Mixing it Up When it Comes to Style


Hello again from music ministries at Central Methodist University! I am so excited to be with you here again for my second installment of Music Matters. For this month, I would like to talk about the things that are probably on everyone’s mind when it comes to music ministry. What kind of music is appropriate in a Christian church service? More specifically, what kind of music is appropriate in a Methodist church service? I’m sure that we all have our concept of what is right, and we stand by it firmly.

Some of us may have grown up in a congregation where traditional music was the focus, if not the only option. This would be my experience. As a young person, I can rarely think of a time when worship was not led by voice accompanied by piano or organ. In my congregation growing up, an acoustic guitar as the accompaniment instrument was just about as far to the progressive end of worship as things would have ever been. Hymnals were fun. It was exciting to find your seat before church, and then mark the spot of each selection before the service began. A projector would have been as equally out of place in my home church as any sort of drum.

After graduating high school and beginning college, I became aware of a new unheard of entity called Christian rock. To me, this name in and of itself was an oxymoron. However, this style of music in worship seemed more popular during my college years than I would have thought possible. Being a guitar player by trade, I was invited to participate in Christian rock outfits during this time. It dawned upon me while serving on my college praise and worship team at a large youth event, that the tables had turned, so to speak. What had happened to the sweet melodies of my favorite hymns and the lush harmonies of the organ? It seemed to me that I had lost touch with my roots, and some sort of paradigm had shifted. Or had it?

Though my part time vocation in college seemed to conflict with the roots of my hometown experience, I now realize that both have a place and a purpose, and so does any style in between. Although we do not consider ourselves “performers” as worship leaders, I would argue that we must always consider our audience. What kind of music moves the members of our congregation to be most uplifted in worship? What gives us the opportunity for worship to be a “corporate” experience? Does the congregation consist of members most comfortable with traditional music consisting of prose crafted by Charles Wesley? Or do they feel more at home with a rousing rendition of a contemporary worship tune? I would also ask, would your congregation be even more comfortable with an appropriately set version of a re-purposed pop song? These are all questions that we must ask ourselves as worship leader, pastors, and congregation members.

They are all valid points, and ones that should continually be considered, but I would argue that none of the above should ever be excluded. We must always keep in mind which music will glorify God, uplift our spirits, and create a comfortable/participatory experience for our congregation members and guests.

Thank you again for taking time to let me share my thoughts with you. I hope that I have left you with some things to consider, and want to remind you that if I can ever be a resource, please do not hesitate to contact me. Email me at rmclouth@centralmethodist.edu or contact me by phone at 660-651-9964. Until next time, keep playing and singing!