Blog Academics, Music

Bringing Music and Ministry Together in a Timely and Innovative Double Major

By Linda LaFrombois on Friday, May 10, 2019


Her love for Jesus and her passion for music led Maggie Emahiser (’19) to serve as worship leader in her church when she was only in seventh grade.

Years later as a PSEO student at the University of Northwestern, Maggie didn’t think she’d ever be in that role again. But the support and encouragement of her UNW classmates led her to try out for the chapel worship team her freshman year. She’s been leading worship through piano and song here ever since.

As part of Northwestern’s Youth Crew, Maggie also leads worship in area churches and is being asked to speak to the youth groups where she leads worship. She prays for the right words (without the music!) when speaking to audiences.

“Speaking isn’t my profession or area,” says Maggie. “I’ve thought many times that it would be so helpful to have training in how to handle the Word of God well.” Maggie’s added responsibility to speak in addition to leading worship is becoming increasingly common.

Kirk Moss, Chair of the Department of Music & Theatre at Northwestern, says that’s part of the changing landscape of the church in the United States. Pianos, hymn books, and choir directors have in large measure been replaced by keyboards, video screens, and worship bands, and pastors are being asked to fill multiple roles even as the average age of pastors steadily rises.

At the same time, there is a shortage of young leaders adequately trained to fill ministry positions and serve the new and diverse needs of the body of Christ.

To address the many changes in church ministry today, the University of Northwestern will launch an innovative Music Ministry double major in Fall 2019. Carefully designed by both the Department of Music & Theatre and the Department of Christian Ministries, Northwestern’s new Music Ministry double major brings together the core courses of Music and Ministry majors, and it can be completed in the same amount of time and for the same cost as a single major.

As Maggie points out, “being equipped from a theological standpoint as well as from a musical standpoint will really benefit the next generation of leaders.” This new double major will be a great benefit to students called into ministry as well as for churches anxious to fill ministry positions.

“Right now, the worship pastor is the second most common hire in local churches,” says Dale Lemke, Chair of the Department of Christian Ministries.

Graduates of the new Music Ministry major will be well-trained to step into the role of worship pastor while also being equipped to teach and lead if needed. Students will have a rigorous course of study in music, including music theory, worship technology, and church history. They will also take in-depth Bible and theology courses alongside classes such as teaching, leadership, and counseling.

“Broad, practical experience, both on and off campus, is another distinct feature of both facets of the new Music Ministry double major,” says Kirk Moss, Chair of the Department of Music & Theatre. “Based on their specific discipline, students will receive private lessons in voice or on an instrument, play in orchestra or band, sing in a choir or ensemble, and serve on worship teams.”

Opportunities for practical experience are also plentiful for the ministry portion of the double major. Students can serve in campus ministries, lead Bible studies in the dorms, get involved in parachurch organizations, and minister in local churches.

“Almost every week I get an email from a denominational leader or pastor looking for a Northwestern graduate,” says Lemke. “They’re looking for someone who is well-trained through our programs that they can bring into their church, even as a young leader.”

There is a great need in the church for leaders with integrity and the ability to lead well, and the leadership is looking to Northwestern for graduates to fill that need.

Through the double major in Music and Ministry, students with a passion for music and a calling to serve in the church or parachurch ministries will find an exceptional program that offers a breadth of study and depth of training, preparing them to meet the unique needs of churches today.

“The new Music Ministry program is such a great idea,” says Maggie. “It’s so valuable for worship leaders to be equipped in both areas; it makes so much sense for how the church is moving. And to be able graduate quickly—in four years with two majors—is huge.”

Editor’s Note: In the Fall of 2019, Northwestern will launch an M.A. in Ministry Leadership. When paired with the new double major in Music Ministry, students can complete the M.A. in just one year, saving a year of school and $10K.