Working with those who want to train in worship, the idea for the academy came about when Chris, dissatisfied with the way in which worship was being taught, put together a course with Andy Bromley, now worship pastor for a 7,000 strong church in Colorado Springs.
“11 years ago I got dissatisfied with the random nature of worship seminars and teaching on worship,” he says. ” I only felt like they were scratching the surface…random training means random worship. I took a step back and asked God - “is this the best we can do?”
The course took shape and Chris and Andy started running sessions for 40-50 people at a time. “We didn’t run big conferences,” says Chris. “We wanted to highlight that worship was an encounter not an event, and to journey with people in an informal mentoring style.”
Running through a modular approach, the training at the academy has always been about training people based on why they worship, not necessarily how they do it, according to Chris:
“It is more about building people than building ministries, with the training focus more about why we do worship, not how we do it. We have often become fixated with how it sounds, how it looks – but worship should be something we do 24/7. The ‘how’ approach means we get locked into performance and presentational issues, in my view, a potential cul-de-sac.”
Started in 2001, the academy sees people coming from all over the country to Cliff College in Derbyshire, where weekends with tutors such as Graham Kendrick, Richard Lewis and Dr Stewart Burns teach. There are also other academies run in Romania, Portugal, Singapore, Texas, Ireland and South Africa.
Endorsed and supported by Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Dr RT Kendall who is also one of the academy’s advisers, the approach to training leaders in this style has seen a lot of recognition. Says Chris:
“As a result of the Academy a lot of people have been taken on to Church staff as worship leaders and worship pastors - and that’s a real recognition of the value of what we do. However, worship training has often been for specialists - worship is for all of us - on the Academy it’s not just for practitioners, it’s for congregation members.”
Many going through the academy have seen great success with Sandra Godley winning the Gospel Entertainment award for best female newcomer in 2005 as well as a whole host of people being key worship leaders at churches, including Berni McAvoy, now also academy Ireland leader, Angie Lendon, now Worship Pastor at Jarrod Cooper’s New Life Church, Hull, and Danny Oates, academy leader in the UK, and Sleaford, New Life. Luis Goncalves, Portugal, graduated from Worship Academy 6, is now Senior Pastor at New Life Church, Lisbon, and leader with his wife Carla, of Worship Academy Portugal. Luis is also a renown professional musician who has toured the world with Andre Boccelli and Woody Allen. He is also the Protestant Chaplain for the Portuguese Navy.