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It's not all skinny jeans and a few guitar chords

A new course aims to raise the standard of worship leaders

A new worship academy on the Gold Coast aims to lift the standard of worship leading in local churches by redressing the balance between confidence and character.

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Craig Hindman, worship and creative pastor at Newlife Uniting Church, says many churches fall into the trap of giving people opportunities on the platform before their character is sufficiently formed to take responsibility for leading a congregation.

“There’s an attractiveness to wanting to lead or be in front of people musically without realising the ridiculous responsibility that worship leaders have to steward their gifts well,” he says.

Every time that we stand in front of others encouraging them to fix their eyes on Jesus, we’re as desperately in need of God’s grace as anybody else.

That’s why the new Diploma of Christian Ministry and Theology at Newlife Worship Academy, which kicks off in February, will place a great deal of emphasis on discipling each individual and forming their character.

“A diploma will say ‘yes, there’s confidence in certain areas, but we want to journey with people and help them to be responsible worship leaders as well,’” Craig says.

The 12-month course has an initial intake of just 15 students from Queensland, South Australia and Victoria and from Anglican, Uniting and ACC churches. Each week involves four to six hours of online study, 12-15 hours of voluntary work at their local church and a weekly online discipleship ‘huddle’, where students build relationships with each other and process the study content.

Craig says the two key character traits he wants to see in his worship leaders are humility and confidence.

“Humility to know that every leadership opportunity, every time that we stand in front of others encouraging them to fix their eyes on Jesus, we’re as desperately in need of God’s grace as anybody else, that there’s no rock stars in the church,” he says.

“Everybody needs to be open to correction and accountability and we’re all broken people on a journey to wholeness, right? So I think humility is absolutely essential.”

I want to be led by someone who is confident in the gifts God has given them, and you can tell the difference between someone who is confident and someone who is arrogant.

Craig Hindman is the driving force behind a new worship academy

He believes character formation is so crucial for a worship leader because there is a risk of becoming addicted to adulation when you stand in front of thousands of people every Sunday. But confidence is also important.

“I want to be led by someone who is confident in the gifts God has given them, and you can tell the difference between someone who is confident and someone who is arrogant. I think arrogance is false confidence and timidity is false humility, right? And I don’t want to be led by someone who is arrogant and timid. Your humility is because you know who you are in Christ; your confidence is because you know what God has gifted you and the gifts that he’s given you to lead – and I think those things need to be hand in hand.”

Craig caught the vision for the worship academy three years ago when he visited Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) in London and managed to get a meeting with its Rector, Nicky Gumbel, founder of the Alpha course.

“I was completely out of my depth, but one of the things that I learnt in that half-an-hour meeting was how they single-handedly helped revitalise the Church of England – while these cathedrals were closing down, HTB were sending out teams to help revitalise some of these empty buildings.

“They started a Bible college and developed a worship college and they would be raising vicars in the Bible college and be raising worship leaders in the worship college and then pairing those up to be part of church planting team.

“And that just grabbed me – hey, we need to be developing worship leaders within local churches so that they can lead their local churches well and also have new church leaders ready to go for new church planting.”

When Craig returned to the Gold Coast, he got the go-ahead straight away for the worship academy, but instead of taking the imagined six months to get off the ground it took 3½ years to jump through all the red tape and accreditation and writing and rewriting the curriculum.

“Part of me is frustrated that we didn’t get the money to start it three years ago, but part of me is incredibly grateful for what I’ve learned over the past three years to be more equipped to do it well,” he says.

The big thing he learned, he says, is patience.

“The patience side of things is, having discerned a call of God on my life, or for the next season of my life, learning to trust that, even when things don’t go as quickly or in the direction that you hoped, so that’s been a pretty massive thing and just trusting God in his timing and in his rule.

Moment my moment, my thought life, my actions, my relationship with others, every area and how is that formed by my relationship with God.

“The other side of it has been in the contemplative practices of worship. The last couple of years in particular I have really been transformed in my approach to the contemplative practices of worship and how important they are to my own spiritual health.”

Asked what practices he is talking about he mentions journaling, solitude, and different approaches to prayer and fasting.

“What I learned is the difference between monastic worship and cathedral worship. Cathedral worship is what we do on a Sunday in the church gathering to give glory to God in a corporate context. Then what does my monastic worship look like? Moment my moment, my thought life, my actions, my relationship with others, every area and how is that formed by my relationship with God. That’s been transformative and will play a much bigger part of the worship academy experience than it would have if we’d started three years ago.”

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