Becoming Worship Leaders
Dean Kladder
Dean Kladder

"I learned that our vocation as Christians is to be faithful followers of Jesus; that led me to figure out what station in life that would bring me to."

Dean Kladder
Worship apprentice

Four years ago Dean Kladder '04 came to Calvin with the seeds of ministry already implanted in his heart. He, however, had every intention of pursuing a career in business or communications.

"God didn't want me to forget about that ministry bug, though," said Kladder. "It brought me to a place where I had to re-evaluate what vocation is. I learned that our vocation as Christians is to be faithful followers of Jesus; that led me to figure out what station in life that would bring me to."

For Kladder the path became clearer through his work as a worship apprentice over the last two years. The Worship Apprentice Program, initiated in 2002, is one component of Calvin's Lilly Vocation Project, funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. Students chosen for the program assume leadership roles in chapel, LOFT (Living Our Faith Together), residence hall services, jazz vespers, and other events.

"As a group, we questioned what worship is, and what it is we are doing," Kladder said. "Worship combines theater, communication, proclaiming Jesus, music; I found it to be all of the things I love."

Those experiences led Kladder to attend Princeton Seminary this fall. "It's a continual revelation to see that God had been leading me down this way all along," he said.

Likewise, Kent Hendricks '05 entered Calvin with a business degree on his mind. "What I was really looking for was a way to use my musical gifts and leadership," he said.

Hendricks found it in the Worship Apprentice Program: "Being in this program gave me a feel for how to do music and worship together and make a vocation out of it."

While involved in his home church throughout high school, Hendricks never pictured himself in a ministry career. Now, though, he sees himself filling a role while combining his talents in leadership and music.

"This gave me a chance to find out what I like to do and what my gifts are," said Hendricks, who was a member of the LOFT music team and chapel planning team.

Vanessa Acosta
Vanessa Acosta

"I’ve learned a lot about worship structure and also that anywhere you go, there will be different opinions, but that it really doesn’t matter how we come to God."

Vanessa Acosta
Worship apprentice

For Vanessa Acosta '06 the Worship Apprentice Program got her out of her comfort zone—something she also likes to encourage others to do.

"I was always so nervous talking in front of people," she said. "This has helped me a ton."

As for others, she hoped to broaden their worship experience. "I'm very into getting people out of their comfort zone," she said. "Sometimes worship gets to be too warm and cozy. I had some ideas that clashed with others."

Acosta, who is majoring in education, hopes to apply her experiences to leadership roles within her own church. "I've learned a lot about worship structure and also that anywhere you go, there will be different opinions, but that it really doesn't matter how we come to God."

That is a lesson Hendricks has taken to heart as well. "I think it's OK to be critical and examine what your own church is doing," he said, "but you have to remember that it's still the people of God trying their hardest to glorify God, and there's no wrong way to do that."

Responses such as these indicate that the Worship Apprentice Program has already exceeded its goals, said Shirley Roels, director of the Lilly Vocation Project.

"When Calvin first dreamed of the Worship Apprentice Program, we hoped that it would improve the consistency of the campus worship while nurturing students for church service," she said. "We did not yet know how powerful this program would be in shaping campus worship and the students who joined it."

Kent Hendricks
Kent Hendricks

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