Adam Willis remembers it like yesterday. He was 13, and a special speaker at his camp in Alabama asked if anyone felt called to ministry. Willis, a then-fledgling but talented musician, committed his gifts to God's service.
More than 12 years later, Trinity Assembly of God in Fairmont, West Virginia released All About You, a worship CD featuring the church's choir and orchestra under Willis' direction. Although Willis, the worship and fine arts pastor at Trinity, was called while still a youth, he says he learned the skills to fulfill his calling at Southeastern. He credits Southeastern courses, professors, extracurricular activities, and spiritual environment with preparing him for his career in music ministry.
Willis, a music performance major who graduated in 2002, chose Southeastern because he wanted to attend college in the South and had been impressed by the performance of Southeastern student musicians. Southeastern's jazz band wowed him during a program-now called Preview Days-that's designed for prospective students.
Once Willis became a student here, Southeastern music professors such as Paul Butcher began to equip Willis with skills he'd use as a music minister. Willis' courses in jazz piano, jazz improvisation, and jazz ensemble, along with private lessons in trumpet and piano taught him the most, he says. The jazz piano class taught him how to figure out complex chords quickly. The jazz ensemble class taught him how to play in a band and the importance of listening to the other band members when making music. Willis says he uses these skills he learned at Southeastern when on the job at Trinity.
Southeastern classes also equipped Willis with ministry skills. Through a youth ministry class taught by religion professor Dr. William Hackett, Willis learned of the challenges of managing people in ministry. Ministers' responsibilities include encouraging people, disciplining them, and handling their moods and personalities-knowledge Willis found crucial once he entered ministry. Willis also learned about the benefits of building relationships across ministries within a church. This practice creates goodwill among different groups of church members whose esteem is crucial when music pastors want to lead them in worship or need help with a project. Dr. Hackett also advised future ministers to live a balanced life and avoid working overly long hours.
Leadership skills that Willis gained through extracurricular activities at Southeastern also prepared him for music ministry. As a senior member and keyboardist for the Southeastern group Joy, Willis learned the importance of projecting a positive attitude when he conducts a rehearsal. In his role as co-director of Southeastern's student-led Worship Choir, Willis gained experience arranging and organizing music for a group, auditioning and rehearsing musicians, and working with people with different personalities, moods and attitudes.
In addition to the education and experience he received in music and ministry, Willis said Southeastern's Christ-centered environment deepened his spiritual walk. This spiritual maturation in turn has sharpened his ability to minister. Willis says he grew during worship and prayer at Southeastern, and even the friends he made here exhorted him to grow in Christ. Some of Willis' classmates became lifelong friends. Although he didn't meet his wife Erin here, she later attended Southeastern and majored in elementary education; the two now have a daughter named Hali Grace.
Willis says recognizing the need for God to accomplish anything is the greatest spiritual lesson he learned at Southeastern. He reminds himself that God is the one who enables him to serve as a music minister when his work goes well or is a struggle. The title track, "All About You," on Trinity's CD sums up how Willis sees music ministry. "I have to remember," Willis explained, "that this is all about Jesus Christ and spreading the truth he has given us to share with others."