The Pillar of Hope Youth Performing Arts Initiative
Pastor Amos Crews and Pillar of Hope Christian Church are working to serve their neighbors in Tarrant, Alabama, by growing and sustaining the Youth Performing Arts Initiative, with a purpose to provide economically disadvantaged children with ways to experience music and to have a creative outlet. Several Samford departments are joining forces to help make this dream a reality.
Journaling to God: A Visual Pathway to Deeper Faith
Journaling has long been a refuge for those seeking a private space to sort out their thoughts and feelings. When these reflections are directed towards God, it transforms into a spiritual practice that deepens faith and fosters a unique dialogue with our creator. In this post, Samford Art and Design Chair and Animate 2024 toolbox instructor, Scott Fisk, explores how journaling to God can serve as a spiritual tool, enhancing personal growth and providing solace during life’s trials and triumphs.
Faithfulness and Improvisation
At its heart, improvisation, (improv) involves creating amidst the unexpected. Can improv be a useful tool for developing and increasing our faith in God and our faithfulness to God? What would happen if we practiced saying “yes, and” to God even when we don’t know what might happen next? Pastor, improv comedy performer, and 2024 Animate toolbox instructor, Jacob Simmons, explores this unique connection in our latest post.
Praying New Ways with Old Psalms
The Psalms are ancient prayers – prayers that Jesus prayed and in which he dwells. When we bravely dive into the Psalms, we find that God is still meeting us afresh in these old words of faith. Reverend Sarah Smoot shares practices to help you embrace the Psalms again or for the first time.
Gospel: The Message Behind the Music
Gospel music unites people in a way that spoken words do not. From work songs to spirituals, hymns, and more, the history and origin of this music is so rich that, for many generations, it has helped African Americans endure hardship and has given them the strength to overcome. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Campus Worship Associate, Nate Glasper, (and Animate 2024 Worship Leader), explores the significance of Gospel music in this latest post.
Healthy Congregational Worship—Engages All Generations
For centuries, even millennia, congregations have included entire families in worship. While it may be challenging work, the Bible shows precedent that bringing all generations together in worship is a fruitful and healthy model to follow. In his final blog on planning and leading healthy congregational worship, Jonathan Rodgers shares the importance of engaging all generations in the worship life of the church, and practical steps forward to implement this philosophy.
The Creativity of God
Beyond leaving us in awe, God’s creative nature should inspire us, particularly when we see the spark of creativity in ourselves and others. From a biblical perspective, our ability, propensity, and drive to create is evidence of the imago dei, the image of the Creator that resides in each human being. Spend time today reflecting on God’s creativity with Dr. Scott Guffin, who serves as the Executive Director of Christian Ministry at Samford.
How Poetry Helps Us Dwell in Difficulty
Rather than rushing to an answer, poetry allows us to ask questions. Unlike narrative, it doesn’t require a neat ending. Samford Assistant English Professor, Olivia Evans, explores the intersection of poetry and our relationship with God in this latest post.
What We’re Learning About Young People and Worship at Animate: Final Thoughts and Future Study
Young people are teaching us many important lessons through their experiences at Animate 2023. As we continue to study the impact of music and other variables on the participation of young people in worship, we recognize the importance of learning from their perspectives and experiences. Enjoy this final post on our learning about young people at Animate and make plans to join us at Animate 2024 to continue this important conversation!
Walking with Women Discerning a Call to Ministry
During Kristen Padilla’s adolescent years, one of her biggest desires was for a mentor – someone who could show her what it looked like when God called a woman to serve him in ministry. Though that desire was not fulfilled for Kristen as a teenager, she now seeks to live her life in such a way that demonstrates the love and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ for other women.
Healthy Congregational Worship—Remembers Its Context and Community
Churches, like people, have their own distinct personalities and traits. By understanding and respecting the context and culture of a church, a worship leader may minister more effectively to the congregation the Lord has entrusted to them. Continuing our Worship Check-up series, Jonathan Rodgers explores how to consider your own church context and community.
What We’re Learning About Young People and Worship at Animate: Themes from Our Findings, Part Two
Based on our research with teenagers at Animate, we believe the act of involving students in the worship design process from the beginning contributes significantly to the sense of agency on the part of the students, enabling them to feel as though they, too, are worship leaders in their own right. This is part four of a five-part series on our learning about young people at Animate.


I’m a Visual Artist: Here’s How I Wish My Gifts Could Be Used in Church
Chances are, you're already incorporating musical and visual art into your church's weekly services. But, have you considered exploring ALL the different artistic forms available to you? CWA student resident, Peyton Robbins, challenges us to consider careful stewardship of the creative talents the Lord has entrusted to your congregation.
What We’re Learning About Young People and Worship at Animate: Themes from Our Findings
Teenagers are not just the Church of the future—they are the Church of right now. And we need to hear their perspectives. This is part three of a five-part series on our learning about young people at Animate. Based on our research with teenagers at Animate, the theme that consistently stood out in our learning was the teenage worshiper’s near-universal delight in experiencing liturgical difference as well as worship practices that were new or foreign to them.
Healthy Congregational Worship – is Timely and Timeless
Continuing our Worship Check-up series, Jonathan Rodgers explores the challenge of making worship both timely and timeless. Drawing upon biblical wisdom, we must learn from the past and the worship practices of our predecessors while addressing the present needs of our congregations as they gather for corporate worship.
Our Already and Not-Yet Advent
Amidst the busyness of the Christmas season, let's explore the real-world Advent that speaks to our souls year-round. Advent, with its countercultural message, invites us to embrace the world as it is and be present while waiting patiently in hope.
Redeeming Wood and Wounds: Worship Through Woodworking
As a longtime worship pastor with a passion for woodworking, Michael Adler believes that imperfections can be transformed into something beautiful. Every piece of wood in the hands of a carpenter—regardless of its size, shape, and flaws—has unique character and value because of those irregularities. Similarly, our own wounds can be viewed as exceptional features that, once entrusted to God, can become beautiful symbols of redemption for his glory.
What We’re Learning About Young People and Worship at Animate: What Our Research Study Looked Like
Teenagers are not just the Church of the future—they are the Church of right now. And we need to hear their perspectives. This is part two of a five-part series on our learning about young people at Animate. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Last summer at Samford while Animate 2023 was taking place, a team of four researchers conducted focus groups and informational interviews with almost all our teenage participants to better assess their liturgical curiosity, formation, and experience of difference through the worship of Animate.
Coming Home to Diverse Worship Practices – A Fuller Picture of the Glory of God
As a Samford senior majoring in music and minoring in biblical studies, Libby Criswell reflects on her experience serving as an Animate student staff member, and how she found a deeper understanding of how diverse worship practices can come together to create a fuller picture of the glory of the Lord.
What We’re Learning About Young People and Worship at Animate: What is Animate Again?
Teenagers are not just the Church of the future—they are the Church of right now. And we need to hear their perspectives. Animate, our flagship program, is the place where we most fully embody our mission to engage intergenerational and artistic worship practices. In summer 2023, we set out on a qualitative research study with Animate participants to better assess their liturgical curiosity, formation, and experience of difference through the worship of Animate. Today we start a new blog series on our learning about young people at Animate.
Art is Holy, Worshipful Work
Art and creativity really matter to God. We don’t always get that same messaging from culture. If schools are short on cash, they often look to slash spending in their arts departments. If companies have to tighten up their bottom line, usually the easiest target is their design and marketing budgets. God’s economy doesn’t work like this.
Healthy Congregational Worship...Activates Vertical and Horizontal Relationships
As we continue our Worship Check-up series, Jonathan Rodgers explores the healthy tension that exists between the vertical and horizontal nature of worship, specifically as it concerns our relationships.
Spiritual Formation: Conformity to the Image of Christ
Ronald Sterling, Lecturer in Pastoral Studies and Director of Student Services at Beeson Divinity School, reflects on the vital role of Spiritual Formation in the life of the believer. "We must ask ourselves, what does it mean to grow in the likeness of Christ? Is it possible to be like Christ in today’s society? Why should we strive to be like Christ in His love and suffering for others?"
Announcing our “Engaging Worship” Faculty/Staff Grant Recipients
We are proud to announce the recipients of our inaugural Engaging Worship Program, aimed at fostering academic and practical projects at the intersection of worship and the arts. The program has provided grants to a diverse range of projects that promise to enrich worship experiences, engage communities, and inspire deeper connections between faith and artistic expression.
Healthy Congregational Worship... is Planned and Prepared
Continuing our Worship Check-up series, Jonathan Rodgers shares how the discipline of planning and preparing aids the pursuit of healthy church congregational worship.
The Making of Biblical Tableaux and How to Incorporate it into Worship
Chelsea Reynolds Nicholson challenges worship planning teams to move beyond typical tools and methods and consider the art of Biblical tableaux. “Something I think that is often overlooked in the Church, is that there are methods of reaching the soul through the arts outside of music. Biblical tableaux is one such method that may be a helpful way for your worship service to illuminate scripture, especially for congregants who are visual processors.”
Healthy Congregational Worship…Encourages Vibrant Congregational Singing
Continuing our "Worship Check-up" series, Jonathan Rodgers shares the important role congregational singing plays in the pursuit of healthy church congregational worship.
Because of Animate
Samford sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama, and former Animate participant Kayleigh Addison comes full circle as an Animate Student Staff member this summer!
Faithfully Rooted Student Ministry
Cameron Cole has ministered for eighteen years in youth and family ministry at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama. He presently serves as the Director of Children, Youth, and Family. He is the founding chairman of Rooted: Advancing Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry, a youth ministry organization that works to transform youth ministry by forming Gospel-centered student ministry leaders and parents. In this blog, Cameron reflects on faithfully rooted student ministry in this day and age.
Worship Check-up: Vital Signs for Healthy Congregational Worship
While there are many factors to consider when we approach the planning and leading of corporate worship, in this eight-part series, Dr. Jonathan Rodgers helps us identify those habits and practices that encourage and foster vibrant and robust corporate worship expressions.
Healthy Congregational Worship—Is Trinitarian in Nature
While there are many factors to consider when we approach the planning and leading of corporate worship, in this series we will explore those habits that foster vibrant, unifying, and meaningful expressions among God’s gathered people. My desire, while somewhat prescriptive, is to ask pastors, elders, worship artists, leaders, musicians, and even congregants to seriously evaluate their current practices with the hope that they would consider potential adjustments along the path of pursuing healthy congregational worship. Perhaps by the end of this series, a church might want to consider one or two Vital Signs to assess, evaluate, and address.


Exchanging More Than Music
Samford hosted students and teachers from Mt. Gilead Scholastic and Artistic (MGS&A) Institute in Coy to see Samford Opera’s presentation of Amahl and the Night Visitors as part of the ongoing service based learning partnership between Samford and MGS&A.
I Shall Know Him When He Comes
Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year – starting four Sundays before Christmas and continuing until Christmas day. These weeks encourage the body of Christ to anticipate the birth of their Savior – not just looking forward to the birth of Jesus but learning to wait well as we anticipate his second coming, when every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The resources and worship services attached at the end of this post are crafted to help your worshiping community anticipate the coming of Christ.
A Collect for Thanksgiving: Making Space for Divine Hospitality
Needing a little inspiration for Thanksgiving?
Samford’s Beauty of God Conference Gathers Diverse Group of Ministry Practitioners to Campus
Worship leaders, pastors, visual artists and musicians from across the United States came together Oct. 24-25 at Samford University for a unique conference on the beauty of God.


2021 Year in Review
2021 has been a year of renewal, reimagining, and reflection in the Center for Worship and the Arts.
Psalm 116: Letting the Thanksgiving Table Tell the Gospel
As a worship leader and pastor who is always on the hunt for “new material,” I’m regularly blown away when I rediscover that the best material has already been written, just waiting to be unearthed and given again to the church. That’s how I feel about Psalm 116.
Music for Your Easter Season
Samford graduate Nathan Peace shares an Easter perspective.
Heroes of the Faith: Black History Month Highlights
Over the years, the Center for Worship and the Arts has been blessed by its partnership with other worship ministries and leaders. One of the most meaningful and long-standing relationships is with David Bailey and his team at Arrabon. The word “arrabon” means a foretaste of what is to come, and Arrabon’s goal is to equip congregations to engage in the work of reconciliation. Arrabon believes the Church should be a foretaste of a reconciled heaven to our divided world, and we in the CWA agree wholeheartedly.
The Value of Studying Christian Worship
Lester Ruth will be part of our Worship Exchange program Feb. 9-10. Here he discusses the origins of his vocation as a worship historian.


Welcoming in the Advent Season
Advent is a season of the church calendar, the liturgical year that annually fashions our time and rhythm into the shape of the gospel.
The Four Be’s of Difficult Conversations
The holidays often include additional time with family and friends, and for some, those gatherings will include difficult conversations in addition to delightful Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities.
Alabama Black Belt Music Exchange
“Inspirational.” “Encouraging.” “Diverse.” “Enlightening.” “Special.” These are just a few of the words participants in the Alabama Black Belt Music Exchange use to describe their experience sharing music together the past three months.
All Saints’ Day: Three Themes
For over a thousand years, many Christians have celebrated November 1 as All Saints’ Day. In America, the day is best known for the preceding day: All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween. On Halloween we try to scare each other and dress up as what we are not. On All Saints’ Day, we encourage each other by remembering who we are.
A Roadmap to Successful Program Planning
Tracy Hanrahan shares how you can plan an event without losing your mind.
From the Head to the Heart
This fall, the Samford University Center for Worship and the Arts is partnering with the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Leadership and Ethics to provide a community-based service cadre to School of the Arts students called the Alabama Black Belt Music Exchange.
What Happens When You Stop
Our world has come to a screeching halt. And while skies are clearer and oceans are cleaner, our lives feel emptier. We miss being with our friends physically. We miss sharing meals and being in one another’s homes. Even as some of these things slowly return, we feel like we’re gaining a bit of our soul back.
QuaranTeen: Worshiping with Teenagers Online
Like everyone, I have spent the last three weeks watching online worship services, participating in online worship services, and observing thoughts, comments, and conversations about the new reality of worship in a pandemic.
Resources for Teenagers and Worship During a Pandemic (COVID-19)
In recent weeks, our country has watched the weight of a global crisis become even more pronounced.
Lessons from Liz Vice
In our lunch and conversation event, Liz discussed her story, her journey to being a professional musician, and discerning calling in life, among other things.
Rethinking Worship for Racial Reconciliation Sunday
Many churches reflect the homogenous communities in which they live. These communities also reflect a history of systemic segregation and, as Dr. King noted, it is a segregation most visible during the hour of worship on a Sunday morning. Though he delivered these words to “Meet the Press” back in 1960, Dr. King’s words still ring true today.


Preaching as Process not Product
A major difficulty with learning how to preach is that most of our talk around sermons focuses on the end products of the sermons themselves. This common approach is deficient. Instead, we ought to focus more on the preaching process than on the product.


Worship Midst the Thorns
Jesus was green before green was a thing. Our Lord loved using plants for his teaching analogies. Remember his parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-9)? You could almost see Jesus walking with his followers, pointing to the various kinds of soil—the rocky crags, the sun-dried dirt, and the dark, fertile soil.
Mt. Gilead Scholastic and Artistic Institute
The Center recently had the opportunity to work alongside of the Mt. Gilead Scholastic and Artistic Institute (MGSA) in Coy, Alabama. MGSA provides faith-based arts and scholastic training for children.
Ties That Bind
Animate participants come from different backgrounds. These are the ties that bind us together.
Chocolate. Ashes. Guns.
Christians woke up on February 14, 2018, believing the clash between the Hallmark calendar and the liturgical calendar was a crisis. And then, before our eyes, a real crisis happened. Again. This time, in Parkland Florida.  


What I'd Tell My 13-year old Self
As I think back on my journey that led me here, there are a few things I wish I would have known. If I had the opportunity to have a conversation with my 13-year-old self, here are a few things I would say...
Technology and Worship
How do we incorporate technology into our worship gatherings? How do you continue to grow volunteers while championing the benefits of technology in ministry?
New Research About Teens, Social Media, and What They Need from Us
My friend Eric, a local youth pastor, recently told me how a Ping-Pong table was revolutionizing his youth group.
Praying the Headlines: Las Vegas Shooting
Looking for resources to help your teenagers process the tragic events in Las Vegas this week? Look at this example from one congregation and use it in your context.
Rest in Peace, anima
I’m the son of funeral directors - it’s the family business. I started playing for funerals in 5th grade, and well, I haven’t stopped since then.
Four Essentials for Student Worship Leaders
Often times student worship leaders are the spiritual leaders of a student ministry. If you are a student worship leader, are you leading others the way that you should?
Rockstars and Worship Leaders
God is not looking to advance his kingdom with faces on posters, he is advancing it with those who are on their knees. In the economy of heaven weakness is power and humility is strength.
Personal Gifts
When members of the body of Christ come together and engage their diverse personal gifts of the Spirit, they can unite the community and help it to flourish as each person gives of themselves in a way they feel passionately about.
Pastoral Care
The people singing in the pews are journeying through various seasons of life. How does the worship leader best serve as pastor to those walking through different stages?
Leading People
As someone who thinks a lot about leading song in the church, I've wondered: What kind of leader will best lead music in the church? What leadership qualities will they embody?
Lessons from Working Animate
A week as an Animate staffer is incredibly rewarding. The people you meet, the stories you pick up, and the times of worship together are like no other. Here are four qualities of leadership that I’ve learned through my summers working at Animate.
Put On The Spot
Approximately half an hour before the worship service my youth pastor put his arm on my shoulder, showed me the order and said, “I put you down for sharing your testimony tonight, so you’ll have a few minutes before the sermon.” WHAT?! You did, what?!
Dear Artists...
I know the church is a confusing place for you. They don’t know what to do with the journey you’ve been called to. Most churches don’t have any kind of art culture. And if they do, it is bound up in creating easy-to-understand-beautiful-things and trying not to offend anyone. I get it. I’ve been there.
Give A Witness
In order to give a witness you must have seen something first. Have you seen the work of Jesus in your life? Do you remember meeting him and experiencing him and being loved and forgiven and accepted by Jesus? Witness that.
Forum to Center
If you’ve been with us from the beginning, you most likely have noticed our name change. What was the purpose?
Can We Worship Through Projection?
Overhead projectors and early projection practices were usually a means to an end–getting words in front of us so we could sing. But the conversation, as well as the programs, have grown and developed to the point where we need to ask ourselves a question: do we see projection as a means to worship, or as part of worship?
Demystifying Creative Worship
There is a mystique around creative writing that makes writers feel obligated to tap into something ecstatic, supernatural or other before they are allowed to compose.
Robes and Fake Beards Not Allowed
Robes and fake beards don’t help us understand Scripture. They don’t help us identify with the humanity of the characters. They’re a further reminder that so much in the Bible is alien and weird.
Ministry Musings: Worship and Culture
We live in a culture that has many misconceptions of who God is and what God does. Picturing God accurately is important because the way we view God informs our relationship with him.
Everybody, Shoes Off
Do you imagine your youth swinging from the rafters? A pastor recently used this image with me.
Good Feelings
How often do we equate an experience of God with good feelings?
Hometown Knowledge
I realized in that moment that I never learned the name of that street. In fact, I didn’t know the names to most of the streets.
Keep it Simple
I’ve noticed an encouraging trend in churches. More and more, youth are participating in leading worship.
Idol Smashing
Kevin was jealous. I should have seen it coming. How naïve I was!
Sunday School Lessons in Prayer
Remember Moses, Samson, and David? Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? These stories captivated us as children.


The Consequences of Worship Leadership
There are consequences to having student worship leaders.
The Pursuit of Excellence
As a worship leader what does it mean to pursue excellence?
Worship Playlist
Today we have immense control over our music. With the advent of the MP3 player we can skip, shuffle, delete, and mix genres.
Praying The Headlines
It’s no surprise – students are attracted to visual media. Images from television, video games, mobile phones, and the internet saturate their days and nights.
What I’ve Learned About Teaching Teens From Chase // Part Four
Recently a minister and friend on staff at my church made a statement in front of students that began a conversation about the role of women in the church.
What I’ve Learned About Teaching Teens From Chase // Part Three
Chase sometimes wears a bowtie to church, and when he does, it always catches my eye. From where I lead the service, I can see him only out of the corner of my eye. There are times I have to avoid looking over there, like when I’m leading the choir.
What I’ve Learned About Teaching Teens From Chase // Part Two
It began for me at a conversation over breakfast. Chase’s parents had okayed he and I meeting for breakfast, so we sat down at the table, ordered our orange juices (fresh squeezed), and began to talk.
What I’ve Learned About Teaching Teens From Chase // Part One
I’m relatively new at working with teenagers. Yet, as a 32 year old minister who’s inherited a student choir with a history of over 40 years, I’m constantly discovering so much about myself, my church, and the students I serve.
What I’m Learning About Teaching Worship: Pondering Best Practices // Part Two
Here are some thoughts, practices, philosophies, and methods I’ve been pondering as I attempt to teach worship to college students well. Part 2 of 2.
What I’m Learning About Teaching Worship: Pondering Best Practices // Part One
Here are some thoughts, practices, philosophies, and methods I’ve been pondering as I attempt to teach worship to college students well. Part 1 of 2.
Teaching Worship Leadership // Part Two
Learning involves decentered notions of mastery and pedagogy.
Teaching Worship Leadership // Part One
Jean Lave, a social anthropologist, and Etienne Wenger, an educational theorist, in Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation locate the development of knowledge, skills, and identity in activity over time involving changing participation in sociocultural practices and interaction with practitioners of varying levels of mastery leading toward full participation in the community of practice.
What We’re Learning About Teaching Teens
One Bread, One Cup has been around in one form or its present form for about 22 years. We have changed over time, and so have teens.
What I’ve Learned From Teaching Worship To Youth
Teenagers in my world see worship as primarily two things: music and a sermon.
What I’ve Learned Teaching Worship In A Christian School
My first legit job teaching worship as a for-credit-course took place in Tianjin, China; a city of 10 million near Beijing. The student body of the Tianjin International School was comprised primarily of Korean expat children following their fathers who worked for companies like LG and Samsung, pulling down six figure salaries. Matt Gaines
Praying In Unique Ways
We’ve put together three ways you can pray with teenagers. We used these during worship at Animate, our summer program in worship, theology, and the arts, and we found ourselves in meaningful conversations after worship based on the words we prayed together.
What I Learned About Teaching Teens
By the time I get teenagers at ages 17-18, the preponderance of their formal experiences of learning have been, at best, disconnected from what they consider important and, at worst, actively alienating or oppressive.
Animate // Question and Answers
who can attend? Individuals and Teams. Animate is open to any student who has completed 8th grade through 12th grade and is interested in exploring worship, theology and the arts.
Animate Philosophy
Mentoring young people for faithful worship ministry in the twenty-first century lies at the heart of the Animate philosophy.
Teenagers + Worship + Disconnect
Between the ages of 12 to 18, teenagers encounter many different types of worship practices.
Teenagers + The Worship Mall
This week, I’m tackling a third observation about teenagers and worship: Teenagers have always lived in (and are learning to navigate) a pluralistic liturgical landscape.
Teenagers + Generational Segregation
Two weeks ago, I offered ten observations on teenagers and worship. I also vowed to say more about those ten observations in upcoming posts.
Anima's Pillars
Ground and grow. Ground and grow. That’s the mantra the anima staff has been repeating since we went off the grid last Fall to examine who we are and where we are going.
Teenagers + Adults + Worship
In a post last week, I offered ten observations on teenagers and worship. I also vowed to say more about those ten observations in upcoming posts. So, here’s a bit more to unpack the first observation: Worship gatherings that teenagers participate in are the product of adult planning and leadership.
Anima's Mission
Empowering teenagers to connect their imagination, creativity, and enthusiasm to the power and possibilities inherent in worship and the arts.
10 Observations on Teenagers and Worship
As of late, I’ve spent quite a bit of time watching the ways teenagers engage (or fail to engage) worship in the church. Some of the work has been formal, some informal, but I’ve made a few observations along the way.