The story of Worship Team Academy's first band.

Kyle Wilt heard the prison gate clink shut behind him, but he wasn’t afraid. He and four friends, David Cole, Herman Theodorus, Terry Willhoite, and Karl Binger were there on a mission—to lead worship for the inmates at the Bridgeport Women’s Facility in Bridgeport, Texas. Playing together in a worship band wasn’t something they could’ve predicted only a short time before when they entered Gateway’s Worship Team Academy (WTA). After all, playing the drums was more of a hobby before Kyle started taking lessons at WTA. “I wanted to learn how to play in a worship setting,” he says, “which is less performance-based and more improvisational.”

WTA’s program is designed not only to teach people the fundamentals of how to play a variety of instruments (drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and vocals) but also to train them to be passionate worshippers. The program is comprised of 12-week semesters geared toward musicians of all skill levels from beginner to advanced. “All the guys in the band started at different levels, but we graduated at the same time,” he says. “We were at dinner after graduation and I heard the Lord tell me, ‘This is your band.’”

For many people who go through the WTA program, starting a band isn’t exactly on their radar. Many are hoping for an opportunity to lead worship on a Gateway platform. And while the program is helping to develop future Gateway worship leaders, it’s greater purpose is to impact the kingdom of God. “The program is really teaching you how to live a lifestyle of worship and take it outside of Gateway,” says Kyle.

So, armed with the knowledge they’d learned in their semesters at WTA, the group of guys began to ask the question, What now? That’s when opportunity opened a heavy steel door. “I asked the guys, ‘What do you think about playing in a prison with me?’” says Kyle. After some initial apprehension, the group agreed and started the process of preparing for the gig, rehearsing at David’s house, and playing many of the songs they learned at WTA.

The worship service at the prison went better than Kyle and the band expected. “Twenty of the 80 women who attended got saved,” he says. “I didn’t really tell anybody about this project. It wasn’t until later that I realized what we did was kind of a big deal.”

This is what the program is all about—equipping people to lead worship in a number of venues, from their homes to the mission field, local churches, prisons, and beyond. And for Kyle and the band (called Bridgeport Worship), this is only the beginning of a new ministry opportunity. The band is in talks to lead worship at some Teen Challenge events and even plan to lead worship in churches who aren’t able to put together a full worship team of their own.

“It’s turned into something I didn’t expect,” says Kyle. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for WTA. My life has changed paths from what I thought worship was, and for that I’m grateful.”

 

To learn more about Worship Team Academy, visit wta.gatewaypeople.com.