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Pastors can find support at the Institute For Modern Worship

Pastors can find support at the Institute For Modern Worship


As worship styles evolve throughout The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, it can confuse pastors—particularly in smaller and medium-sized churches—about how best to reach their congregations.

Music, of course, is a vital component of any worship service. But what kind of music? Let's just say it's constantly evolving. To young people today, music considered contemporary even five years ago might sound more like the classic rock their parents and, yes, grandparents listened to long before they were born.

Paul B. Race of notes, "In Dayton, Ohio, a friend whose traditional Gospel trio sang in the 1960s and 1970s was excommunicated from his home church because the group occasionally used Major 7th chords in their harmonies, and some influential members thought it sounded worldly."

Compounding the game of musical chairs, so to speak, is the fact that the smaller churches may not have the staff to put together various worship styles that reach all of their members. They also might struggle with staff turnover. That's where the Institute of Modern Worship comes in. 

It's a long-term effort by Jeremy Hearn, the co-founder and Executive Director of IMW, to provide support and continuing education for pastors and worship leaders.

"This initiative started within the Florida Conference through conversations I began having with worship leaders and clergy about seven years ago," he said. "There was an expressed desire among people in worship ministry for continuing educational opportunities but within the context of community."

The idea was to create a central hub for instruction for contemporary and modern worship and provide a recruiting database if a worship leader resigns, doesn't work out, or moves on from a church.

"I was getting a lot of calls about recruiting," Hearn said.

The IMW launched it in January as a separate entity but in partnership with the Florida Conference. And it is evolving.
Three young worship leaders committed to journey with the project for a year, developing a two-semester course to better equip leaders in theology, leadership, administration, and worship artistry.

Its stated purpose: "The IMW equips and develops authentic, compassionate, and confident local church worship leaders for fruitful ministry in their local context and beyond. Worship leaders who participate in IMW continuing education tracks and live events will be further educated within IMW's four areas of focus... Theology, Leadership, Administration, and Artistry."

Currently, participants take a five-week course via Zoom that can include one-on-one coaching and fellowship with other leaders.

"We're excited about this ministry as we consider the position of the local church in overall revitalization," Florida Conference Director of Connectional and Justice Ministries Rev. Dr. Sharon Austin said.

"When worship is done with excellence and purpose, it can have a profound impact on making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Pastors need the support, though. They pour so much of themselves into the worship, which can be draining. That's why it's good for them to connect with other pastors and worship leaders in this way."

The choice of the word "modern" to describe the worship style was deliberate. Hearn said it means worship that's all-inclusive.

"Modern is worship that is happening now," Hearn said. "That can be in the form of traditional, contemporary, or blended styles. The things we stress are foundational areas of focus that can be effective in any style of worship.

'"It includes music, of course, but that's not all that goes into worship. It can include drama, visual arts, and dance. It all falls under worship artistry."

While the IMW is evolving and will continue to do so, the goal will remain the same.

"A win for us is when a young worship leader finds support, community, and continued personal and professional development throughout their career," Hearn said.

"The heart behind what we want to accomplish is to better equip persons in modern worship ministry to lead out of a place of better understanding in the United Methodist Church and Wesleyan theology."

For more information, follow this email link.

Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for

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