According to a survey in the Daily Mail:
They have stood the test of time and it seems that today, despite all the changes to church services, men still prefer to sing ‘proper macho hymns’.
Nearly 60 per cent of those who took part in a survey said they enjoyed singing – but added comments showing they preferred anthemic songs and ‘proclamational’ hymns as opposed to more emotional love songs. (Read the whole article)
While I wouldn’t want to draw too many conclusions from a single survey, I think there are some interesting missional angles to this. One of the arguments that is often given for singing modern songs is that they are more likely to be attractive to visitors, especially those who are not believers. However, I think there is a flaw in this argument. It is undoubtedly true that most men prefer to listen to modern music, but I’m less convinced that this is what they prefer to sing. Communal singing is not a common feature in the life of most English males. However, there is one context in which Englishmen do spontaneously join together to sing – sport’s grounds. It is noticeable that even though music styles have changed over the years, the songs that get blokes singing at football and rugby grounds are big anthemic tunes such as You’ll never walk alone and Guide me oh thou great Jehovah. With this bit of background information, it does make sense that men would find a lot of current worship music to be hard going – it’s not the style they choose to sing.
When we train people to take the Gospel into new cultures we encourage them to study the local culture and to express the message in appropriate linguistic and cultural forms. One of the problems we have in the UK is that this simple lesson is one that we sometimes don’t remember in our home culture. Our intuitive thoughts about what is appropriate in British culture is sometimes not matched by research or experience. This survey is a good example of this – I wonder if any church leaders will take it seriously.