History & Purpose

Academic courses to form servant leaders in Christian worship renewal.

The Institute for Worship Studies was conceived in the early 1990s by Robert Webber. The goal from the beginning was to offer academic courses to train pastors, music ministers, worship leaders, theologians, church leaders and lay people to understand and practice renewed worship.

In the mid-nineties, two programs were begun in conjunction with established seminaries. A program of studies leading toward the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) was begun in connection with Northern Baptist Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. At the same time, a Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) in worship studies was established at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada.

Numerous applications were made to Northern by music ministers and worship leaders who had completed their master’s degrees in music but wanted doctorates in worship studies. Because a Master of Divinity was required for entrance into the D.Min. program, these students were rejected for graduate study.

It was Robert Webber’s conviction that there should be a doctoral program of worship study with wider admission standards. This degree should teach worship from a biblical, historical, theological and cultural perspective without requiring a theological master’s degree or its equivalent.

James Hart, then the music minister of Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, Florida, committed the use of their church campus for the school. Hart made the appropriate connections in the state of Florida, and the Institute for Worship Studies was established as an authorized non-profit school in the state of Florida through membership in the Florida Council of Private Colleges, a state-approved educational association.

The Institute for Worship Studies opened with its first class of twenty Doctor of Worship Studies (D.W.S.) students in June of 1999. The Master of Worship Studies (M.W.S.) program began in 2002. In 2010, IWS was granted Accredited Status by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). In 2015, IWS relocated to the campus of Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in nearby Jacksonville, FL. In 2021, the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools granted IWS initial accreditation for the M.W.S. and D.W.S. degrees.

As of June 2021, 665 people have graduated from the Master’s and Doctoral programs. IWS has conferred 428 D.W.S. degrees and 214 M.W.S. degrees, plus 51 Graduate and Advanced Graduate Certificates in Worship Studies. Students from more than 35 countries (including the USA) and more than 100 denominations have matriculated.


Doctor of Worship Studies

Master of Worship Studies

The Institute for Worship Studies offers two worship degree programs, the Master of Worship Studies (MWS) and the Doctor of Worship Studies (DWS), and two non-degree certificate programs. Courses are offered through a hybrid of on-campus intensives and distance learning.

IWS holds two on-campus intensives per calendar year (each January and June) in Jacksonville, Florida. Students complete pre-course and post-course requirements through distance education, using a combination of e-mail, discussion boards, and the virtual classroom. Professors are responsible for mentoring students as they complete each course.

Doctoral students will need to attend a total of five on-campus sessions (once for each of the four ‘content’ courses of DWS 701-704 and the accompanying practica, and once to take DWS 801 which begins the thesis phase of the degree program). Masters students will attend a total of four on-campus sessions, as a separate week of attendance for the MWS 601 Internship course is not necessary. The typical two-year course of study to complete the four ‘core’ courses (i.e., excluding the capstone thesis and internship courses) may be pursued over four years through the Extended Track option.

Non-Degree Graduate Certificate Programs

  • Qualified students who hold a master’s degree may enroll in the D.W.S. Advanced Graduate Certificate Program as non-degree students. Upon successful completion of the four core courses they will receive the Advanced Graduate Certificate of Worship Studies (A.G.C.W.S.) without having to take the Thesis/Project course.
  • Qualified students who hold a bachelor's degree may enroll in the M.W.S. Graduate Certificate Program as non-degree students. Upon successful completion of the core courses and the online courses they will receive the Graduate Certificate of Worship Studies (G.C.W.S.) without having to take the Internship course.

Contact Admissions

4001 Hendricks Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32207

(904) 264-2172

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Purpose of Worship Degree Programs

The purpose of the Doctor of Worship Studies (D.W.S.) and Master of Worship Studies (M.W.S.) programs, offered uniquely through The Institute for Worship Studies, is to further equip worship leaders, instructors, and others interested in the theory and practice of Christian worship, for their responsibilities in the local church and other settings. These programs grew out of the need for worship pastors and leaders, often trained and credentialed at the master’s degree level in church music, for additional study in the field of Christian worship. This constituency found that with its academic credentials in music, it was difficult to be accepted into a graduate degree program other than one specifically related to music. The D.W.S. and M.W.S. programs are intended to fill this gap.

The Doctor of Worship Studies degree is a professional, terminal degree. Although it is a doctoral-level program, requiring a master’s degree for acceptance, it is not represented as a research degree on the level of the Ph.D.

Transferability of Credit

Details of existing Cooperative Educational Agreements (Credit Transfer Agreements) with B. H. Carroll Theological Institute, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Knox Seminary are available here. Although many other colleges and seminaries have also recognized the quality of the courses provided by IWS and have transferred IWS credits, accepting transfer credits is the responsibility and prerogative of institutions. The accredited status of an institution is an important, but not the sole factor, that is considered in the transfer of credit decisions. Institutions usually commit to at least consideration of transfer requests, not rejecting such requests out of hand.

We are currently accepting applications for new students to begin the upcoming intensive week session!

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