Are worship songs of the youth too emo?

I received Christ when I was 13 years old, and so my faith was in its infancy during the tumultuous teenage years. Back then, doctrinal accuracy of the songs I sang wasn’t as important as how the songs made me feel connected to God.

This is not to downplay the role of doctrine in song. Indeed, music and lyrics have been used for didactic purposes throughout history, and even secularists concede, “let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”1 However, it would be foolish of those of us in church leadership to dismiss the emotional power of music and its role in the life of a young believer.

We may be quick to dismiss the songs our youth enjoy just because we feel the lyrics are “not deep enough”. However, songs are not lectures, and neither are lectures meant to be songs. Each has their place in ministry.

I can still vividly remember those midnight worship sessions as a teen, armed with just an acoustic guitar, pouring my whole heart into worship, and feeling the Father’s smile with each and every song I (badly) played. Those songs I sang wouldn’t have won prizes at seminaries for their doctrinal content, but they certainly helped me transform my chaotic teenage angst into tempered devotion.

One such song is “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. Although the lyrics are relatively few compared to many other worship songs, they are permeated with the truth and hope of God’s word. Its simple vocabulary and accessible musical range make the song easy to pick up even for those less musically inclined.

In particular, I commend the theocentricity of the lyrics, which is a breath of fresh air from the anthropocentric “I-me” in some songs. A line in the chorus­—“It’s Your breath in our lungs”—strongly resonates what Romans 11:36 (NIV) says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” What a thought, that God even gives us breath to praise, hearts to engage, and hands to raise for his glory! Songs like this help lift our youth’s eyes from their focus on personal problems to see the hope in Jesus, the true I AM.

So, the next time you hear the youth lead a song with the bridge repeated for the umpteenth time, don’t dismiss them as being unnecessarily emotional. The song might be helping them have a personal encounter with their Saviour.


Great Are You Lord (CCLI Song # 6460220)

© 2012 Open Hands Music, Sony/ATV Timber Publishing, Integrity’s Praise! Music, and Integrity’s Alleluia! Music


You give life, You are love

You bring light to the darkness

You give hope, You restore

Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord



It’s Your breath in our lungs

So we pour out our praise

We pour out our praise

It’s Your breath in our lungs

So we pour out our praise to You only



And all the earth will shout Your praise

Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing

Great are You, Lord

1 Andrew Fletcher, 1653–1716, Scottish writer, politician and patriot, Commissioner of the old Parliament of Scotland, quoted in Donald J. Grout, A History of Western Music, 1973.

Justin Chan is a Programme Executive at Methodist School of Music, Worship & Church Music Department. As a reformed rock musician, he believes hymns and heavy metal can co-exist for the glory of God.