Bosacki, Elliot, Akseer, and Bajovic (2010) showed there was a connection to children’s faith development, their personal music preferences, and the parents’ listening preferences. Children who listen to Christian music and other religious media (printouts, movies, TV) are more apt to speak of religious references than children who do not. They also encouraged further study of music listening habits and the connection to children’s understanding of religiosity and spirituality. Since music uniquely connects with faith, the brain, and emotions, Christian educators, church leaders, and families should look carefully at the role music has in the worship experience and in the personal music decisions of adolescents.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Despite the wealth of research on adolescents’ music experiences and how it affects their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development, Vist,(2011), little research has been done on the effect music has on an adolescent’s faith development from the adolescent’s perspective. Knowing that music plays such an important role in the cultural and cognitive development of the adolescent, the role of music in faith development needs to be investigated in order to understand how adolescents further develop perceptions of God and their relationships with Him through the medium of music, Tshabalala & Patel, (2010). The problem is that the voices of the adolescents have not been heard in regards to the role music plays in their faith development. Since music has been shown to be of great significance in an adolescent’s cognitive, emotional, and social development, it could also play that much of an important role in faith development.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to discover the role Christian music plays in faith development for adolescents. Faith development is generally defined as a “broadly recognizable pattern of development characterized in terms of developing emotional, cognitive, and moral interpretations and responses” Fowler, (2004: 405). Christian music is defined as a “lyrical content, not musical style.” Therefore, Christian music can use country, rock, metal, screamo, hip-hop, worship, and many more styles.

1.4 Research Questions

Phenomenological researchers compose questions and problems that “reflect their own interests, involvement, and personal commitment” Moustakas, (1994:21). The research began when the topic and question was discovered rooted in the personal meanings and values, as well as benefited social meanings and significances Moustakas, (1994). That question was: What role do Christian music experiences play in the faith development of adolescents in youth ministries? Since research has shown that music plays such an important role in children’s cognitive development, emotional development, and physical development, music could play just an important role as in their faith development.

Through the comprehensive review of professional and research literature, the following sub-questions were formulated:

 (a)  Do adolescents at various stages of faith perceive and describe their Christian music experiences at their youth services?

(b) Can Christian music experiences influence how youth cognitively perceive God?

(c) Does Christian music experiences affect adolescents’ emotions?

 (d)  Does Christian music have any importance to adolescents’ different stages of Fowler’s faith development?

(e) Can Christian music experiences relate to worship in youth ministry?

(g) Is there a nexus between Christian music and faith?

(h) Does music play any role in the social life of adolescents, and if it does what are these roles played?

(i) Can music play an emotional and physical role in the development of adolescent faith?

(j) Does music make impact among the Christian youth?

 Music experiences are important to understand when it comes to faith development. Vist (2011) called music a mediating tool. Music plays an important role in the Christian faith because it connects the individual with worship through not only the instrumentation, singing, or dancing, but more specifically the lyrics, Francis, Wilcox, & Astley, (1992). These types of worship experiences help adolescents come to a personal place, psychologically and epistemologically, where they can experience God.

1.5 Significance of the Study

Adolescents are interested in religion and spirituality. It is important to understand that this “dimension of life is important to many young people and how it shapes their sense of identity are vital issues in understanding its role in human development” Benson (2003: 208). This study benefits families, youth groups, and Christian schools that are developing programs that will help adolescents in their faith, moral, and cognitive development. Since there is limited research on this topic, it may open the door for more quantitative and qualitative studies to be done in order to find more data about the effects music has on adolescents. This study also benefits the participants in that they will give deep descriptions of their experiences with Christian music.

Researchers need to continue to explore issues of faith in adolescents. In particular, future studies are needed on related issues of morality and emotional development Bosacki. (2010). Research is also needed in cultural and spiritual meanings of worship. Religious values and experiences for adolescents across all nations have been classified as a gap in the literature also (Benson, 2003). This study adds to each of these gaps in the research process.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The main limitation to this study is the fact that the author pulled all of the respondents from one youth group. Other large mainline denominations such as the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church, or the Episcopal Church etc do not have representation in this study. This limits the ability to generalize to other populations of faith. This study also includes the Christian faith only. James Fowler’s stages of faith are able to cross the faith traditions Fowler, (2004). Not including other faith traditions also limits the ability to generalize to other populations of faith. Also, resources, especially financial restraints also stood as a major limitation.

1.7 Definition of terms


Phenomenology is the philosophical study of structures of experience and consciousness.

Also, it is the study of development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to or as a part of philosophy.


Adolescence is a traditional stage of physical and psychological human development which generally occurs from puberty to legal adulthood.


Christian music is music that has been written to express either personal or a communal belief regarding Christianity including praise and worship, penitence, and lamentations, and its forms vary widely across the world.


Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing; or the observance of an obligation from loyalty; or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement a belief; it may also refer to a particular system of religion.

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