The Top Worship Ministry Schools: A Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Program

  • Written By 
  • Jonathan Swindal

Worship Ministry Schools

Unlike becoming a physician or a CPA, there is no direct path to becoming a worship leader. Most worship leadership positions do not require a seminary degree. Unsurprisingly, if a worship leader wants to enroll, most cannot afford to go because they are not paid well enough. Most of these same worship leaders are doing the best they can with the preparation and resources they have received. But still, the responsibility of leading people in worship – filling their mouths and shaping their hearts as the people of God – is enormous. How can worship leaders grow in their pastoral and theological training? What worship ministry schools are available for those who desire to invest in this part of their calling? Well, more than there used to be, that’s for sure.

Ministry Training Schools

Ministry Training Schools are currently growing in popularity, likely because of the cost of college and seminary. A quick Google search will produce dozens, if not hundreds, of options for both ministry schools (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, IHOP University) and worship-specific schools (YWAM School of Worship, Calvary Chapel School of Worship). Many Christian colleges have certificate programs that are far less expensive and demanding than a 4-year degree, and oftentimes large churches with a reputation for songwriting and worship will have internships or training schools.

My wife and I recently went through 10,000 Fathers & Mothers (10kFAM). It’s an independent worship ministry school founded by worship leader and songwriter Aaron Keyes and found it enormously beneficial. 10kFAM focuses on personal growth in character, songwriting, and leadership through discipleship, giving less emphasis to musical competency and stage performance. Northern Seminary accredited this program for those who wish to continue their education through their seminary.

Is this type of Worship Ministry School for you?

Training schools typically design intensive-style training for those who desire direct training in their field, costing far less than traditional university-style education. 10kFAM is best for those who wish to grow as pastors and songwriters in the local church within the realm of worship ministry. You will receive hands-on training from “coaches” who have masters degrees and are active as worship pastors nationwide. I highly recommend 10kFAM if ministry training school is something that you are looking into.

List of Ministry Training Schools

Liberal Arts College Degrees

Over the last decade or two, many Christian colleges and universities have designed worship arts programs as a correlative track to what a “church leadership” degree is for those who wish to be youth or lead pastors. Grand Canyon University, Liberty University, Oral Roberts University, and Belmont University are some of the more well-known “Christian universities” with growing worship programs. These programs vary greatly as they emphasize everything from music theory and composition to music production and business to pastoral ministry and biblical exegesis and theology. Some denominational schools will have a “high church” version of this degree. These are typically called “Church Music” or “Sacred Music,” which tends to emphasize liturgy and choral/organ/orchestral music.

How to Determine the Right Program

I recommend watching chapel services from any liberal arts Christian college that you are considering to see if it matches the culture and style of music that you would hope to eventually be leading in a church. I also recommend looking at the course list of the degree program and any syllabi (Google search!) before enrolling in what will most likely be a six-figure educational investment. If I were looking at one of these schools, I would email 1-2 of the professors within the program and ask for a phone meeting to get the best assessment of what I’d be signing up for. Many times they will be very honest! Also, talk with current students currently enrolled in the degree and those who no longer are enrolled in that program. 

Lastly, I highly recommend you figure out what things on campus are specific to the worship degree and what is a campus program that anyone can participate in. A lot of times, chapel worship teams and other worship activities on campus are not directly affiliated with the worship degree itself. Just because a school has an incredible chapel worship team, doesn’t mean they will have an incredible worship degree.

Is this type of Worship Ministry School for you?

If you’re intent on a liberal arts well-rounded education and either desire the “college experience” or intend to follow up with seminary or a masters degree in another field, one of these programs may be for you. This program will likely require you to take math, science, and humanities courses. Most of these schools have fully-online options or a hybrid option available. Assess the cost and theological values of the university as a way of narrowing down your search.

List of Liberal Arts Colleges with Worship Ministry Schools

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Seminary is the traditional medium of “ministry education and preparation” and is still a great option for those who feel called to full-time vocational ministry. Yes, it can be expensive, but if you are called to a career in ministering to people, the seminary will be by far the most extensive and thorough preparation for the ministry. That said, all seminaries are not created equal. There is as much diversity among seminaries as there is in Christian churches worldwide, which is a lot! Some specialize in Ph.D. preparation, primarily focusing on research. Others focus more on educating pastors, counselors, and chaplains with a practical approach.

The first decision you must make

is whether you desire a worship-specific education or a more general ministry education. Seminaries with worship-specific programs are less common (Northern Seminary has a fantastic program). The second decision is whether you’re willing to go online or you prefer to go in person. I highly recommend going in person if it’s possible.

I chose to attend Denver Seminary because of its proximity and have never regretted it. Depending on the program, many schools offer cohorts that only require coming on campus 3 or 4 times a year. If you’re going to seminary for the primary purpose of being trained and educated for ministry (as opposed to gaining the degree simply because your denomination requires it), I suggest that you choose the most rigorous program you can.

This may not sound like conventional wisdom, but here’s what I know:

Most seminaries in the US cost roughly the same amount within a range (Ivy League schools being the exception). Additionally, most of their degrees will require a comparable number of credit hours. So, if you’re going to take 12 credit hours of “systematic theology,” and it will cost you roughly the same amount, why would you not desire the best education you can get?

Is this type of Worship Ministry School for you?

If you have an undergraduate degree and love the “ministry” side of worship leadership, I highly recommend going to seminary. When I attended, I had classmates in their 50s and 60s, proving that it’s never too late. They often brought a wealth of experience and wisdom that added to my experience. Pray about it, have extensive conversations with your spouse, and count the cost before registering. If a seminary is worth its salt, it will be demanding. If you truly give yourself to the process, it can be transformative.

List of Seminaries

This worship ministry school guide is by no means exhaustive in scope.

It hopefully helps those interested in furthering their own education and development. I write as one who went to a liberal arts university, worked at a different Christian university, went through a worship training school, and has been to two different seminaries. (It takes me a bit longer to learn what most can in far less time!) I don’t regret one minute of any of the programs in which I’ve enrolled. If you can afford it – financially, mentally, relationally, and emotionally – you should consider taking the next step. Worship Ministry school is a great way to invest in your development and education as a worship pastor.

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