The ‘90s were a wonderful time to be a teenager attending youth group every week. There was finally Christian music geared toward your age group, so your options finally extended beyond Ray Boltz and the Gaither Vocal Band.
There was an explosion of Christian rock ‘n’ roll that, for the first time, actually seemed like it was having some fun instead of just pushing out tame, auto-tuned sermons. And while there’s no way every youth group had every album, there were a few albums every youth group definitely had on regular repeat.
Here are the seven essential albums every ‘90s youth group proudly rocked.
7. Newsboys – Take Me To Your Leader
“Shine” may have been the Newsboys song that was played the most, but when you took a road trip to go to an Acquire the Fire event, your youth pastor knew he could pop in this bad boy and the whole van would enjoy every track.
“Lost the Plot” may be the best Newsboys song you missed.
6. Third Day – Third Day
Before Third Day became your mom’s favorite band, the group put out this gritty southern rock album that felt like a hip combination of Hootie and the Blowfish and Bob Seger.
The follow-up Conspiracy Number 5 album was also a solid entry, if you can get past Mac Powell’s bleached blonde hair.
5. Kirk Franklin – God’s Property
God’s Property and The Nu Nation Project go hand-in-hand in launching Kirk Franklin’s career into the stratosphere, but for youth groups “Stomp” might as well have been the National Anthem.
Franklin found a way to still keep his message front and center while also making music that everyone would enjoy. He was basically the Christian P. Diddy, except he actually sang instead of just nodding in the background of Mase videos.
4. Audio Adrenaline – Bloom
If dc Talk didn’t exist, Audio Adrenaline would have been the biggest Christian band of the decade. Not only was every track worthy of being a single, it finally allowed you to listen to an Audio Adrenaline album without having to worry about “Big House” coming up in the rotation.
Yes, I know you and your friends came up with motions to the words of the chorus. So did every other Baptist and Pentecostal 14-year-old.
3. Jars of Clay – Jars of Clay
When Jars of Clay crossed over to mainstream and “Flood” would play on MTV after Montell Jordan and right before Alanis Morissette, you knew you were witnessing something amazing. You felt like you were an uppity hipster that had been listening to a popular band long before the crowd fell in love with them.
Best of all, as great as “Flood” was, it’s far from the best track on the album, making you even more hipster-y when you name dropped the deep tracks you heard in youth group over the singles everyone heard on the radio.
2. The O.C. Supertones – Supertones Strike Back
Remember back in the simpler times when all you needed was a hypercolor shirt, a stack of POGs, and a 36-piece ska band? I don’t know if the term has ever been used to describe a ska band, but Supertones Strike Back can only be described as epic.
The opening track deserves to be on a Jock Jams album and played when football teams run onto the field.
1. dc Talk – Jesus Freak
Seriously, was there any doubt that this would be at the top spot? Jesus Freak changed the culture of Christian music and made it cool. It wasn’t just songs about God, it was stories of struggling with your faith, of finding your identity in your religion, and the line between doing work for God and letting your work praise God.
It’s perfectly flawed and that’s the greatest compliment you could possibly give it.
These are albums that you may not have listened to as much — or at all —but they were ridiculously good and criminally under-appreciated. Most still hold up quite well and you can get them on Amazon for like $2.
Jennifer Knapp – Kansas, Seven Day Jesus – Seven Day Jesus, Joy Electric – Christiansongs, Skillet – Skillet, Johnny Q Public – Extra Ordinary, Five Iron Frenzy – Upbeats and Beatdowns, Grits – Grammatical Revolution, Plumb – Plumb, Sixpence None the Richer – The Beautiful Mess.