Grand Canyon University, MercyMe's Bart Millard Launching Groundbreaking Contemporary Worship Arts Program Program to train students in all aspects of worship service

PHOENIX, May 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Grand Canyon University is teaming up with Christian music icon Bart Millard to offer a groundbreaking Worship Arts program that will prepare students for careers ranging from national recording artists to worship leaders at local churches.

Millard, lead singer of Grammy nominated, American Music and Dove Award winning band MercyMe, said he was attracted to Grand Canyon's Center for Worship Arts because – unlike many programs that are performance-based and run out of a music college – GCU's combines both a ministry component and performance component and is based in its College of Theology.

"Anyone can sing the message, but first you have to get the message right," said Millard, who will serve as Director of the Center for Worship Arts and expose GCU students to some of the top influencers in the music industry. "Parents who might be concerned their son or daughter wants to perform for a living will know that they will be able to follow their dream and still earn a four-year degree. We will equip students for worship leadership that is relevant and theologically sound."

The centerpiece of GCU's Center for Worship Arts will be a performance band that will write its own songs, release records and tour the country. Beyond that, however, the program will train students in all aspects of the music industry so they can get jobs in a world in which contemporary worship services increasingly consist of high-tech tools such as computerized lighting, video screens, electric guitars and amplifiers, wireless technology and social media. The bachelors program will offer four emphases – digital media, worship production, worship management and worship ministry – and incorporate courses from GCU's College of Theology, the Ken Blanchard College of Business and the College of Fine Arts and Production to help students develop the skills necessary for contemporary worship and ministry.

"Students and parents can feel comfortable that they can come into this worship arts program with no other intention than to serve God," said Millard, whose band MercyMe just released its eighth studio album "Welcome to the New" which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and on No. 1 on the Christian chart. "Maybe they will do accounting for a Christian band, be a church worship leader, or serve in a communication capacity for some sort of worship. Whatever their path, they get to come away with a solid understanding of Scripture, a degree that prepares them for a wide range of worship opportunities, and the ability to truly follow their calling and find their purpose."

The program includes 32 credit hours of theology across the four-year program.

"The public nature of the role of worship leader requires a depth of theological knowledge, for clarity in communicating the Gospel message," said Dr. Jason Hiles, GCU's dean of the College of Theology. "The credibility of the messenger matters, so we place a lot of emphasis not only on the message, but on the inward formation of Christ-like character and ability to minister with wisdom and sensitivity in Christian worship environments."

The Center for Worship Arts will welcome its inaugural class in the fall of 2014 with students from around the country, and plans to eventually grow the infrastructure to include a state-of-the-art performance venue and recording facility. For additional information, visit gcu.edu/worshiparts.

Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is Arizona's premier private Christian university. GCU is regionally accredited and emphasizes individual attention for both traditional undergraduate students and the working professional. GCU offers traditional programs on its growing campus, as well as online bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs.  The University's curriculum fuses academic and clinical rigor with Christian values to prepare its students to be skilled, caring professionals. For more information about GCU, visit gcu.edu.

Bart Millard is best known as the founder and lead singer of MercyMe. The band is famous around the world for their hit singles "I Can Only Imagine" and "Word of God Speak." Mercy Me has sold over 6.5 million CDs and DVDs and has appeared on "The Tonight Show," CNN and ABC News, and the Today Show as well as in the pages of "Entertainment Weekly," "The New York Times," "USA Today," "Billboard" and more.  Millard's extensive industry experience and passion for worship give him a one-of-a-kind perspective that will help to shape the next generation of worship leaders. For more information on MercyMe, visit mercyme.org.

Since their debut in 2001, GRAMMY®-nominated, American Music Award and multiple Dove Award winners MercyMe have sold over 6.5 million units in CD and DVD sales, garnered 25 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream radio hits with "I Can Only Imagine," (No. 4 AC/Top 25 on Top 40/Hot AC), "Here With Me" (No. 4 AC), "Homesick" (Top 10 AC), and "So Long Self." In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe's "Word Of God Speak" the No. 1 Song of The Decade and the group the No. 1 Christian Songs Artist of the Decade, with an additional No. 1 as the Christian AC Song Artist of The Decade as one of the industry's most notable talents. MercyMe made history as "I Can Only Imagine" surpassed 1 million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum in the digital domain. MercyMe has sold out venues across the nation, including Radio City Music Hall, and has appeared on The Tonight Show, CNN, Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends, ABC News, CBS This Morning and in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, USA Today, Billboard, The Today Show and more. Their eighth studio album, Welcome To The New, is available now.

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SOURCE Grand Canyon University



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