Worship Renewal in Higher Education

We continually give thanks to God for our alumni who are serving faithfully around the world in varied ministries. In this article, we focus on those seeking to bring worship renewal in the classrooms of higher education. They are an important aspect of Bob Webber’s vision to teach those who teach.

Based on our current records, some 20% of IWS graduates are teaching in higher education. Additional grads teach K-12. Of course, our records are only as accurate as the updates we receive from alumni, so, in reality, this percentage is probably even higher. (Have you updated your personal profile lately?) While vital teaching/discipleship occurs regularly in the church, it is intensified through the accountability, rigor and “torch passing” that takes place in an academic setting.

Below are reports and inspiring stories of worship renewal from IWS graduates who are teaching in higher education. Thanks be to God!

Warren Anderson, D.W.S. (Iota 2010)
Director, Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts
Judson University, Elgin, IL

I have taught at Judson since 1991. I provide vision and recruiting for our programs and direct the University Choir. I regularly teach two courses: History of Rock and Roll, and Worship Resources. Half of the semester in the Resources course includes field trips that engage students in worship that is unfamiliar to most of them (e.g., Taize service, Orthodox vespers service, Messianic Jewish holiday eve service, a jazz vespers service). The Judson University Choir concludes all its concerts by singing through the Christian metanarrative, which I first encountered at IWS via Lester Ruth’s discussion of “The Big Story.”  Pretty much everything we do in worship arts at Judson is influenced by the vision and methodology of IWS.

Diane Baltaeff, D.W.S. (Epsilon2 2017)
Adjunct Professor

I am an adjunct professor at Evangelical Seminary, Myerstown, PA (five years) and Winebrenner Seminary, Findlay, Ohio (three years). I also plan and lead songs of worship for Convocation and Commencement services as well as special events at Evangelical Seminary. I teach the same worship course at both seminaries, which focuses on worship through a biblical, theological, historical, and cultural lens. Along with understanding that worship is both a corporate event as well as the activity of all of one’s life, students are guided to ask and understand the “why” of every aspect of the worship gathering. The course addresses Robert Webber’s nine proposals for worship renewal. Students must choose the top three proposals they believe are most pertinent for their church ministry context and outline steps toward renewal in those areas.

The DWS program at IWS was a transformative time in my life. Here is one example. I took away three important questions that I include in my worship courses to guide students to intentionally and thoughtfully consider every aspect of worship planning: What is the why? What is the upside and downside? What is lost and what is gained? I received an encouraging email from one of my students, “The emphasis on making decisions about worship in terms of why, upside/downside, gain/loss has stuck with me and helped me to plan worship more thoughtfully.”

I teach Christian Spirituality in the adult accelerated teaching degree program at Eastern University, St. Davids, PA (Harrisburg location). The course includes an emphasis on worship as all of life in response to God’s revelation of grace, love, and forgiveness.

Don Barrick, D.W.S. (Nu 2008)
Worship Pastor, First Baptist Church, The Woodlands, TX

For the past three years, I have had the privilege of teaching two courses, Christian Worship and Worship Design and Planning, for B.H. Carroll Theological Institute in Arlington, TX. This past April, I was asked to teach Christian Worship at B.H. Carroll’s extension in Camaguey, Cuba. Having never been to Cuba, I didn’t quite know what to expect. We had 32 students studying for their Master’s Degree at the extension, and they were some of the sharpest, most knowledgeable students I have taught. Teaching through an interpreter was an amazing learning experience for me as I had to carefully think of the best way to communicate the content. God is at work in Cuba!

Janie Blough, M.W.S. (Beth 2006), D.W.S. (Rho 2014)
Paris Mennonite Center, France

Dr. Janie BloughThe central mandate for mission in Mathew 28 insists on making disciples everywhere, Trinitarian baptism, and an emphasis on teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. As a long-term mission worker, the teaching aspect of this call and my ministry in France and beyond are integrally related, especially regarding worship and worship renewal. At present, I am teaching courses in liturgy, worship renewal, and/or song and theological English in a variety of venues, including the Nogent Bible Institute and the Vaux Evangelical Free Church Seminary in the Paris region, EFraTA, a seminary-level educational program in an Anabaptist perspective in Bienenberg, Switzerland, and a course at the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute in Rabat, Morocco.

I team-taught a course in liturgy at the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute with a Catholic priest from the Democratic Republic of Congo. the course is an initiative of the Catholic and Protestant churches, and cooperative teaching effort sponsored by the Catholic Institute of Paris and the Protestant faculty of the University of Strasbourg. Each educational center has allowed me to practically apply learnings from my years of study at IWS. The educational quality of IWS was affirmed internationally by the fact that my degree had to be accepted by both the Catholic Institute in Paris and the University of Strasbourg in France before I could teach. Interest in worship and worship renewal continues to grow in French-speaking Europe. In fact, a new course, Music in Worship and the Church, will begin in September at the Nogent Bible Institute. I will be teaching the biblical, theological, and liturgical foundations of this course.

David Brown, D.W.S. (Lambda 2007)
Worship Minister, Tri-Village Christian Church, Pataskala, OH

I have taught at several schools over the past ten years: Grace Christian University, Moody Bible Institute (forthcoming), Ohio Christian University, Rockbridge Seminary, & Winebrenner Theological Seminary. Many of the students I have taught are pastors and church leaders who have served in the local church for a number of years but never received formal worship training. They long to see how corporate worship can “tell the story” and change lives. The education I received at IWS helped prepare me for equipping students in worship renewal in their contexts.

Dale Dirksen, D.W.S. (Gamma 2003)
Executive Pastor, Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon, SK Canada

Dale is adjunct professor at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, SK Canada and Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, SK. He teaches Coaching and Mentoring Strategies and Worship and the Arts in the Church at Horizon College, and Theology of Worship and Worship in the Christian Tradition at Briercrest College and Seminary.

One of our church sites is trying to be intentional about reaching out to people who are not followers of Jesus. 44% of the people in the area claim to have no religion. As a result, we are learning how to use more ancient rituals and symbols in our worship. We have simplified gathering and focused on revelation and response, which has connected with many younger people who are hungry for deeper expressions of faith.

Jennifer Freeman, D.W.S. (Alpha2 2014)
Director of Christian Formation, College of the Ozarks, Branson, MO

I am beginning my 19th year as the Director of Christian Formation at College of the Ozarks. I am also an adjunct instructor in the Biblical and Theological Studies department. Since finishing the doctoral program at IWS, I also have taken a part-time position as the Director of Adult Ministries for Harvest Evangelical Free Church in Branson, MO. In both of these roles I focus on Christian formation in corporate worship and spiritual practices. The Christian growth of college students continues to be both challenging and encouraging. Students who are entrenched in a milieu of self-focus are often unwilling to trust the story of the redemptive Creator, who has always had the best interests of humanity in mind. The joy comes in reflecting on the powerful transformation found in the incarnate Christ who enters into each human story with grace and truth.

Teresa Ho, D.W.S. (Nu 2008)
Adjunct Instructor, Alliance Bible Seminary

After teaching full time at Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong for 8 years, I moved back to Vancouver in 2015 and continue to teach online as adjunct faculty. I teach Church Music Ministry in Worship for seminary students. The course covers the biblical foundation of music in worship, philosophy of church music ministry and the pastoral role in church music leadership. A case study on Church Music and Worship Ministry in Chinese Churches is also included.

I am strongly convinced that pastoral involvement in church music ministry is crucial and cannot be taken lightly or overlooked. Music plays an important role in congregational worship; therefore, it is important that seminary students and pastors have a basic knowledge of subject. By understanding the meaning and purpose of church music, pastors are better equipped to work with worship leaders and musicians; they can also bring support and encouragement to musicians to offer their best to glorify God. Furthermore, by acquiring more knowledge of church music ministry, they will be able to give supervision so that the worship service is conducted with theological discernment and pastoral concern. As a result, the worship will be pleasing to God, which will enrich the spiritual life of the congregation.

Mark Jonah, D.W.S. (Omicron 2009)
Program Coordinator, BA in Ministry: Worship Leading and Music
Praire College, Three Hills, Alberta, Canada

I am entering my third year at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta where I teach The Story of Worship, Worship: Subjects and Objects, Worship by Design, Worship FX (technology), Worship as Christian Formation, Introduction to Christian Theology, Group Vocal Lessons, and Music Theory.

Worship renewal can be seen in the lives of our students in the chapel program and our student worship teams. We’ve been training them that worship and music are not synonyms.  It’s beginning make a difference. Students gather for prayer prior to leading worship. The leaders are thoughtfully incorporating scripture, music and prayer. We gather around the Communion table at our first chapel of the year.  Since arriving on campus, I have encouraged the community to express who we are in Christ and to remember our goal—to be lovers of God.  We come to a common table, eating common bread, and drinking from a common cup, reminding us of our position in Christ. It’s a delightful journey.

Nicki Jordan, D.W.S. (Epsilon2 2016)
Adjunct Instructor, University of Northwestern, St. Paul, MN

I am entering my fourth year at UNW where I teach Music History I and II, Intro to Music, and Foundations of Music Ministry (which I co-teach with Heather Hood, D.W.S., Gamma 2003). I will begin teaching Spiritual Formation this coming Fall semester.

Nicki JordanThis past year, two colleagues and I began hosting a once a week chapel service at the college based on the morning prayer service from the Book of Common Prayer incorporating Taize choruses, lectio divina, and other contemplative practices. We introduced students to the rhythms of the church year and a more meditative style of worship, which is quite a contrast from our normative chapel services. Our services remained small and intimate, but that small number of students faithful to come each week told us they were so blessed by these services and hoped we would continue them next year (which we will)! The photo includes two of my students who are prayerfully discerning how God may use them in worship renewal.

Jim Knarr, D.W.S. (Iota2 2018)
Faculty, Dean of Students, Wave Leadership College, Virginia Beach, VA

I teach Foundations of Christian History, Church Growth and Discipleship, Introduction to Church History, and Old Testament Survey I & II. The course Foundations of Christian Worship originally focused on worship music. Through the lens of worship renewal, the course now considers all of worship including prayer, presentation of Scripture, liturgies, pageantry in church, personal practices, and theological content of worship music. The students are now considering revelation and response when creating song lists. They make a thorough examination of the lyrics and how they reveal the meta-narrative of our triune God.

We have also seen worship renewal in our weekly chapel, which I supervise. Chapel had not previously had a specific time for Scripture unless read by the speaker. Now a student presents/performs Scripture in each chapel service. The student-led chapel team meets with me weekly and our conversation includes an examination of song lyrics versus popularity. The students are much more conscience of intentionally selecting songs with strong, theologically accurate lyrics.

Melody Kuphal, D.W.S. (Eta2 2017)
Music Director, Hosanna! Lutheran Church, St. Charles, IL

I am an adjunct professor at Judson University in Elgin, IL, where I am in charge of the Worship Internship Program for students majoring in Worship Arts.  I help the students walk through excellent but sometimes challenging experiences. Using an on-line forum, we engage in conversation as a group around many topics using Rory Noland’s Heart of the Artist as our guide. We discuss and attempt to solve situations as a class, learning from one another’s experiences. I also work to sharpen their writing skills. One of the assignments is the submission of a cover letter and resume through which they are prepared to successfully apply to be placed in a church as a worship arts professional.

I have always had a heart to train up the next generation of worship leaders. I get to do this at my church through children’s choirs, middle school praise band, and Sunday morning worship teams on a regular basis. Getting to be a part of training at the college level is an additional honor. I am so grateful IWS trained me to train others.

Yat Hin Leung, D.W.S. (Phi 2018)
Program Officer, Far East Broadcasting Company, Hong Kong
Liangyou Theological Seminary

Yat Hin teaches full-time in the Liangyou Theological Seminary (a ministry of the Far East Broadcasting Company), which is a two-year Bible college taught completely on the radio and broadcast to China. He also teaches part-time in the Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary.

I have been the instructor for the course Music Ministry”at LTS since 2017. My main duty was to shift the focus from “music” to “ministry.” I updated the program from teaching singing to how to run the music ministry in churches, including the choir, band, projectionist, sound engineer and creative director, equipping them with a solid theological foundation as well as knowledge of church music. Simon Ng, D.W.S. (Psi 2013) is a guest lecturer in this course.

Students had eye-opening experiences through this course, as this is the first seminary course in mainland China that has a broader scope than just musical skills. Sister Qi, from Shaanxi, China, wrote me, “I burst into tears when I listen to this course . . . because I finally understand the theological implications of sacred music, the value of music in worship and how sacred music can pastor my fellow brothers and sisters! I know that sacred music has a mission and has a long way to go in our church!”

Genilyn McCaffrey, D.W.S. (Tau 2012)
Professor of Worship Ministry
Manhattan Christian College, Manhattan, KS

Genilyn has taught at MCC for 12 years. She teaches Principles of Christian Worship, Worship History, Worship Ministry, Biblical Theology of Worship, Greek 1 & 2, Biblical Interpretation, and Beginning and Intermediate Voice Classes.

One of richest examples of worship renewal at MCC has been a student-led, weekly Eucharist service. Through worship and theology classes, a core group of students began to glimpse the formative power of liturgy. After initial guidance, they studied historic liturgies and adapted them to our context in ways that remained faithful to their original intents, then planned and led weekly Eucharist services that were not connected to any existing school activity. They actively involved students from different “circles,” inviting some who were often overlooked into meaningful leadership roles. They recognized when the content was too difficult for some to grasp and gracefully integrated moments of education into the services.

Our time around the Table each week has provided sustenance our community has desperately needed. The pause in our schedules has provided rest and peace. The rhythms of the liturgy have woven their way into our hearts, minds, mouths, and hands. Our love for one another has grown through greeting each other with the peace of Christ. We have a long way to grow, but seeing these sprouts from seeds planted long ago gives me great hope for continued worship renewal on our campus and in our churches through these young leaders.

Jeremy Perigo, D.W.S. (Chi 2013)
Director of Music and Worship Programmes and Lecturer in Worship,
London School of Theology, and adjunct faculty member at Regent University

Postgraduate Courses: Worship and Culture, Christian Worship, Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship, The Worship Leader, Worship in Everyday Life, Worship and Formation. Post-graduate Research supervisor.

Undergraduate Courses: Project Skills, Ensemble Skills, Worship Studies, Theology of Worship 1 & 2, Language and Worship, Corporate Worship Lab, Applied Worship Leadership, Worship Ministry and Practice, Understanding Vocation and Personhood, Musicianship 1 & 2.

Laarim of South SudanThroughout my five years at London School of Theology, I have seen many graduates launched into churches and ministries around the world. I love seeing our students discover how centering worship on God’s story can bring worship renewal even in groundbreaking contexts. Andrew is one example. He spent a few years working in South Sudan pioneering worship with the Laarim people. Andrew focused his passion for ethnodoxology on sharing God’s story of redemption in local forms within a community with limited access to worship resources. Listen to the brand new Laarim worship song “Een Yesu Goola” (SoundCloud). It is one of the first original songs of worship in their history! In 2016, Andrew produced the Laarim Nativity Play. The Laarim people heard the Christmas story for the first time, told in their own language by their own children.


Jonathan Powers, D.W.S. (Chi 2013)
Assistant Professor of Worship Studies
Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY

Jonathan is beginning his second year as full-time faculty at the seminary where he teaches Worship Leadership in the Church, Sacramental Theology, Songwriting and Theology.

Jonathan PowersThough this is not necessarily a testimony of worship renewal taking place at Asbury, I would like to highlight a way that we are actively seeking to foster worship renewal in the church. In the 2018 fall semester, I will be piloting a course entitled “Songwriting and Theology.” Since singing is an important act of worship in the church, songwriters have the important role and responsibility of placing words of prayer and praise on the lips of worshipers. In the course, we will explore various collections of classic and contemporary worship materials to uncover profound theological themes and motifs. Students will be expected to show theological enrichment by composing lyrics for new congregational worship songs to be shared with the class. As we pursue orthodoxy (“correct praise”) together over the course of the semester, my hope is to not only discover new understandings and appreciations for songs used throughout the history of Christian worship, but also to enter into new depths of reflection through song as we express in lyrical form God’s revealed beauty and glory.

Brian Turnbow, D.W.S. (Eta2 2017)
Admissions Counselor, Fuller Texas & Fuller Online

Although I’m not part of the full-time teaching faculty, I have filled-in as needed in David Taylor’s class on The Practice of Worship here at Fuller Texas. Students in all degree programs in Fuller’s School of Theology and School of Intercultural Studies are required to take that class. Earlier this year, I taught a session on the Lord’s Supper as a spiritual practice in a small class of students from various backgrounds—Presbyterian, Vineyard, Roman Catholic, and independent Christian. The students were eager to discuss a portion of Constance Cherry’s book, The Worship Architect, on why “cheap substitutes” should not be used at the Lord’s Table. I suggested we revisit the topic at the end of the class, using Cherry’s definition of the purpose of the Table (p. 86) and applying it to our discussion. After taking the class through several aspects of the Table including remembrance, covenant, fellowship, and anticipation, I asked them to apply their new learning and Cherry’s definition to the idea of substituting potato chips and Pepsi for communion. Can these substitutes adequately re-present the body and blood of Jesus? “No.” Can these substitutes re-present the past (the Passover event, the Last Supper, the meal at Emmaus) to us? “No.” Can they point us to the future messianic banquet? “No.” Do they connect us to Christians in all times and places? “No.” We ended our time by singing the Eucharistic hymn, “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing.”

Kent Walters, D.W.S. (Alpha 2002)
Professor of Music, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, MI

This is the beginning of my tenth year at CU after serving as a worship pastor in the church for 30 years. I teach Aural Perception, Advanced Choral Conducing, Vocal Diction, Vocal Fundamentals, the senior Capstone Seminar, and I direct the University Chorale and Credo (vocal jazz ensemble). Since day one, I have started every class with “The Lord be with you” greeting and response. For me, unpacking the background, theology and significance of this worship act and practicing it daily with intentionality is an indispensable tool for discipling worshipers. The immediate, transforming presence of the living Christ is the ocean in which we swim. My students get it and embrace it enthusiasitically. Thanks be to God!

Bill Wolf, D.W.S. (Zeta2, 2018)
Dean of the Chapel and Assistant Professor of Worship & Theology,
Johnson University (Knoxville, TN & Kissimmee, FL).

I teach Biblical & Theological Foundations of Christian Worship, Historical Foundations of Christian Worship, and Christian Worship and the Arts. I teach all three courses at both campuses. I also lead our Chapel Leadership Team, which is comprised of 10-12 students who pray for, plan, and lead our chapel services.

Our campus has seen worship renewal in a number of ways over the last seven years, due in large part to the impact of IWS. Our entire student body experiences the historical four-fold order of service, including weekly celebration at the Table, the Church calendar, responsive readings, Johnson University Chapel Leaderscorporate prayers, and Scripture recitation. These acts of worship are foreign to most of our freshman students, so we have recently developed a chapel orientation. Worship renewal has resulted in a deeper understanding of our corporate gatherings on campus, and graduates often contact me about incorporating similar things in their churches. It is so exciting to witness this ripple effect.


About the author

Alumni Director, Practicum Professor, and DWS graduate.