Admissions

Why apply for admission to IWS?

More and more worship leaders, professors of church music, music ministers, and pastors realize there is a gap in their education. They have the music education and the skills for music and worship leadership, but they lack the knowledge of the biblical foundations, historical development, theological reflection, formational content, and cultural analysis for effective worship ministry in today’s world. 

The Institute for Worship Studies will encourage you to think more deeply, purposefully, and formationally about your own tradition’s approach to worship. Both degree programs are crafted in such a way as to be highly applicable and practical; rather than accumulating mere “head knowledge,” our students are expected to apply what they’ve been learning within their own ministry contexts.

IWS was founded by Robert E. Webber to meet this need and prepare leaders for the challenging task of worship ministry in a complex and rapidly changing world.

Entrance Requirements

  • for MWS: a bachelor’s degree (any field of study is acceptable)
  • for DWS: a master’s degree (any field of study is acceptable)
  • a ministry in the local church or a Christian organization (need not be a paid position)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if IWS is for me?

Wondering if IWS is right for you? Fresh out of your undergraduate studies and not sure yet if graduate school is the right decision at this time in your life? Have you been out of the classroom for a while and have some understandable concerns about returning to the academic realm? Maybe you’re not a worship leader–maybe you’re not even employed by a church and you’re concerned that you might not fit into the IWS community. Maybe your church background doesn’t look very much like some of the pictures right here on the website. 

As an IWS student, you will learn to approach Christian worship in a way that is grounded in biblical theology and church history, worship and the arts, Christian formation, and the church’s role in advocating for culturally intelligence. All of our students, whether they’re in the MWS or DWS program, are immersed in what our founder Bob Webber called “the four-fold order of worship” (i.e., Gathering, The Word, Communion/Thanksgiving, and Sending).

While we have many worship leaders and music ministers in our student body, IWS has enjoyed an increasing number of senior pastors, teachers, theologians, and missionaries in recent years. Students don’t necessarily need to be employed by a church in order to begin a program at IWS. Rather, our students simply need to have a ministry context that they call their own and into which they can apply what they’re learning at IWS. Perhaps your context is a congregation or a classroom. Perhaps you volunteer in your church’s worship team on a regular basis, or perhaps your main passion is ministering to those in prison, serving the needy in the inner-city, or participating in God’s Kingdom work through some other community outreach. Regardless of your ministry context, IWS has a place for you!

Finally, the networking and fellowship within the IWS community is second to none. During any given on-campus session, we have upwards of 50 different denominations represented among the faculty and student body. You will meet other Christian leaders and teachers who share your same visions, passions, struggles, and questions. IWS is an environment that fosters and nurtures these relationships over shared meals, morning chapel sessions, and evening worship workshops.  We are a community that prays together, studies together, and grows together, and we would love to have you join us.

How does IWS work?

The Institute for Worship Studies holds two semesters each year, each involving an eight-day intensive session on campus. One intensive is held in January (“the January semester”), and one in June (“the June semester”). New students may begin their degree program in either semester, but note that the work for these intensives begins several weeks before the on-campus session. For students unable to attend two sessions per year, an Extended Track is available.

The Master of Worship Studies requires four total trips to the IWS campus; the Doctor of Worship Studies requires five (assuming the successful completion of each course).

When students and faculty are not on campus, interaction takes place in an online learning environment. Instructors are available through online chats and message boards, e-mail, telephone, and video chat. Coursework and projects are submitted electronically at the end of the semester (guidelines and due dates are of course specific to each course’s syllabus).

How long does the master's program take to complete?

MWS

Example

Regular Track January Start Regular Track June Start

Extended Track January Start

Extended Track June Start
MWS 501 & WR501*  January
2025
June
2024
January
2025
June
2024
MWS 502 June
2025
January
2025
January
2026
June
2025
MWS 503 & half of MWS 601 January
2026
June
2025
January
2027
June
2026
MWS 504 & half of
MWS 601
June
2026
January
2026
January
2028
June
2027
Graduation** January
2027
June
2026
January
2029
June
2028

*Students will take BIB 501(A) (2 credits, online) prior to the on-campus intensive, BIB 501(B) (2 credits, online) immediately following the on-campus visit, and WR 501 (2 credits, online) following that (not more than 2 classes or 8 credits at one time).

**MWS students who have completed all of the requirements to graduate may begin working toward their DWS prior to “walking” at graduation, with the approval of the Academic Dean and if accepted to the doctoral program. For example, a student who completes MWS 504 and MWS 601 by November 1, 2023, may apply to begin the DWS program starting in January 2024 and graduate with their MWS in June 2024.

 

How long does the doctoral program take to complete?

DWS

Example

Regular Track January Start

Regular Track June Start

Extended Track January Start

Extended Track June Start

WR 701, BIB 501 B* & DWS 701 January
2025
June
2024
January
2025
June
2024
DWS 702 &
DWS 702-P
June
2025
January
2025
January
2026
June
2025
DWS 703 &
DWS 703-P
January
2026
June
2025
January
2027
June
2026
DWS 704 &
DWS 704-P
June
2026
January
2026
January
2028
June
2027
DWS 801:
The Thesis**
January
2027
June
2026
January
2029
June
2028
Graduation June
2028
June
2027
June
2030
June
2029
*Entering DWS students with the following Master’s degrees: M.Div., MA in Worship/Liturgy/Church Music with strong Biblical foundation, or MA in Bible or Theology will go directly into WR701 before entering the core study. The admissions team will review the transcript of the Master’s degree to determine that the biblical requirements are met.

Any other Master’s degrees including music, education, performance, etc. will need to do the following: 1) complete Biblical evaluation with instructor feedback and 2) enroll in BIB501(B) (see MWS program) taught online either before core class or concurrently with the core class. The admissions team will guide you through the process.

**One year is allotted for work on a student’s Thesis. Continuations are available subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Academic Catalog.

 

When should I apply for admission?

New students may begin during either the January or June session. To be considered for the January session, all application materials must be submitted no later than November 1st. To be considered for the June session, all application materials must be submitted no later than April 21st.

However, applying by the deadline is not a guarantee that spaces are still available in the incoming class; spaces fill up quickly and it is not uncommon for new students to be placed on a waitlist. In light of this, the Admissions Department encourages all applicants to submit their materials well in advance of the November 1/April 21 deadline.

The Application Process

1

Start the application for admissions

You may complete the application form online or print a copy from the back of the Academic Catalog and submit the form by mail. Please email admissions@iws.edu if you have trouble uploading any documents.

2

Write your personal statement

Your personal statement of 300 words or less should explain your current ministry context and how you believe you would profit from being a part of this academic program. This document may be mailed or emailed to the Admissions Department, or you may upload your statement directly to your online application. The Admissions Committee may request an additional essay, past work/paper/assignment, or a video call if necessary.

3

Request 2 letters of recommendation

Applicants must request two letters of recommendation. The first letter of recommendation should come from your senior pastor or direct supervisor. The second letter of recommendation should come from a colleague, a ministry partner, or an IWS graduate. An ideal letter will include how long the writer has known you, how they view your role in Christian ministry, and how they feel you will approach graduate-level studies. Please note that your two references cannot be a relative.

4

Gather official transcripts

All official sealed transcripts from previously completed degrees (post-secondary school, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate, as applicable) should be sent directly to the IWS office. Alternatively, many schools can now email official transcripts via a secure server; if your alma mater offers this service, you may have your transcript sent to admissions@iws.edu.

Please note that the Director of Admissions may also request transcripts of academic work that did not lead to a completed degree. For applicants outside the United States and Canada, the Director of Admissions may request your transcripts to undergo further evaluation/translation, as the case might be. You will be given directives on this process if you are required to do so.

5

Application fee

Application to an IWS degree program will not be considered complete without paying the non-refundable application fee of $50. The fee may be paid online by credit/debit card, check, or money order by contacting the Admissions Office.

6

English language proficiency

All applicants who indicate that English is not their first language are required to earn a passing score of 80 (internet-based) either on TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or 105 on the Duolingo English Test. Additionally, the Director of Admissions may request a passing score from any applicant who displays difficulty with spoken or written English, regardless of the applicant’s first language or citizenship.