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Worship Music Degree Offers Unique Collaboration

Students practicing

CHICAGO, IL (August 7, 2008) – Once upon a time, the music minister at a church directed the choir and maybe played the organ and piano. No more.

“It’s an interesting time,” says Helen Hudgens, associate professor of music at North Park University. These days, the music minister is more likely to be a minister of worship – a significant difference – who plays an integral role with the rest of the staff in planning and leading the worship life of the congregation.

That has created a problem for some churches, says Hudgens. They often are having a difficult time finding qualified people.

“Churches are expecting a lot more,” Hudgens says. “They expect people to know theology, liturgy, and the church seasons and be able to tie them together.” Ministers of worship increasingly are expected to be capable in a number of musical languages, from classical to contemporary idioms such as jazz and pop, as well as knowledgeable of different ethnic forms. The ministers also must be proficient in an instrument, able to write and arrange pieces, and work with a variety of musical groups.

To meet the need, the university has worked with North Park Theological Seminary to develop a bachelor’s degree in music and worship. Five years were spent developing the curriculum, Hudgens says.

The first two years of the program look similar to the first two years of any music degree at the school, Hudgens says. Students still are expected to be proficient vocally or in at least one instrument.

The seminary also will offer 12 hours of theology, Bible, and spiritual formation. The collaboration offers an opportunity that is unavailable to most music programs around the country, Hudgens says.

Courses include “Foundation of Worship Arts,” “Planning for the Arts in Worship/Music, and Congregational Music for the 21st Century Church” as well as “Foundations of Christian Worship.”

Students have an opportunity to lead university and seminary chapels as well as participate in a supervised internship at a church in the Chicago area. The internship is tailored to the type of church the student expects to serve.

For more information, visit the University’s School of Music website or email Hudgens.