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Designing and Leading
Christian Worship

Registration now closed

Online Practical Theology Short Courses
Trinity College Glasgow & Theology & Religious Studies, University of Glasgow

Course Description

A practical introduction to designing and leading Christian worship services. Theologically-rich patterns and practices will be explored in light of contemporary church contexts. This course will encourage participants to be reflective, to recognise how worship works, and become more skilled at designing and leading meaningful, engaging acts of church worship, including worship online. This course is accessible to those in a church who are beginning to lead Christian worship and for local church leaders wishing to refresh their understanding and practice.

This is an open access course available as a 10-credit course (accredited by the University of Glasgow) or audit-only for those who just wish to engage with the learning programme for their own personal benefit.


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Mark Johnston is Pastoral Studies Tutor with the Dept of Theology and Religious Studies. He is an ordained Minister, having served in both the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and the Church of Scotland. For the past decade he has worked as a theological educator and ministry trainer for the Knox Centre of Ministry and Leadership, NZ, forming students for ordained ministry, and offering workshops in the wider church. He is a lover of the outdoors, curious about history and cultures and enjoys a good conversation over a beer.

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Jo Love is a Resource Worker with the Wild Goose Resource Group, a project of the Iona Community. She is a Deacon of the Church of Scotland and in previous posts, served the church in parish team ministry. With WGRG, Jo works to equip and enable churches in developing creative and participative ways of worshipping and living as people of faith in today's world. She loves walking, beach combing and a myriad of playful experiments with art and words.

Mark and Jo will be assisted in specific modules by Rev Dr Doug Gay (Trinity College Principal and author of God be in my Mouth: 40 Ways to Grow as a Preacher), Mr Iain McLarty ( Music & Choir Conductor, Worship consultant for Church of Scotland ) Rev Peter Gardner (Pioneer Arts Minister) Mrs Kaila Pettigrove (Children’s & Family Worker) 

Timetable & Duration

September 30th - December 2nd, 2021

This course will take place on Thursday evenings, 7.00pm - 9.00pm along with a Saturday workshop on 20th Nov. This course will be taught over 10 weeks in a blended mode of delivery with in-person meetings & instruction (Covid regulations permitting) along with online provisions. Venues and online details will be made available following the closing date. 

Introduction to the course

This course introduces people to the practices of designing and leading Christian worship services. It helps participants to understand the role of the worship leader, how the Bible and theology shape worship, and how worship has been constructed in the past as well as how it works today in changing contexts. While there are striking differences between online and physical worship, knowing how to design worship from its core elements remains. Leading worship then requires forming the space and language to enable people’s encounter with God. Attention will be paid to designing and leading for participation, creativity, intergenerational situations and forms appropriate to changing contexts, including the online environment. Skills for designing and leading will be introduced by experienced worship leaders and practiced within the class. Topics and skills covered will include:

  • The shape of Christian worship

  • Interpreting our context and designing appropriate forms (including worship online)

  • Centering worship around the Bible

  • Crafting a short sermon

  • Crafting communal prayer

  • Using songs and hymns in worship

  • Integrating art and multisensory aspects to worship

  • Intergenerational considerations in Christian worship

  • Leading with words, presence and posture



Course Information

Each learning module will be taught through a range of presentations, discussion, exercises, viewing and reading. Each week participants will be introduced to a range of materials, including video, articles, and resources for use or adapting to local worship contexts. Learning materials and interaction will be accessible using the learning platform, Moodle. Zoom will be used as a meeting tool for any online group times or for those who access the course online.

Learners may choose to undertake assessments, and thus qualify for 10 credit points towards a Higher Education certificate or Glasgow University approved theology programme, or may engage with the learning programme for their own personal benefit without the final assessments. 


If you take the course for credit - the formal assessment for this course consists of the following:

  • Written reflection assignment on 2 observed services– 800 words, 30%

  • A worship service outline and written reflection on learnings from review of practical delivery– equivalent to 1200 words, 70%.


This second item will involve preparing a short service of worship (to be led live within 4 weeks of completing the taught course. This service will be reviewed (according to specified guidelines) by an external experienced worship leader/minister/priest in your church tradition. You will write a critical reflection how the service went and your learnings from the review. 

Support, guidance and feedback will be available to those completing assessment.

Course Feedback:

"I have found this course very interesting and enabling.  The historical and theological perspectives helped put it all into a place from where I can build my skills and creative ideas in leading worship – to be more open to the context and variety of new ways of experiencing God in worship."


"The group were fantastic, that included those presenting aspects of the course. The diverse knowledge and information they brought was inspiring and certainly broadened my thoughts of worship. The support given by the group was true fellowship, supporting each other and encouraging with comments when tasks were undertaken. I will miss my Thursday evenings."

"It’s been a real pleasure taking part in the course, I continue to learn so much. I think that half our kirk session will be signing up for the autumn course. I hope that it’s as great as this one has been."


£200 (this covers access to all resources and administrative costs).

Funds & Subsidies

Subsidies from Trinity College are available to leaders from Glasgow Presbytery (£50) and Church of Scotland Priority Area (PA) parishes (£100) via separate application. To be considered for a subsidy email your interest to Principal of Trinity College, doug.gay@glasgow.ac.uk. by 30th September 2021


Applicants should still register for the course by following the instructions under ‘How to Apply’ below. We are unable to provide the subsidy upfront so we ask you to pay the full fee initially and arrangements will be made for the subsidy as a direct grant subsequently. 

Funds or subsidies may also be available through your own church or Presbytery for training or study purposes and we encourage you to approach them with the details of the course.

How to Apply

These courses are delivered through the University of Glasgow. We will contact you with more information and guidance regarding applying, completing your details and payment in time for the course start date. If you have any questions regarding the process, you can contact us on the above email address. 

Registration now closed

If you have any difficulties with this process – please contact Mark Johnston or Eleanor Hayes at: