The original conception for worship arts leadership training and education at Concordia University Irvine (CUI) was birthed in 2008 to serve internal and external functions for CUI and her mission. This continues to be true today through the internal efforts of CUI’s Director of Parish Music program, Worship Arts Leadership program, and Commercial Music program; and through the external efforts of CUI’s Center for Worship Leadership (CWL).

Originally, this training/education initiative was in response to specific directives generated from within own denomination, asking for higher education institutions to help initiate a process leading toward the development of diverse worship resources, while at the same time, providing capable guidance and direction for use of those worship resources. The official catalyst for developing the internal and external efforts at CUI was expressed this way:

“Assist the Board for University Education in encouraging the establishment of at least one of the schools in the Concordia University System as a site for a worship arts degree program. This course of studies would include music instruction and worship direction in a full range of styles, use of media in worship, dramatic and theater arts, extensive training in contemporary as well as traditional music, etc. Completion of this program by a student would lead to a music degree with a contemporary emphasis leading to rostered status as a director of parish music.”

When Concordia University Irvine stepped up to answer this challenge, it was committed to doing so as part of its mission and in line with the four themes of the university’s strategic plan. The ministry of worship is at the heart of disciple-making here at CUI and in Christian congregations everywhere. The directive, as expressed above, is explicit and an academic challenge worthy of our institution’s reputation. CUI’s stable of faculty and staff are distinctively equipped with the knowledge and wisdom to develop a field of study often characterized as a predominantly non-traditional pursuit. Our leadership’s decision to give additional prominence to the roles of worship, ministry, witness and service in our campus life provided the perfect “living-laboratory” environment required to give students the hands-on immersive experience needed to bring classroom concepts to life. And, of course, the addition of a state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind facility that stands as a visible reminder of CUI’s belief in, and long-term commitment to, those looking to us to prepare them for their vocation. In short, this internal training initiative is an endeavor well worth our time, energy, and resources.

The Center for Worship Leadership (CWL) was created to be the externally-focused organization committed to the latent need for worship arts training in the church. As its mission states, it exists to connect leaders of worship to sources of empowered learning, experiences of common support, and modes of professional inspiration. All CWL training is rooted in one or more of our three core competencies: Theology, Leadership, and Practical Skills. Professional conferences, single-day workshops, plenary presentations, published papers/articles, social media community, networking, worship resources, podcasting, a web presence, and consulting/coaching services are ways in which the CWL provides training and support for the church-at-large.