Half a century ago, evangelical leader A. W. Tozer lamented the fact that Christians weren’t expending much time or energy in making their worship services meaningful and spiritually effective.

Worship, Tozer said, was “the missing jewel” in the church’s crown. Not anymore.

Worship is a top priority in evangelical churches today, and because it is, there is a greater need than ever before for dedicated and well-prepared worship leaders and worship pastors. To help meet that need, Southern Wesleyan University is launching a concentration in Christian worship this fall.

SWU has been teaching courses in worship for more than 25 years, a commitment which began even before The Wesleyan Church required it for ordination. Later a minor in worship was added to the university’s religion curriculum.

In the recently approved concentration (which will function much like a major), SWU’s Division of Religion is partnering with the Music Department of the Division of Fine Arts to create a cutting-edge program which will prepare students for leadership not only in the musical portion of a worship service but also in the fuller definition of worship through the ministry of the Word, the sacraments, and the aesthetic dimensions of this reclaimed “jewel.”

Courses will be divided between the two divisions. Musically, students will be given a solid foundation in theory and practice. On the ministerial side, they will study the biblical basis for worship, its historical development, different styles of worship, the often-undervalued role of ritual in both contemporary and traditional worship and the significance of special days and seasons on the Christian calendar. Supporting both the musical and ministerial instruction will be the new course in the Technology of Worship. An extended practicum in a local church will provide invaluable experience as well.

Southern Wesleyan’s newly-dedicated Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center will play a major role in this new program. In its classrooms, students will learn to how to create both contemporary and traditional worship experiences. In its Worship Design Lab, they will be taught how to add a digital dimension to those services. In its chapel, they will have the opportunity to lead others through the worship experiences they have shaped and formed.

SWU President Todd Voss envisions the Division of Religion adding a complement of worship experiences as “alternative chapels” each semester, giving ministerial students additional opportunities to preach and also giving students majoring in worship a chance to hone their craft as well.

Through this exciting new initiative, Southern Wesleyan is committed to “polishing the jewel” of Christian worship.