Emily Vermilya’s forte is church worship. She’s studied it, led it, and mentored others in it. A move to an Executive Pastor position sounded like a key change, but Emily found worship has far more to do with holistic ministry than just Sunday morning hymns.

When Education Becomes Inspiration                    

Emily Vermilya’s story begins in Anderson, Indiana, not far from Marion’s College Wesleyan Church where she now serves. As an undergraduate, she studied Communications Art with a minor in Church Music at Indiana Wesleyan. After graduation, Emily moved to Denver, Colorado with her husband to work in a para-church organization, with little intention of serving in church worship.

A few years later, an unexpected phone call from her worship pastor asking her to volunteer turned into a full-time worship leader position. She served there 2 years before she and her husband decided to return to Indiana.

After applying and being selected as worship pastor at College Wesleyan Church, Emily realized she was underprepared for her new role.

“I’m in over my head,” Emily remembers thinking.

Solely for the sake of job training, Emily enrolled in a Masters of Worship program at the Robert Weber Institute for Worship Studies in Fall 2007. Then, she enrolled in the doctoral program.

“The education was so practical and applicable in my context. It felt God-ordained,” Emily recalls.

First Lessons of Worship

Through her studies and her leadership in her church community, Emily developed a deep appreciation for the role of worship in the community of believers. She realized her worship ministry touched every area of the church and every demographic of congregants.

“Worship is about communion with God,” Emily explains. “It’s the formational activity that happens each week in our church.

Worship transcends any of the divisions that separate us.”

It was this lesson of worship, its uniting and transcending quality, which became essential in Emily’s understanding of the mission of the church.

A Vision for Holistic Ministry

Transitioning into the Executive Pastor role, Emily found that the lessons she had learned as Worship Pastor translated into general church leadership.

“As Executive Pastor, I have a hand in every area. I was doing that as worship leader, and I’m still doing that in this new role,” Emily shares.

“Worship prepared me to see the holistic ministry of College Church.”

Throughout her time in ministry, Emily has asked herself one question: “What does God desire the environment and aroma of our church to be?”

It’s a question that first found expression in worship but now has become an exercise in hospitality. The key formational aspect of corporate worship gets extended to the broader scope of church ministry—its vision, practices and identity.

“Worship ministry was the portal for my true passions: developing people and developing culture,” Emily realized. “It was the doorway by which God cultivated my love for the greater church. In my current ministry, I’m doing what I learned to do through worship.”

Setting the Vision While Inspiring the Followers

Emily and her team at College Wesleyan Church diligently seek to discern why God has placed their church “right here, right now.”

Through the lens of worship, Emily has been able to see the mission of the church in the broader community, while not forgetting the importance of refreshing and equipping those already inside.

College Wesleyan is geographically located between a growing university of bright, privileged academics and a struggling, socioeconomically-challenged community. Because of this dynamic, Emily acknowledges,

“We’re inclined toward making better disciples, but God also calls us to make more disciples.”

The challenge of setting a vision becomes its realization. The same people who carry out the vision of the church are also the ones who need care themselves. 

“We have to step toward our mission while focusing on the ever changing needs of our own people,” explains Emily. “It’s a challenge to keep it in healthy tension.”


Gaby Garver is a 2016 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. Having studied International Relations in college, Gaby’s passion is refugee assistance. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where she volunteers with refugees and teaches English lessons. Her favorite pastimes are cooking for friends and camping.