Program Philosophy

This program addresses two enduring questions asked by those who are learning to preach. First, how can I learn both theory and practice together? Second, how can I get well-supervised feedback and reflect more deeply on my preaching and formation as a preacher? 

Our program works “from the inside out” and “from the ground up.” Our goal is to train coaches who will work with peer-groups to sustain critical dialogue between homiletic resources and practices of preaching in actual situations of ministry. In such situation preachers contend with the constant exchange of cultural worldviews and the ever-changing challenges of faithful living in congregations and the public square. Coaching preachers in this context requires attention to interpretation of sacred texts, experiences, situations, church traditions and world views as well as the local, cultural, and socio-political narratives of persons, families, and congregations.

Our coaches will learn best practices from the disciplines of 1) clinical training (e.g. counseling supervision, clinical pastoral education), 2) education coaching, and 3) leadership coaching.  In order to effectively train our coaches, the teaching-learning model we use encourages a form of collaborative coaching designed to forego “advice-giving” and “fixing” sermons and preachers according to a particular standard or model.  Instead, coaches learn coaching models that are more inductive in nature, beginning with preachers’ particular concerns or problems and moving toward change through the development of excellent questions, and through listening to the ways that peers experience their case studies and sermons. Our coaches in training experience “parallel-learning” serving alternately as both coaches and peer group members.

As coaches-in-training reflect critically with faculty instructors they develop new interactive skill sets for guiding peers and peer groups in the mutual exploration of their preaching and vocational formation. Our coaches learn to use two primary coaching models. The first model is centered on the formation of the preacher and is focused on narrative materials contextualized by brief case studies. The second model is centered on the sermon and focuses on entire sermons in context.

In preparation for peer parallel-learning seminars, participants read and study preaching and coaching resources. Core reading focus on the changing milieu for preaching today and address new and challenging issues for theology, ethics and communication. With these issues in mind, preaching faculty offer workshops covering 1) practical theology of preaching, 2) preaching methods and methodology (including exegesis, hermeneutics, theology, and homiletical theory), 3) professional ethics, and 4) clinical preaching coaching skills.

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