Doctor of Worship Studies

The Doctor of Worship Studies degree is a unique and ground-breaking program with its entire curriculum formed around worship studies. It is designed for church leaders including worship leaders, pastors, music ministers, parish musicians, professors, worship teachers, liturgists, artists, and missionaries.

Every course deals specifically with worship, yet integrates the classic theological disciplines as well. Students who graduate from this course of study will be able to reflect on worship through the disciplines of Scripture, history, theology, and cultural analysis.

All studies are geared toward the mission of the church to give witness to God’s redeeming work in the world and to fulfill the mandate of the Great Commission.

Program Details

The purpose of the doctorate program is not only to educate but to encourage spiritual formation to prepare the student to minister to both the minds and the hearts of God’s people. The Institute for Worship Studies will help you:

  • Re-evaluate your personal spirituality and ministry in light of cultural contexts, including the shift from modernity to postmodernity.
  • Develop the ability to think deeply about your ministry as it relates to the disciplines of theological thought and to the ministries of the church.
  • Learn how to listen to the text of culture and discern how biblical faith is communicated within multiple cultural settings.
  • Consider your own ministry goals as they pertain to the material of each course.

Upcoming dates:
  • January 2025 On-Campus Intensive Week: January 1-8, 2025
  • June 2025 On-Campus Intensive Week:  June 18-25, 2025
  • January 2026 On-Campus Intensive Week: January 7-14, 2026
  • June 2026 On-Campus Intensive Week:  June 17-24, 2026
  • January 2026 On-Campus Intensive Week: January 6-13, 2027

Program Outcomes

  1. Biblical foundation of Christian worship
    The student will understand, as well as demonstrate the ability to articulate and evaluate, worship rooted in and declaring the story of the Triune God as expressed in the Scriptures.
  2. Historical development of Christian worship
    The student will understand, as well as demonstrate the ability to articulate and evaluate, major trajectories in the practice of Christian worship through culture and time for use in assessing current expressions of Christian worship.
  3. Theological reflection on Christian worship
    The student will understand, as well as demonstrate the ability to articulate, a scripturally rooted, historically informed Christian theology of worship to guide the planning and evaluation of Christian worship.
  4. Cultural reflection on Christian worship
    The student will understand, as well as demonstrate the ability to articulate and evaluate, ways in which culture informs and shapes expressions of Christian worship, past and present.
  5. Missiological reflection on Christian worship
    The student will understand, as well as demonstrate the ability to articulate and evaluate, the centrality of God’s mission, with respect to the Church’s worship, founded on the scriptural revelation of the Triune God.
  6. Methodological skills for studies in Christian worship
    The student will demonstrate the ability to research, evaluate, and articulate concepts related to Christian worship, using scholarly materials (primary and secondary) and the theological action-research methodology.
  7. Ministerial skills in Christian worship
    The student will understand, as well as demonstrate the ability to articulate, implement, and evaluate, key concepts related to Christian worship in a particular setting.

Doctor of Worship Studies Courses

Some applicants may need to complete additional work. Should the applicant’s Masters level work lack biblical, theological, and hermeneutical foundations, the doctoral student will be required first to complete a self-paced biblical equivalency evaluation taken prior to the on-campus session. The results of the evaluation will provide the student with steps that may be taken in order to strengthen their readiness for DWS 701. The applicant may begin the evaluation process as soon as they have been accepted at IWS. A small fee is required for the evaluation. Second, these applicants will be required to enroll in BIB 501(B). This is an online, instructor-based biblical interpretation course taken concurrently with DWS 701. The course is six weeks in length, beginning the second full week of the IWS on-campus session.

DWS 701: The Biblical Foundations and Historical Development of Christian Worship

Faculty & Credit Hours

Andrew E. Hill, Ph.D., and Alan Rathe, Ph.D., 6 credit hours.

Course Description

Beginning with a study of the theology, institutions, and practice of worship in Scripture, this course explores the ways in which biblical models can inspire worship renewal today.

The biblical foundations topics include:

  • biblical worship and its theological foundations
  • the practice of worship as reported in the Old and New Testaments
  • the relationship between spirituality and corporate worship
  • the concepts of sacred time and sacred space
  • the Psalms in Hebrew and Christian worship
  • worship as spiritual warfare
  • the Hebrew roots of Christian worship

The historical side of the course surveys Christian worship through the centuries in both the Eastern and Western Churches and historical shifts in how Christian people have understood God, the church, salvation, and the church-culture intersection with respect to worship.

DWS 702: The Renewal of Sunday Worship: Music and the Arts

Faculty & Credit Hours

Constance M. Cherry, D.Min., and Jeff Barker, M.F.A., 6 credit hours.

Course Details

Corporate worship of the triune God is the central, ongoing occupation of the Christian community. Yet worship is always offered in changing times, places, and cultural contexts. Therefore worship renewal that is grounded in sound theological reflection is often necessary. This is especially true today as churches seek to take into consideration the shift into a postmodern world.

This course explores how the content, form, and styles of worship are enlivened through intentional worship design and the expression of the arts. Special attention is given to the ministries of music, the performing arts, and the fine arts.

DWS 703: The Christian Year: Forming Congregational Spirituality

Faculty & Credit Hours

Daniel L. Sharp, D.M.A., and Jack Van Marion, D. Min., 6 credit hours.

Course Description

This course focuses on the way the church celebrates the mighty acts of God in Jesus Christ through the observance of the Christian year. It deals with services of worship for the seasons of the Christian year, from Advent through Pentecost, and also addresses ordinary time and the daily office of prayer. Special emphasis is placed on the evangelical nature of the Christian year and on planning services that adopt the ancient traditions to current practice. Because the study of the Christian year inevitably leads to the Scriptures, this course guides students through the biblical and theological significance of each season, including the sanctoral cycle.

DWS 704: The Sacred Actions and Ministries of Christian Worship

Faculty & Credit Hours

Reggie Kidd, Ph.D., and Amy Davis Abdallah, Ph.D., 6 credit hours.

Course Description

This course explores the sacred actions of worship, particularly baptism and Holy Communion, from biblical and historical perspectives. It also addresses the relationship of these two actions with Christian formation and pastoral care.

DWS 702P-704P: The Doctoral Practicum

Faculty & Credit Hours

Kent Walters, D.W.S., 2 credit hours total.

Course Description

The Practicum Course is designed to enable students to explore and apply principles of worship renewal that correspond with their current course of study. Briefly, worship renewal is the recovery of biblical worship that recognizes the triune God as the subject of worship and leads the worshiper in an appropriate response to God’s divine action in worship. The practicum experience allows students to focus purposefully and creatively on areas of worship renewal addressed in their classes and in their places of ministry.

Students collaborate to plan and lead the IWS community in worship on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings of each on-campus session. Following the 702P and 703P worship segments, fellow students and members of the faculty offer feedback to celebrate and reinforce the worship values that shape biblical worship and facilitate genuine worship renewal. Students receive a grade of pass or fail for the course, and must complete each course concurrently with the corresponding course in the DWS curriculum.

DWS 801: The Doctoral Thesis

Faculty & Credit Hours

Vaughn CroweTipton, Ph.D., and Jessica Jones, Ph.D., D.W.S., 8 credit hours.

Course Description

The on-campus section of this class provides specific direction on how to write a thesis or prepare a project. Guidance is given on the specific nature of the proposal and the means by which a proposal is translated into a finished project. Special attention is given to the integration of the theological disciplines into thesis/project writing. Classroom time takes place on campus during the session following the completion of DWS 704.

Students then complete their thesis or professional project at their home site under the direction of a supervisor. They are encouraged to do a thesis/project that is integrated with their ministry. The method of doing a thesis follows the same pattern and expectation of the D.Min. thesis standards in seminary education.

Initially, one year is allotted for thesis completion. Beginning with the January 2023 module, this course will incorporate an oral presentation of the student’s thesis as part of the approval process. Presentations will be conducted virtually.

WR 701: Graduate Research and Writing (Online Class)

Faculty & Credit Hours

Melody Kuphal, D.W.S., 2 credit hours.

Course Description

This course guides the student through researching and writing graduate-level papers, particularly in the discipline of worship studies. WR 701 is offered in a completely online, six-week format. The beginning date is six weeks prior to the on-campus intensive.