What every youth pastor can learn from Hamilton. 

So this year, my favorite birthday present BY FAR was going to see Hamilton (thanks to my small group coleader and partner in crime, Sara). And it’s fair to say, I’ve been obsessed ever since. 

Aside from just being dazzled by the cast (I maybe stalk them all on Instagram) , I noticed something curious while I was there. By the second or third song, things started to sound familiar. And by the end, I was singing along.  Maybe that’s not weird for the die-hard musical fans who grabbed the soundtrack the day it came out and had every word memorized before walking in the show, but that’s not me. If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of musicals (until this one). I don’t hate them, but I’m certainly not going to pre-listen to a show I’ve never seen which is why I found myself humming along, perplexed, and asking myself…

“How do I  know the words to this song?”

The simple answer? Repetition. 

Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius for a lot of reasons, but one of them is each song seemed to build on the one before, borrowing words and phrases and melodies and working them into the next song. In a way, he was teaching the audience the next song before the first note was played. 

A few phrases show up in multiple tunes and eventually, the audience knows them well enough that they feel familiar, even if they’ve never heard the song before. For the Hamilton fans, here are a few examples: 

·     Just you wait
·      I am not throwing away my shot
·     Talk less. Smile more
·     Rise up
·     In New York you can be a new man  
·     You will never be satisfied
·     Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now
·     The world turned upside down
·      I imagine death so much it feels like a memory  
·     That would be enough  
·     You write like you’re running out of time
·     History has its eyes on you
·     Who lives, who dies, who tells the story.

Here’s my point:

Sometimes in the youth ministry world it feels like we’re obsessed with new content. We want to say things in a new way, a fresh way, a way no one has ever said it before. And certainly there is a place for that. But what if we’re missing an opportunity? What if the magic isn’t found in a catchy phrase that a sophomore has never heard before, but instead in a repetition that is so well-placed, so clear, so catchy that it becomes a part of them? What if we repeated some words or phrases enough to our students that they became like words to a song they already know? 

In other words, what would you say if you were sure they would remember it?

And if they won’t remember everything (because they won’t and they can’t), how do you prioritize so the phrases you repeat are the ones that matter most?


This, by the way is something we wrestle with over at Orange all the time. If a kid or a teenager can't remember everything that's important, how do we prioritize words and phrases that are MOST important and repeat them? If you're curious how we decide, click here or check out the words/passages/phrases we prioritized for 2018-2019, right here