Children’s Worship University (CWU), an annual Texas Baptists training event for Preschool and Children's choir and worship leaders, took place virtually on Jan. 30. This year, the conference was put on in partnership with Resourcing Worship, a collaboration of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) state worship consultants. Tom Tillman, director of Music and Worship at Texas Baptists, explained that the online nature of the event, originally brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was a blessing to attendees, who were able to join the conference even if they were far from Texas. There were 250 registrants for this year’s conference, including many from out-of-state.
“We had 17 states represented and even a few registrants from Japan,” he said. “So, even during a pandemic, we figured out how to reach more people through this incredible training.”
Mark Burrows, director of Children’s Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, encouraged attendees during his keynote, opening session, where he sang and shared children’s songs about the Bible, prayer and unity while speaking about optimism during tough times. Burrows shared that optimism is not pretending things are going well when they are not, but instead it is believing that God can do something about it.
“Optimism is seeing something for what it actually is and believing in yourself, believing in community and believing in God enough that we can do something about it,” he said.
He shared the story of Mark 2:1-12, when the four friends lowered their sick friend through the roof to be healed by Jesus. The friends had a big goal, and they believed that it could happen.
Burrows urged the children’s choir and worship leaders to be optimistic in God, to dream big and set a large goal for the year. This might look like planning a choir concert or vowing to seek out composers outside of their usual style, but he said no matter what it is, to hope in the Lord throughout it all.
“This is a challenging time. I’m optimistic, because of God, because of my family and friends, and because of colleagues like you,”, he said. “Let’s keep doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God with optimism.”
Breakout sessions covered a wide range of topics, from adapting to online events during COVID-19 to general advice about children’s worship. Presenters included composers, children’s ministry leaders, social media experts and music teachers. During presentations, attendees were able to live-chat questions to the presenters, who could also respond via chat.
The conference recording will be available online through April 30. Those who attended in January will be able to go back and watch as many sessions as they want, and those who did not attend the initial event can still register to have access to all of CWU’s content.
Tillman encouraged anyone involved in children’s music ministry to consider watching the sessions. He acknowledged that many are feeling disheartened due to the cancellation of so many events, but he also urged people to look ahead and use this time to prepare for a wonderful year ahead.
“This event is so much about encouragement. Honestly, there were many people who told us they weren't going to participate this year because their children's choirs or children's worship aren't even meeting due to the pandemic. This is actually the perfect time to attend such an event! To gain the tools and be ready in the Fall or whenever everything starts back again,” Tillman said. “It doesn’t matter what size church you are in, we have got to be training up the next generation! This training will be a huge encouragement both to the leaders as well as the children who will benefit from it.”
To watch CWU, you can purchase tickets here. Tickets are $30 a person and provide access to all CWU sessions through April 30.