taking the instruments out (the fridea)

When I served college students in Abilene, Texas, I attended chapel services at Abilene Christian University on occasion. Like some other Christian schools, they hold chapel daily; unlike many Christian schools (but LIKE many of their fellow Church of Christ brethren), their worship was all a cappella. And it was phenomenal; those C of C brothers and sisters have grown up not only learning to sing without the aid of instruments, but they’ve learned to sing in parts. It’s awesome.

I’m getting the same “joy of a cappella” here at the CMU college ministry training workshop. But of course, I’m always applying everything to college ministry. So I started pondering…

For most college ministries (that aren’t from non-instrumental Christian traditions), removing the instruments would be a significant adjustment to our music. It would very much seem like removing a major, perhaps even vital,  component.

So this week’s Fridea is really sort of a thinking challenge, but it might just lead to all kinds of creative ideas, an honest assessment of what really matters in your ministry, or perhaps even a sort of “fast”:

For each major “program” of your ministry, consider elements that could, might, or should be removed. (And perhaps even give it a try sometime…)

  • What if you didn’t use visual aids in the message?
  • What if you didn’t use any prompts for your discussion groups?
  • What if you stopped advertising?
  • What if worship didn’t involve music at all?
  • What if your evangelism didn’t have any “tools”?
  • What if the next mission trip didn’t start with planning?
  • What if there were no ministry funds for the next service project?
  • What if you didn’t serve food this time?

I realized that just thinking through this – or even giving it a try – could work a lot like Fasting does. Like Fasting, the point is NOT to infer that removal of good things is better, though on occasion we may realize some benefits in removing something “sacred.” But lacking something for a time (or even considering what lacking it might mean) can make us thankful. Or it might help us see good items that have become bad idols.

Whatever it does, I encourage you to take some minutes and ponder the “instruments” you might remove. What would happen? And if you get a chance to give it a try (or have done this before), let me know.

*Just to be clear, I fully recognize that Churches of Christ college ministries don’t have instruments because of ecclesiological beliefs, and I don’t mean to infer it’s any sort of capricious decision. But this difference in traditions gave me something interesting to ponder!

Written from Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas


[Click to ask questions, comment, or see any comments on this post!]


  1. ACU. Cukrowski. Greek.

    Thanks for your insight into CM. I plan on following things a little more closely as I continue walking with students.

    Your beginning thoughts / observations about a Capella are interesting. We sing without instruments in our ministry, but I’ve always been apologetic about it, especially to our growing number of non-CoC students. I don’t want it to be about that, but how can you ignore that little detail!?

    A funny thing happened this last year. Those who had to “adjust” to our tradition found it appealing! I was convinced that they wouldn’t want to come around once they experienced it. I even went out of my way last fall to emphasize that you are able to only come to Wed night Bible discussion if Thurs devo wasn’t your thing.

    My tentative assessment of what happened? It was more about the relationships that were formed across the lines of tradition than it was about the tradition itself. As we tried to point students to the way of Jesus, they found relationship more than tradition.

    btw…good thought on considering going without.

  2. That’s really, really interesting, Chris – and honestly, I’m not super-surprised. I think I shared at some portion during the conference that particular tradition can actually be quite appealing to Millennials – “vintage” is in, and any tradition that is explained (even if it’s just explained as “part of our tradition”) could be seen that way. Plus the way you framed it in your comment – like almost an experience of diversity – could be a big part of the appeal, too. Millennials are big on diversity, too.

    It is to my great shame that I still have never been to Sam Houston. I need a Bearkats tribe visit.

  3. You are always welcome. I know we have a ton of students who didn’t quite make it to A&M here at Sam, but still live as if they are Aggies. Funny really.

    I mentioned you and your CM travelings a couple years ago to my BSM companion next door, Chris Stanley. He would love to chat as well, I’m sure. We’ve had several ministry exchanges and partnerships the last few years and look to do that more often. If you are in the area, you will have two people eager to have lunch or something.

    Thanks for your recent brainstorming thoughts shared at CMU. I can’t wait to see God’s creativity in action. Blessings.

  4. Pingback: another 10 reads for assessing your college ministry « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

Leave a Reply