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The History of the Center for Worship Leadership

The original concept 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).

This training/education initiative was in response to specific directives generated from within our 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, the Center for Worship Leadership exists to provide empowered learning, experiences of common support, and professional inspiration for leaders of worship . Moreover, 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 all ways in which the CWL provides training and support for the church-at-large.

Our Mission

Provide empowered learning, experiences of common support, and professional inspiration for leaders of worship.

Who We Are

Worship is very simple and very complex (like real things!). It is wholly theological and yet interfaces with sociology in application, which can make it challenging to lead. Faithfulness and relevance both matter, and each leader’s context is demanding – differing expectations, group dynamics, team formation, practical skills, staying current, resources – the list goes on. And while our service in this area of ministry is a blessing, it can sometimes be contentious, leaving us in search of answers. Confident that we can all do better, in our work and in dealing with each other, Concordia University Irvine is committed to helping people build healthy, thriving worship arts ministries by promoting support mechanisms that provide mentoring, wise counsel, and encouragement. To that end, the Center for Worship Leadership was created.

The Center for Worship Leadership (CWL) is in residence in Christ College, Concordia University Irvine‘s school of Theology, Philosophy, Biblical and Classical Languages, and Church Vocations. It is charged with living out its mission within the Concordia Irvine community and in service to Christian congregations nationally. Internally, on our campus, the CWL partners with existing academic programs to train and equip next-generation worship arts leaders and musicians. Externally we connect with one another in various ways to support, empower, and inspire through our Worship Arts Leader initiative (WALi), which provides a variety of gathering/training events throughout the country. The CWL produces specialized worship resources and online education opportunities that can lead to professional Certificates in the area of Worship Theology, Ministry Leadership, and the various Practical Skill areas related to Worship Arts.

Thank you for visiting the Center for Worship Leadership website.

The 3 Cores

We strongly believe that there are three core competencies of worship arts ministry that should be embraced, practiced, and nurtured. They are:

Worship Theology

1. Worship Theology

Ministry Leadership

2. Ministry Leadership

Practical Skills

3. Practical Skills

Too often worship arts leaders place their focus on one or two of these areas not realizing that a healthy worship ministry values all three areas. We have chosen at the Center for Worship Leadership to organize our deliverables around these three cores, encouraging worship arts leaders and congregations to embrace them, practice them, and nurture them for the common good of the gathered Church and for the sake of the Gospel message of Jesus.


The strength of the Center for Worship Leadership is found in the collaboration and leadership of its many representatives and advocates - ranging from PhD’s to practitioners. There are many ways that we are connecting leaders of worship to sources of empowered learning, experiences of common support, and modes of professional inspiration. We hope you find something here that you can join us in and be encouraged by.

WALi Summit

The WALi Summit

Annually gathers leaders of worship, pastors, and musicians to a 3 day experience of plenary speakers, breakouts, worship, mutual support, and in-depth training.

Learn more about The WALi Summit

WALi Cluster

WALi Clusters

Monthly gathers area worship leaders together in mutual consolation, support, and friendship.

Learn more about WALi Clusters

WALi One Day

WALi One-Day

Occasionally joins a local cluster or region to...

Learn more about WALi One-Day

The Psalm Library

The Psalm Library

Bi-annually produces Psalm arrangements and settings for use in worship.

Learn more about The Psalm Library


Podcast Network

Podcast - hosts monthly conversations with leading thinkers in topics of theology and worship.

Listen to Our Podcast Network

Songwriter Initiative

CWL Songwriter Initiative

Supports songwriters in their calling to champion musical art and theological richness in their craft by providing monthly curated articles on songwriting, online webinars, professional gathering events and collective resources.

Learn more about the CWL Songwriter Initiative


CWL Liturgies

Collaborates to produce in-depth liturgy and service order templates that go alongside small group materials, sermon series, or seasons of the church year.

Learn more about CWL Liturgies

CWL Membership

CWL Membership Tools

Curates an interface that supports the weekly work of worship leaders and pastors. Featuring a song consideration archive, theological/cultural encyclopedia, tutorial videos for teams, digital library, book reviews, and community interfacing, phase one of our membership section will go live in 2020. If you are interested in supporting our work and joining the conversation, become a CWL member!

Learn more about CWL Membership Tools

Contact Us

For more information about the Center for Worship Leadership feel free to reach out to us directly at [email protected].

Contact Us
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