Worship Apprentices use gifts to lead campus


The WAs combine their skills to plan campus worship services. Photo by Ruth Vanden Bos.

A new school year means a new team of Worship Apprentices (WAs) for Campus Ministries and the Calvin community. The WAs are responsible for coordinating and leading the Belong and Friday chapels as well as Living Our Faith Together (LOFT) services on campus. Pastor Paul Ryan, Calvin’s associate chaplain of worship, leads the group every year. Among goals around mentorship and personal growth, he wants the WAs to take pride in their work in the chapel, and strives to teach the WAs to achieve “moments of efficacy… when a WA gets off the stage and can say ‘I did that, I am capable and excited to do that again.’”

Being a WA is a complex task and involves wearing many hats. Their responsibilities include preparing and presenting services,  arranging music, leading worship practices, as well as writing prayers and song transitions. Ryan praised the group on their abilities saying:

“This group is so conscientious… they take initiative to problem-solve and work well together as a team.”

In the past, each WA met with Pastor Paul three times a semester in a one-on-one session. This year, however, the WA team has shifted to a different mentoring program. Now each Worship Apprentice has a single one-on-one a semester, and frequently meets with a smaller peer-mentor group composed of fellow WAs.

The WAs at Calvin are not limited to music and ministry majors, seldom studying in either of these fields. Instead they come from all majors and grade levels. With majors ranging from nursing and biochemistry to film and philosophy, the group is unique.

As with any new group or team, cohesion is not a given. This year’s WAs were pleasantly surprised. “What struck me from the very beginning was how comfortable we all are with each other. With such a variety of ages and majors, I didn’t expect us all to click so soon,” Amanda Potthast, a sophomore studying speech pathology, said of the group

Senior saxophone performance and biochemistry major, Brian Bolton, commented on the challenge of this year’s group being “split between introverts and extroverts,” which he felt will allow for growth opportunities on both sides.

Although the WAs have a variety of majors and interests, they share a common goal: to learn. Joyce Chew, a sophomore studying math, wanted to “stretch [herself] beyond [her] comfort zone and learn about different worship traditions.” For some of the WAs, joining the team has been a dream.

“I always loved watching the past WAs lead, and I wanted to step into their shoes,” Bolton said.

The WAs coordinate the many musicians who volunteer to play their instruments and sing in services. However, much of their work can go unnoticed.

“We do a lot of behind the scenes work too. On a typical day, you can see us setting up the chapel signs around campus… and sending lots and lots of emails,” Potthast said.

Serving as a Worship Apprentice is a paid, one year commitment, so Ryan looks for new applicants every spring. Besides musical skill, Ryan seeks out students with “responsibility, leadership experience and a commitment to cultivating community and embracing diversity.”

If Calvin students are interested in becoming involved with worship on campus, they can visit the Campus Ministry’s webpage to volunteer on a worship team or apply to be a WA. Those with specific questions are welcome to contact Ryan at [email protected].