The Academy of Preachers was launched with the vision of its founder and president, Dr. Dwight A. Moody, supported by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis, Indiana. Since its launch in January 2009, the Academy of Preachers has worked to Identify, Network, Support, and Inspire the next generation of Young Preachers.
During its first 18 months, the work of the Academy was hosted by St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2010, the Academy occupied office space at Middletown Christian Church, on the east end of Louisville, Kentucky; and in January 2015, the Academy relocated administrative space to Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Through our growing network of Founding Partners and National Partners, and by offering opportunities such as the Young Preachers Leadership Team, the Summer Preaching Camps, the Gospel Catalyst Network, the campus and regional Festivals of Young Preachers, and the National Festival of Young Preachers, the Academy has influenced the lives of more than 1,000 young Christian preachers from across the country.
In the inaugural year, Morehouse College of Atlanta pioneered the Campus Festival, and Campbellsville University developed the festival-enriched preaching course. Now both of these strategies of encouraging Young Preachers are being used by other schools around the country to strengthen campus preaching programs and undergird the National Festival of Young Preachers. During any given year campus, regional, and denominational festivals for young preachers are hosted around the country; the Academy has developed resources for hosting such events, and these are available to any institution or organization for $200 in what we call a "Festival in a Box."
Throughout each year fund-raising efforts are conducted, raising money to supplement the support of the Lilly Endowment. Individual, congregational, and organizational donors are sought to undergird the work of the Academy. Currently, the Lilly Endowment provides approximately 40% of the resources needed for the work; other revenue comes from donations from individuals and foundations, program fees, sales of advertising and products, membership dues, and investment income. The newest of these six revenue streams is membership dues; three levels of AoP membership are now available: Young Preachers ($25 per year), Professional Ministers ($100 per year), and iPartners--congregations, organizations, and institutions--($500 per year).
In 2010, the Academy added Rev. Lee Huckleberry to the staff as executive director; he served from the Middletown office through August 2012, managing the office, including finances and publications. In late summer of 2011, Rev. Wyndee Holbrook joined the team as Lead Gospel Catalyst, directing the AoP Gospel Catalyst Network for 5 years (The Gospel Catalyst Network features young preachers who serve as advocates, mentors, and representatives for the Academy of Preachers.) In November of 2012, Holbrook was promoted to Director of Programs, and in 2015-16 she served as Executive Director. Late in 2011, the Academy also brought Ms. Charissa Acree to the leadership team as Director of Marketing and Communications; she assumed management of the AoP office and oversight of the preaching festivals and served until summer 2012, at which time Allan Moody became Office Manager and Laura Godbey assumed responsibilities as Finance Director. In 2014, Allan Moody and Laura Godbey resigned, and Laura Griggs, CPA, was contracted to be Finance Manager. In 2015, Maureen Howell was employed as Office Manager and Susan Waggener was hired as part-time Assistant to the President.
The Academy is proud of its presence on the world wide web, Facebook and Twitter, and especially YouTube (where AoP festival videos are being downloaded at the rate of 1,000 per week, or 370,000 in six years, with more than 1,000 subscribers). The AoP will continue to expand these initiatives to engage the generation of young adults, with a special focus on using social media especially video to promote our mission and programs, generate financial support, and advocate for opportunities for Young Preachers.
The Academy also published its first book in 2010, A Beautiful Thing: Sermons from the Inaugural Festival of Young Preachers! This unique volume contains the preaching of high school, university and seminary students and launched what is now a seven-book collection, which may be the only books in print that archive what the rising generation of preachers is thinking and saying. Other volumes include:
These books are published by Chalice Press and are now available for purchase for $20 plus $3 postage from the Academy of Preachers office; the set of seven sells for $85. They are also available through Amazon, Barnes and Nobles (and other online bookstores), and directly from the publisher. In 2015, the AoP launched its own publishing imprint, Academy of Preacher Books, with a Young Preacher Series, beginning with Nine Marks of a Good Sermon by Dwight A. Moody and a Dissertation Series, beginning with The Graphic Gospel by Jay Akkerman.
In 2013, the Academy of Preachers incorporated as a non-profit in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, empowered a Board of Directors (consisting of eight people: Christopher Gay, Ernest Brooks, David Emery, Martin Linebach, Robin Thomerson, Julie Roe, John Williams, and Dwight A. Moody), and successfully applied for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Current Directors are Brooks, Williams, and Moody, Conway Stone and Deena Kuhl, with Andrew Boyd, David Shea, Darlene Hutto, and Amos Jones joining the board in July 2016.
The 2014 National Festival was in Indianapolis, Indiana, the 2015 Festival was in Dallas, Texas, and the 2016 Festival was in Lexington, Kentucky. Two remarkable events took place during the 2016 Festival. Sixteen area churches opened their Sunday pulpits to our Young Preachers on January 3, 2016. That same day, the gathering received a letter of greeting and blessing from the Vatican and also recorded a message to Pope Francis inviting him to host the first International Festival of Young Preachers in Rome.
The 2017 National Festival was held again in Lexington and will be held in Atlanta in 2018. See the Festivals page for all the information.