It is hard to believe that just over a week has passed since the inaugural Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church (INUMC) Festival of Young Preachers. The lingering impact causes me to reflect on the experience and imagine the possibilities for the future.
Hearing eighteen young preachers, ages 14 – 26, from all over Indiana passionately preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ leads to long term inspiration. You will have the opportunity to view these young preachers in action on YouTube in the next few days. More than ever, this Festival has given me new hope in two very key areas.
First, it has given me hope for the future of my denomination, the United Methodist Church. I am not one to brush statistics under the rug and act as if they do not exist. Research conducted by Wesley Theological Seminary’s Lewis Center for Church Leadership in 2010 found the following results.
On a very positive note, the study also found that the number of elders, deacons, and local pastors had increased in the last ten years. This is a reassuring observation, but this doesn’t mean we should become negligent in the endeavor to identify, network, inspire, and support young preachers and/or clergy. We must continue to utilize exploration events and campus ministries, but we must also embrace new ideas throughout the denomination.
The Academy of Preachers provides a perfect resource through signature Festival of Young Preachers events. This is not a theoretical concept that may or may not work. After assisting with the planning and implementation of the INUMC Festival, I am convinced that this is one of the crucial pieces to retaining people in my age group as they discern a call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as clergy or laity in the local church. I urge all annual conferences to consider the possibility of hosting a Festival with the assistance of others in the UMC who have attended a local or national Festival.
Often times, individuals in any age group may hear a call, a tug on their heart from the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel. Unfortunately, the reality of many is that they don’t have the opportunity or support system in place to become confident in their call to preach. As a result, these individuals begin to second guess their call and cease to preach, if they even get started. At every Festival I attend, I witness individuals who appear slightly timid at the prospect of standing in the pulpit. When they leave, however, they are ready to embrace their call as they have connected with a nurturing network of supporters and received the inspiration they need to perfect what they have been called to do.
The INUMC Festival of Young Preachers also gave me hope for the Church as a whole. I will admit that I am more in tune with the happenings going on within the United Methodist Church, but I have spoken with church leaders in other denominations who are experiencing similar situations regarding clergy and laity numbers. Festivals of Young Preachers are not a key solution for the UMC alone. I encourage ALL denominations to consider the impact that Festivals could have within your denomination as you seek to spread the Gospel to all people.
Editorial note: Tyler Best is a 20 year old college student who presented the idea of a Festival of Young Preachers to leadership in his denomination. The openness of the leadership and Tyler’s willingness to work toward the goal of an INUMC Festival has begun a movement of great importance.
Though I have never been a huge sports fan, I have always enjoyed supporting my high school sports teams, even since I have graduated. During spring break, my high school’s boys’ basketball team played in the sectional championship game against a local rival team. Unfortunately, our team lost, but one thing sticks out greater than the loss itself… the cheer section. Whether it was the wave, roller coaster, or a rendition of the Harlem Shake, the cheer section had so much energy and was there to encourage the team even when they weren’t doing so well.
As preachers, we may wish that a cheer section would randomly appear as we are preparing for our next sermon so that we feel encouraged to write down what we feel the Holy Spirit has led us to preach. During delivery of that same sermon, we often rely on those in the congregation to give us nonverbal or verbal cues during the sermon so that we can be encouraged and know that everyone is paying attention. Many times we also frequently rely on the encouragement and advice of our advisor as we head into a different season of our lives.
One great source of encouragement for me as a young preacher has been the network of fellow young preachers that I have connected with through both National Festivals I have attended in the past two years. This network of people provides an instant connection with people who have gone through similar experiences that I may be going through. It also allows one the opportunity to encourage preachers that they would have never met if it weren’t for the National Festival of Young Preachers.
How have these networks been established? Beyond intentional conversation, a great source of networking in my experience was the preaching circles. Preaching circles are one of the most unique features of the National Festival of Young Preachers. Young preachers who have never met people their age with the same call to preach are astounded by stories they hear and the encouragement they receive from this group. My most recent preaching circle experience is one that I can vividly remember. It still encourages me today and gives me hope for my future in ministry. Molly Shoulta, Alejandra Herreras, Corey Holmes, Dane Jones, Mitchell Monroe, Robert Woods, and Kathryn Garelli, along with our leader, Charmaine Webster, made up one of the most inspiring groups of people I have met thus far. We lifted each other up in prayer, we were a presence during each other’s preaching sessions, we encouraged each other after each of us preached, and we took the time to become acquainted.
This group reminded me of all the people that the Holy Spirit has used to encourage me in my call to Gospel preaching – my family, close friends, church family at Pfrimmer’s Chapel and the United Methodist Church, and the staff and faculty at University of Evansville. Without this “cheer section” of encouragers, I may have honestly jumped off the preaching boat long ago. I can now add the Academy of Preachers to this list of inspiring encouragers in my life. God has used the National Festival of Young Preachers to rejuvenate me and realign my focus to what I am called to do through all the incredible people that attend the event.
I challenge you to find young preachers that have potential and give them the encouragement they need to become confident in what God has called them to do. Begin encouraging others that have not experienced a flood of encouragement to attend the National Festival of Young Preachers in Indianapolis! Connect them with a “cheer section” of people they can relate to and an event that is sure to give them encouragement for their future in ministry. Allow God to use you in this way!
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NRSV)
Two weeks ago we gathered in Atlanta for the 2013 National Festival of Young Preachers. “Wow” is the word we’ve heard over and over again in response to the tremendous blessing of those three days. 120 Young Preachers lifted their voices from across the spectrum of Christian traditions, they attended workshops led by leaders in the field of homiletics, and everyone made a myriad of connections and friendships.
I am now pleased to announce the 2013 Gospel Catalyst Network: Tyler Best, Aaron Carr, Larry T. Crudup, Jenny Marble, Trayce Stewart and David Telfort. Each is an exemplary servant leader and lives in a region where the Academy will be hosting festivals within the next 12 months.
Tyler Best AoP’12 is a student at University of Evansville in Evansville, IN. Tyler was so inspired by his experience at last year’s National Festival, he purchased a Festival in a Box and created a Festival of Young Preachers in his hometown last June. His school has a Festival scheduled next month and he’s working on a denominational festival for the summer. Now that’s inspiring!
Aaron Carr AoP’12 is a student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. As an FTE Fellow his first AoP experience was participating in a week long preaching camp in 2011. Since then he’s been committed to the ideals of the AoP. Thanks to Aaron for his energy and time spent encouraging Young Preachers and volunteers for the 2013 Fest there in Atlanta. He’ll be a big help for Fests happening in the Southeast this summer.
Larry T. Crudup AoP’10 is a student at SMU Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX. His enthusiastic networking helped Perkins connect to the AoP. The result, in 2013 Perkins’ preaching professor, Dr. Alyce McKenzie, served at the Festival in multiple roles including serving as mentor for the additional 6 Young Preachers from Perkins. Larry will again work with the Texas Regional Festival of Young Preachers.
Jenny Marble AoP’13, a student at Anderson University School of Theology, Anderson, IN, just experienced her first National Festival. She shares, “I want to be challenged, grow, network, and encourage. I believe in AoP.” Jenny will be a Catalyst in her school and denomination as we plan for the 2014 Festival in Indy.
Trayce Stewart AoP’12 is a graduate and now on the admissions staff of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN. Trayce is a dynamic Young Preacher who has already been actively networking for the AoP in Indianapolis. Thanks to Trayce for helping connect Indiana folks who served in multiple roles in Atlanta.
David Telfort AoP ‘12, a Yale Divinity School student in New Haven, CT, was also an FTE Fellow at the 2011 Preaching Camp Aaron attended. As a native New Yorker with a passion for preaching he will be a real asset at the New York Regional Festival this September. David also has a contact list in mind for enriching AoP and Yale’s connection.
With many thanks to the 2012 Gospel Catalyst team we welcome Dominique Robinson, Kadri Webb, Rachel Brocker and Brandon Perkins in the role of Alumni Catalysts. Larry and Aaron also served on the 2012 team and are strategically placed to keep up the good work this year. Brandon has academic commitments that won’t allow him to be with us in Indy, but expect to hear from Dominique, Kadri and Rachel as they determine how to use their best gifts in preparation for 2014 Festival.
Beginning today, the Academy of Preachers officially has a new address: 500 North Watterson Trail, Louisville, Kentucky, 40243.
Write us a letter: offer congratulations, make a contribution, send the name of a young preacher, volunteer to help with the Festival of Young Preachers, write a prayer.
Our address is also the address of Middletown Christian Church, our new sponsoring partner. The church has given us prime space on their campus: a splendid room with glass wall facing the administrative offices and an opposite glass wall looking out over the almost-enclosed mall of grass. It is perfect in all respects.
The phone number is 502-245-9793, extension 123. Call it today and ask for the Executive Director. His name is Lee Huckleberry. Yes, yesterday was Lee's last day as Senior Consultant. For two years he has been working hard developing and serving the Academy for a small monthly stipend. Today he begins his career as the second employee of the Academy. He will manage the office, oversee the finances, handle all correspondence, and plan meetings and events.
Which means that I must take a new title.....President. This title corresponds to my more focused role: writing and speaking on behalf of young preachers; developing partnerships with businesses, congregations, denominations, organizations, and institutions; meeting with donors: individuals, corporations, and foundations; and envisioning what the future of the Academy of Preachers might look like.
In the coming months, the Academy of Preachers will incorporate, write by-laws, recruit a national board of directors, file for non-profit, tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, and launch our own endowment.
The future is promising for the Academy of Preachers. Today is a giant step forward into that future. We thank you and we give glory to God.
And did I say: today is also the second birthday of my one and only grandchild, Sam (new picture up on my Facebook page) and also the 38th anniversary of my marriage to Jan (on a beautiful Saturday morning in the courtyard of Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church on Iron Works Pike, with service performed by Rev. Walter Price). It is a very good day, indeed.
Sometime this past January the Living Faith Baptist Church began a pastoral search process that is sure to commend itself to many congregations. They went online to the Academy site on YouTube and watched a series of videos taken at the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in January of 2010.
There are 92 of these videos on YouTube and I have watched every one of them. Some are very good; most are good; a few are mediocre. Some of the young preachers prepared better than others!
After watching a series of the sermon videos, a member of the church search committee called me and said, "We have found one of these young preachers we like. Can you give us a recommendation?"
Indeed, I could, and did; and the church interviewed him, and went to hear him preach in person, and invited him to their church to preach in view of a call; which he did; and two weeks later they voted to call him as pastor. I rejoice with him and am grateful our festival videos played a small role in the successful search of this congregation.
I predict this will become the norm. Already, many churches request a video from an aspiring preacher or pastor. But at the Academy site a committee can view many of these videos easily, quickly, and without complications. Perhaps other churches have already done this because the festival sermon videos have been viewed more than 10,200 times!! This is 17 times as many people as registered for the festival!
Young preachers seeking a place to serve would do well to register for the 2011 festival, scheduled for January 6-8, in Louisville, Kentucky. You will get a wide hearing and you never know who will see your sermon video and give you a call.
Church and denominations seeking to recruit and call young ministers would do well to attend the festival in January; but if that is not possible, log on to this web site and watch all of it streamed live; and if that is not possible, go to our YouTube site and sit for an hour or two watching sermon videos. You just might see the young man or woman that is perfect for your congregation! It is the wave of the future.
Oh, by the way, his name: Roger Jasper!
Written by Adam Quine
St. Francis of Assisi has been accredited with the quote that goes something like this, "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."
Although these words offer a profound, gentle reminder of the call to live our lives as followers of Jesus, I think the too-often-quoted saint would have made an exception for the 92 young preachers who made our way to a snowy Louisville, Kentucky for the first Festival of Young Preachers, hosted by the Academy of Preachers, an event whose sole function is to encourage and empower young people desiring to follow God's call into preaching.
Sometime late in 2009, my colleague and friend, Dr. Jonathan E. Carroll, came to me with some exciting news about this idea for a 'preaching festival' where young people could come, be together, and preach. It was definitely easy to see his excitement about this concept, but I, who don't have the same way with words as he does, responded with hesitation. Now I've seen what words can do and how preaching, especially if it is done well, can inspire many people in to be the change they wish to see in the world. But, the idea of 91 of my peers dissecting and cross examining my preaching really didn't sound like a fun way to spend three days. However my fear was quickly put to rest when it was made clear the Festival would offer only constructive criticism for my benefit.
Intrigued and inspired, we headed east, hoping my fears wouldn't overcome my six page sermon. When the day finally arrived for me to preach, what little anxiety I had diminished when I was warmly greeted by the Festival's hospitable staff. There was little confusion in regards to where or when I might preach; it was all laid out and explained perfectly clear. Because of the great organization and because of the friendly volunteers, I had all morning to focus clearly on my sermon; after all I was the second one up on the first day of the event. I was ecstatic to 'get it out of the way early,' and I hope to get that good deal next year as well!
Once I preached, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the Festival. I found myself closely studying each person in the program. By using their "I preach..." statements, I mapped out who I wanted to scope out. Yet, after hearing the first sermon, then the second, and then seeing the different texts being used, I wasn't sure who I wanted to see; so I began wandering around and was able to listen to many great sermons. This is what made the festival so enjoyable: being able to go at your own pace to listen to others preach, to see the different styles of preaching, to encounter Scripture with those who view the world differently, and to see preaching for what it really is, an art.
We received a couple good lessons from the worship leaders and preachers who led us, too. Each of the preachers selected to speak during the evening worship services had their own style, came from different traditions, and brought a unique perspective on the art of the sermon. Again, this is yet another way the Festival set itself apart as the only event of its kind. No matter where you came from, no matter what you were preaching, no matter how much or how little schooling you may have received, you were welcomed to come and preach-and we learned from one another. Personally the process of preparing and writing the sermon, then delivering it, and then hearing how other experienced it reminded me of just how transforming a sermon can be.
Frederick Buechner says in his great little sermon titled The Gospel as Fairy Tale, "Let the preacher stretch our imagination and strain our thinking and make our jaws drop." That is what a preacher is called to do, and this happened at the Festival of Young Preachers. By participating in it, my call to proclaim God's good news had been rekindled, and yet, discovered anew. I'm grateful for the work and time put in to this festival by Dr. Moody, the Academy's Board of Advisers, and other consultants. Through their hard work, the Festival became a great stepping stone for young preachers like me, and good steps have been made in restoring the value of preaching and the power words can have on society.
As for next year: I'm looking forward to trying a different style at what will be the second Festival of Young Preachers.
(Adam is a student at Greenville College and was sponsored at the 2010 Festival of Young Preachers by First Presbyterian Church in Owensboro. During the 2010 Festival of Young Preachers, Adam preached from Mark 1:1-8. To watch Adam's sermon on YouTube, click here.)
I wrote Coach John Calapari two weeks ago and asked him to make a donation to the Academy of Preachers--well, not exactly to the Academy but to his archbishop, the Reverend Joseph Kurtz of Louisville.
Rev. Kurtz is hosting four events of next year's National Festival of Young Preachers. While the majority of the preaching, especially during the day, will be in the Seelbach Hilton Hotel, the Cathedral of the Assumption is hosting a reception, a worship service, a lunch, and the closing convocation. So the coach, if he responds to our appeal, will help his archbishop host the festival, and that helps us.
Last week I called an old friend whose son preached at the 2010 festival of young preachers. The young man's alma mater wants to host a campus festival for their students and prospective students. I want to encourage them, so I call my friend, whose pastor attended the 2010 festival as a mentor and has since retired (not that there is any connection between the two events!), and asked if he thought we could raise several thousand dollars in honor of his retiring pastor to underwrite the cost of the campus festival including 3-4 scholarships to the national festival in January 2011. He said, "Sure!"
In both of these cases, the donations do not come directly to the Academy, but to a church or a university. But indirectly they help us, and this is why I work to secure this type of funding.
Of course, we need our share of donations. Today's mail brought $2,000 in gifts. This helps us toward our Spring 2011 goal of $50,000. We are planning fund-raising events in Owensboro and Louisville, Kentucky, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (and anywhere else there is an interest).
This $50,000 goal is part of a larger two-year campaign to secure $200,000 for the Academy. The Lilly Endowment is generous in launching our endeavor and in providing support for salaries and administration; but they do not fund our programs: leadership team, preaching camp, festival of young preachers. So we are seeking your support.
Can you help us? All donations are tax deductable. They will be used to pay the cost of these three events: festivals, camps, and the leadership team. Give what you can and help us find people who will invest in the next generation of great preachers.
And if Coach Calipari sends in that donation, I will let you know!
The Academy of Preachers is launching its first coordinated appeal to donors: help us raise $50,000 this spring.
Yes, the Academy has received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, but that grant does not cover the preaching camps this spring, the festival of young preachers next January, the Young Preachers Leadership Team, and certain other program costs. The Endowment is committed to providing initial funding for basic organizational and personnel costs--but those also will eventually need fresh streams of revenue as the investment of the Lilly Endowment subsides.
So, we are looking for individuals and organizations who wish to partner with us to "identify, network, support, and inspire young people who answer a call to gospel preaching."
The first contribution to our spring 2010 campaign comes from the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at Truett Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. They sent a check for $2,000. The Lake Center at Truett Seminary is one of the 50 Founding Partners of the Academy of Preachers. They will collaborate with us to host a campus festival this fall in Waco.
There are any number of specific needs to which a donor might contribute and these are listed elsewhere on this web site: see BE A DONOR.
The Academy will be hosting fund-raising events in such cities as Louisville, Owensboro, and Lexington. We will also host events aimed at specific Christian groups such as Disciples, Roman Catholics, and Methodists.
All gifts are tax deductable. Checks should be made payable to Academy of Preachers and sent to Academy of Preachers, 500 North Watterson Trail, Louisville, Kentucky, 40234.
Four new institutional partners sent letters of endorsement in the last two week of March. This enabled the Academy to reach one of its goals for the first 15 months of our work: 50 Founding Partners.
The first came as a result of a phone call from California. Shantha Ready Alonza is the (interim) executive director of New Fire Young Adults, a fresh initiative of the National Council of Churches. "I have heard about what you are doing," she said, "and we want to be a part of it." Her letter was a follow-up to that intention. New Fire became Founding Partner #47.
Then came the phone call with Doug Low, professor and dean of the Chapman Seminary at Oakland City University in Oakland City, Indiana. I had visited their campus last year and two of their students preached in the inaugural festival of young preachers in January. Their partnership letter took a long way around, through multiple administrative channels, before reaching my possession. They became Partner #48.
Same story with Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Four of their students preached at the festival and a professor was the leader of our worship team. Now two of their professors are engaged and more of their students will be at the festival next January. But we welcome the school as Founding Partner #49.
Finally, on my sixtieth birthday, professor of ministry Stephanie Paulsell of Harvard Divinity School sent me their letter of endorsement and association. Dr. Paulsell was one of three featured preachers at the festival in January and two of their students were among the 92 young preachers at the festival. They are planning to offer a preaching course built around the next festival, scheduled for January 6-8, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.
We welcome these, and we thank all 50 of the Founding Partners; see the complete list elsewhere on this website. You have helped us get established as a viable, credible organization. While we anticipate working with many more organizations and businesses over the years, only these 50 will have the distinction of being a Founding Partner.
This was the second of our three goals to be reached. The first was: register at least 100 young preachers for the inaugural festival--which we did. And now we turn our attention to the third goal: fund-raising. Over the next three months we are seeking to raise $50,000. You will read more about this very soon.
The Archdiocese of Louisville becomes the first Roman Catholic institution or organization to become a Founding Partner with the Academy of Preachers. This further solidifies the Academy as one of the most ecumenical initiatives in American Christianity today.
Archishop Joseph Kurtz attended the final session of the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville; he brought the greetings to the entire assembly; and in addition, the choir from the Cathedral of the Assumption sang two anthems.
"The work of the Academy of Preachers," Archbishop Kurtz wrote in his letter, "is a noble and needed ecumenical enterprise in today's world. Please accept my prayerful best wishes for the young men and women who will be entrusted with Gospel preaching in a mélange of ministerial settings. May countless men, women and children come to know Christ through the voices of those who will serve in the vocation of preachers."
Father Martin Linebach, associate pastor of the Cathedral in Louisville, has been serving on the board of advisors for a year. Brother Thomas Gricoski of the Order of St. Benedict has served on the Young Preachers Leadership Team. He is now preparing for graduation from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. Four Roman Catholics were among the 92 young preachers who participated in the Festival of Young Preachers.
On top of all this, I am pleased to announce that the Cathedral of the Assumption will be our official host church for the 2011 Festival of Young Preachers. Current plans call for an open reception at the Cathedral on Thursday evening, January 6, a plenary worship service on Friday evening at the Cathedral, and a final, closing ceremony on Saturday noon also at the Cathedral.
We welcome all the Roman Catholics to the Academy of Preachers just as we do any one who is called by God to proclaim the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Let us all encourage one another in the work we have been commissioned to do.