Barker leads worship workshops

Jeff Barker, professor of theatre and speech and director of worship at Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa, led three worship workshops on campus during September. The workshops were free and attended by about 100 students and community pastors, worship leaders and others interested in worship.

The workshops were part of a new effort by Northwestern’s theatre department to help prepare worship leaders who are trained more broadly in the arts. “Worship is broader than music or musical style,” says Barker, who is seeking to restore story to worship.

The Rev. Jon Opgenorth, senior pastor of Orange City’s Trinity Reformed Church, agrees. “Worship is the total experience—music, drama, story, liturgy, offering, prayers, preaching, greeting, blessing—that people have from the moment they walk into church to the moment they walk out,” he says.

Restoring story to worship could open the door for more artists than just musicians to participate in worship, Barker believes. Skilled theatre and visual artists can lead the congregation in incorporating stories from the Bible and from church members’ lives into the worship experience.

“Stories are so important in the life and worship of the church,” says Sherri DeBoom, Northwestern’s French instructor and worship planner for a local church. She attended the workshops and explains, “The Bible is a storybook, and we are a story-formed people. As we plan worship, we need to look for the journey in the service. And art—such as visual images and stories—can be incorporated along with music.”

The workshops included numerous examples from Barker’s own experience as worship leader. Participants also were given suggestions and handouts for experimenting with more story-formed worship in their own churches.

To request DVD recordings of the three workshops from Barker, contact him at or 712-707-7093. The worship workshop DVDs are $15, which covers duplicating and shipping costs.

The workshops will be offered again next fall, possibly in a format that would accommodate attendees from outside northwest Iowa. If you’d like to receive e-mail updates about the planning for next fall’s workshops, please contact Barker.