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Are You a Worship Educator?

Are You a Worship Educator?

Robb Redman

The need for men and women to train and equip the next generation of worship leaders is great and growing. They’ll need teachers and coaches. Are you one of them? The Worship Educators Association is ready to support you.

The worship awakening in North America faces an uncertain future due to an acute shortage of worship leader training. It’s a worship education gap.  

The Growing Worship Education Gap

At a recent conference, a respected worship educator observed that there are about 6000 openings for worship leaders in the US and Canada at any given time, but colleges and seminaries graduate fewer than 1000 worship ministry students each year.  Reliable data about the worship leader job market is hard to come by, but even if these numbers are off a bit, it’s no exaggeration to say that the supply of worship leaders is lagging well behind the demand. 

Moreover, the gap is likely to widen in the coming years as Christian colleges cut back on worship programs as the struggle to stay open. The overall decline in Christian higher education has been underway for over a decade, as cost- and career-conscious students and their parents have opted for less expensive public schools and career-ready majors. The pandemic and its aftermath have only amplified these factors, making it even less likely that Christian colleges will be able to rally to adequately meet the need for trained and equipped new worship leaders.

Gap Factors

Peering into the training gap a little further, we can see – to no-one’s surprise – that many churches are hiring worship leaders among their own members or within their denominational networks, usually for financial reasons. To be sure, many smaller churches have done just fine with home-grown part-time or volunteer worship leaders for decades. But as church attendance and budgets decline, more formerly medium-sized churches are unable to keep or hire full-time worship leaders. This factor has led some educational leaders to conclude wrongly that the need for worship leaders is declining. It is likely true that the number of full-time positions is declining, but this is offset by the growth in part-time positions. 

There’s nothing wrong necessarily with promoting a team member to worship leader, but it does raise questions about training. How will they gain the equipping they need to be effective? 

Second, judging by the worship leader job descriptions churches have posted, the range of expectations placed on worship leaders is similarly great and growing. According to a landmark study of more than 3000 postings by Ken Boer, “worship leaders are expected to be spiritual leaders who can shepherd the congregation from the platform and pastor them personally. Possessing strong planning and communication abilities, they must have vocal talent and instrumental abilities… They must maintain a strong relationship the senior pastor, and they may become responsible for areas related communications and special programming as well.” Moving forward, role of worship leader is likely to become more complex, not less.

The new generation of worship leaders will need to learn on the job, and there’s a lot to learn. To close the worship education gap, the Church will need to mobilize an army of worship educators, reflective practitioners who can come alongside emerging worship leaders with their knowledge, wisdom, and skill. 

More Than Teachers or Coaches, Educators

Who is a worship educator? Put simply, a worship educator is someone – anyone – involved in equipping and training the next generation of worship leaders, such as:

  • Faculty members at Christian colleges and seminaries teaching worship studies and ministry, music theory and composition, music history, ethnomusicology, and performance;
  • Worship coaches working with worship leaders and teams (denominationally affiliated or independent);
  • Music teachers;
  • Music missionaries and ethnomusicologists serving in cross-cultural settings;
  • Christian school teachers advising student worship teams;
  • Doctoral students engaged in worship studies;
  • Artists, producers, publishers, and equipment suppliers.

If you’re in one or more of these categories, then you are a worship educator. And there’s good news for you! Now there’s an organization just for you, the Worship Educators Association.

A Meeting Ground for Worship Educators

Launched this past January, the WEA’s mission is to be a robust professional and academic organization that supports men and women called to train and equip the next generation of worship leaders. WEA’s objectives and activities include:

Connection and Collaboration. Worship educators may work on their own, but they are not alone.  At the heart of WEA are networking opportunities like conferences, meet-ups, and working groups initiated and led by members that focus on shared interests and issues.

Resources for Worship Educators. WEA encourages personal and professional growth and development through webinars and workshops on teaching, coaching, and learning. 

Communication and Advocacy. WEA distributes the fruit of members’ research and experience through publications and other media. We’ll also be a concerted voice that speaks up for the value of teaching and coaching the next generation of worship leaders.

To find out more about WEA or to join, just click here: www.worshipeducators.org. Join now and take advantage of our special introductory annual membership fee of $90.

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