Renewed, fully online worship leadership degree provides flexibility for ministers

Katie Coleman
| Jul 28, 2020

A newly revised, 36-hour Master of Arts in Worship Leadership (MAWL) is now available entirely online and in a new eight-week structure in the School of Church Music and Worship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, school leaders announced recently.

Joseph R. Crider, dean of the School of Church Music and Worship, says the degree, designed to provide the core biblical and theological foundations for the church worship leader, is especially appropriate for the student already serving in a ministry position.

“The new online format offers maximum flexibility for worship leaders to pursue ministry training without having to leave their churches,” Crider says. “In addition, the new online format provides significant real-time interaction with our faculty during the eight-week session and, therefore, practical application of the course material can be made directly to the student’s ministry.”

The degree is designed to be transferrable to other degrees, including the new Master of Music in Worship Leadership (MMWL), a 59-hour degree for residential students. Crider says he anticipates that many students will choose to move to Fort Worth to pursue other residential degrees or to complete the additional 23 hours required for the MMWL.

The online format provides key training for worship leaders and includes online lectures, video conferencing with professors and students, and one-on-one mentoring with faculty.

Such faculty include Charles T. Lewis, associate dean of the School of Church Music and Worship, and Scott Aniol, associate professor of church music and worship.

Regarding the new degree and leadership training opportunity, Lewis says, “We are excited to offer this new online degree for worship leaders that provides maximum flexibility to any student in any country on any continent in any time zone.”

Aniol adds, “We’re so happy to be able to offer this newly refreshed Master of Arts in Worship Leadership that is now even more flexible for those currently in ministry and more robust in the courses we are able to offer.”

Students enrolled in this 36-hour degree will take courses in theology and spiritual formation, worship theology, and worship leadership development, and they will complete a worship ministry project.

Many students already enrolled in the MAWL are currently serving in churches around the country and have already seen benefits to their ministry and leadership.

Chris Wright says that when he first started seeking options for his master’s degree, he was serving in a local church, working a second job, and was anticipating the arrival of his first child. The degree, he says, would allow him the flexibility he needed while still providing the robust education he desired.

Now serving as the college and contemporary worship pastor at Broadway Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, Wright says the degree program has not only met those needs but has changed how he approaches his ministry.

“My time at Southwestern has literally revolutionized my ministry,” Wright says. “When I look at old service outlines that I constructed before Southwestern, I’m amazed at what a difference a couple of years has made. Being able to study under some brilliant Bible scholars has been an incredible opportunity—one that has given me the chance to grow in leaps and bounds in the way I structure the worship ministry of our church.”

“As I look to the future, my time at Southwestern has given me a solid, biblical foundation to build a worship ministry on, regardless of style,” Wright adds. “I currently lead a modern worship service, and yet the principles that have been instilled in me at Southwestern I’ve been able to apply to services that fall all across the worship style spectrum.”

Andrew Warford is a student serving at the First Baptist Church in Amory, Mississippi.  Although he had earned an undergraduate degree in worship leadership, he says he soon realized the need to refine his leadership skills and enhance his musical and biblical understanding.

Enrolling in the degree program in January 2020, Warford also says the program’s flexibility allowed him to remain with his church while receiving a quality education. In addition, he says, “I knew that the faculty at Southwestern not only demonstrate scholastic excellence, but also a heart to serve and equip pastors for pastoral ministry.”

In his experience with the program so far, Warford says he has already been challenged both academically and pastorally.

“Dr. Crider has displayed a vast knowledge and understanding of worship as well as great compassion for all in his classes,” Warford says. “At the end of each class, I was always encouraged and left enlightened with new information that I could put to practical use in my ministry. Through this time, I have been able to experience life with others in this degree program. From those helping guide the degree process, to the professors teaching the courses, my experience has been one of complete satisfaction.”