Published on August 10, 2016 by Ashley Smith  
worship leadership

Samford University’s Ministry Training Institute is launching a new online certificate program in worship leadership. Created in partnership with anima: the Forum for Worship and the Arts in Samford’s School of the Arts, the online certificate offers an introduction to the basic principles and practices of worship leadership. 

The online certificate in worship leadership consists of four eight-week courses that will be offered consecutively for the first time in fall 2016 and spring
 2017. Certificate courses are led by experienced music and worship pastors who are noted instructors, and scholars. This certificate can be completed in one academic year and will be awarded upon the completion of these four courses, which include Introduction to Worship Leadership, The Worship Leader as Pastor, Biblical Foundations for Worship and Designing Creative Worship. This curriculum provides basic principles for leadership while helping develop biblically astute leaders, according to Eric Mathis, anima director. 

Each course will present vital worship leadership practices as well as the principles that shape and sustain them, Mathis explained. This will include choosing music for worship, praying in public, setting up a sound system, projecting music and other key topics. Supplemented by testimonies, stories and exercises, students will have many opportunities to practice skills and gather valuable resources for planning and leading worship in their congregations. 

“This is really about making education accessible so that congregations and their leaders can enrich their worship practices,” Mathis said. “There is no greater joy or privilege than to worship God with God’s people, and we hope that this certificate will renew worship in the hearts and minds of the leaders who participate, and thereby renew worship with the people they lead.” 

The online certificate and worship leadership was developed with collaboration and input from state and national leaders in the area of music and worship, including Keith Hibbs, director of music and missions for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions; Chip Colee, former minister of music at First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama; Mark Cottingham, worship pastor at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia; and John Woods, music and worship pastor at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham. Emily Andrews, instructor in music and worship at Samford, and Kevin Blackwell, assistant to the president for church relations and director of the Ministry Training Institute, also were involved in creating the new program. 

“In recent years, we’ve learned there is a significant need for ministers and lay leaders to study worship leadership,” Mathis explained. “Because many of these ministers and leaders are currently working in the church with leadership responsibilities, it’s not possible for them to study in a university or seminary environment. The online certificate in worship leadership allows these individuals to study worship while continuing to lead worship and minister in their local church. However, it also provides these individuals with a network of peers and fellow ministers with whom they can dialogue. 

“More than 75 percent of the worship leaders in the state of Alabama are part time or volunteers,” Mathis continued. “About 52 percent of worship leaders in the United States are part time or volunteers. While many of these leaders have musical skills and preaching skills, they have never had formal study or training in worship. We are excited to offer this certificate as a service to the church in Alabama and beyond.”

For more information about the worship leadership certificate, contact Mathis at or 205-726-2323. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.