After the Pandemic, Are Worship Leaders Gearing Up for Battle or Healing?

At this year’s summer conferences, worship pastors and musicians prepare for a range of emotions as churches sing together again.

This spring and summer mark the return of a staple of worship culture: conferences. These large-scale events offer leaders and musicians training, teaching, new music, and the opportunity to participate in carefully planned and produced worship services led by nationally known figures.

In 2021, more than a year after COVID-19 quieted church services, the messaging for these conferences ranges from therapeutic to defiant.

“As we worship, the prophetic will come forth and marching orders for an arising army will be heard,” proclaims the conference home page for the Unveiled Worship Conference. “Reset. Restore. Reunite.” is the theme of Getty Music’s annual Sing! conference. The theme of this year’s National Worship Leader Conference (organized by Worship Leader magazine) is “rediscovering community.”

Conferences are temporary, but their influence extends across the worship music industry and to local churches themselves. The gatherings feature prominent artists—current lineups include Chris Tomlin, CeCe Winans, Bethel Music, Trip Lee, and Christy Nockels.

This year’s conferences take on particular significance in the wake of 2020. Throughout the pandemic, in-person worship services became politicized, with some vocal leaders advocating for physical gathering regardless of local restrictions and others advocating for caution and strict observance of ordinances and guidelines.

As churches resume prepandemic activities, the posture of our gatherings speaks to our communities. While there is no one correct posture or emotional tone for this moment, the organizers of such worship conferences are challenged to consider worship’s role in recovery. Are leaders shaping worship …

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