The best ideas for lunchtime talks for music students

Lunchtime talks are a great opportunity to answer questions that students have about Christianity. The idea is to tackle a big topic by engaging in the culture that the students are a part of, helping them to consider their own opinions and challenge them. However, like most subject areas, music poses its own individual challenges to Christianity, and so within music colleges particularly, it is important to be engaging with these issues. Here are three particular ideas for topics that you could use that are especially suited to the environment of music.

Identity

Music students are chasing the dream of a being a world-renowned performer or composer, spending every waking hour on music, prioritising it above all else. When they see that you care about your studies and doing well, but actually prioritise your church small-group on a Wednesday night, or spend half an hour reading your Bible rather than doing extra musical activities, it seems strange to them. As a Christian, your whole identity is secure in Jesus, not how well you perform or how long you spend practising. When speaking to music students, it's not uncommon to hear them say that music is who they are, it is what they do, and often a lot of what they talk about. It is easy for it to take over your life, particularly with rehearsals dominating evenings, not to mention early morning practice! There is a certain religiosity about it. Music becomes a god, an idol, that tries to take the true God’s place. The issue with having an identity in music is that in the end, it will always let you down. Music never gives back, it is not a person, it cannot love, it cannot desire, and it cannot save. It simply demands and takes, until we break. We want to show that actually our identity can be in something so much greater; a God that does love, desire and save, who does not sap life, but gives life.

How might this talk be structured?

  • Identify – music is great, it is good to spend time doing it. Music is beautiful and we want to strive to do well.
  • Persuade – could there be more to life than this? Worshipping music does not bring you anything because it cannot give back. You become its slave, trying to better yourself and to serve it better. What if there was a God you could serve that did not slavishly require things of you, but rather came running after you? What if God had done everything for you, so that you do not have to find your identity in a changeable entity but rather in an unchanging God who created music for your enjoyment?
  • Invite – It does not mean that we have to give music up, but it does mean it does not define us. Challenge you to take a look and see what an identity in God means for you.

Satisfaction/Freedom

Musicians are striving to be the best, to be the first cellist in orchestra, to have the solo in choir, or win the next competition. Once they achieve these goals, they realise that there is always another one. There is no way to satisfy, even when you reach the top. It is a never-ending cycle from which, you cannot be freed. It is impossible to truly free and satisfied without God. True freedom is found in Him because in Him we find our created purpose; to be in relationship with Him. As a Christian believing this, we are free from finding satisfaction in earthly things, like how well we are performing. Although these things still matter, we know that they are temporary, and do not impact our eternal life in heaven. We do not store up treasures on earth but rather our heavenly treasures. Explaining this to music students is difficult. It is not wrong to pursue a good career and do well, but this should not be where you find your satisfaction, because you will not succeed. Rather we are freed from the cycle of trying to find satisfaction because of Jesus.

How might this talk be structured?

  • Identify – There is a desire to do well in music and strive to be the best you can. It is good to want to work hard and do the best you can.
  • Persuade – Do you feel like whenever you achieve something, there is always something more? You can always do better. What if there was a way to be freed from this cycle? What if actually we can find satisfaction in something other than music, or even relationships, or partying? And what if this satisfaction was lasting, rather than transient? A relationship with God gives this kind of satisfaction.
  • Invite – The Bible says that it is good to work hard and press on, but that earthly things do not satisfy us. Challenge to find satisfaction in God instead.

Beauty

The world displays a vast abundance of beauty. Musicians, perhaps more than others, know about, and revel in, beauty. Many musicians pursue music because of the sheer beauty of music, and the desire to experience that beauty on a continual basis. And they believe beauty matters. There's a reason why we passionately believe in the arts and the necessity of funding for the arts - it's not just about the need for self-expression, it's also about the need for beauty in this life. But where does this beauty come from? If there's no God, can we really declare anything beautiful? Or is it all just personal opinion with no grounds in fact? As Christians, we have the best explanation for the inbuilt human desire for and belief in beauty - that there is a God who is good and who delights in making a beautiful creation for His creatures to enjoy. And thus we also have the firmest foundations for campaigning for the arts and for the necessity of music.

How might this talk be structured?

  • Identify – There is an inbuilt human attraction towards beauty, and consequently a deep-seated desire for it, and a belief in the importance of it. This is natural and human and music is a key way in which we create, enjoy and revel in that beauty.
  • Persuade – Do you have a solid basis for believing in the value of beauty? Surely it's more than just personal opinion! Surely it's more even than a scientific and utilitarian understanding that music benefits people's health and wellbeing. Surely the transcendent quality of music's beauty points to something more. What if there were an objective basis for beauty which made sense of this transcendence and gave beauty inherent value? The God of the Bible is no mean dictator-in-the-sky but rather a good God who delights in creating beauty for His creatures to enjoy.
  • Invite – The Bible affirms the value of beauty by basing it in the character and creation of God. Challenge to accept this more consistent (not to mention more life-affirming) view, perhaps with a further invitation to look at the "warped" beauty of the heart of Christianity: the Cross.

Personal evangelism and starting conversations

The best way to start these conversations and to invite people to lunchbars is to get to know people. It’s really important to be intentional with your friendships; don’t think about people as projects. This shows that you genuinely care about the individual. Being part of an ensemble is one of the easiest ways to grow friendships with your coursemates. As long as we are friends with other people in our departments, it is easier to share Jesus with them. The more we get to know them, the easier it gets because we can relate to them and understand their points of view, which makes it easier to hold lunchbars that suit them.

We can also stand out by having a different approach to work than our other coursemates. The Bible instructs us that we should glorify God in everything that we do, and this includes practice, writing essays, and rehearsals. Sometimes work can be a bit of a slog, and you might not be enjoying it, but how do you react? Do you complain, and not try your hardest? Or do you plough on acknowledging that it may not be your best module and keep going? By ensuring that we do not have a sacred/secular divide, recognising that faith and music are not two disconnected parts of our life, we can begin to glorify God in everything. This really stands out from the approach of your coursemates, and can initiate conversations, leading to invitations.