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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    ministries / Vital Congregations

    Illuminate Preaching Academy

    Built around the characteristics of bright spot preaching, Illuminate Preaching Academy seeks to come alongside good preachers and help them grow toward being great preachers. Time is given to exploring methods of sermon writing, series development, delivery of the sermon, and connecting with the community to whom we are preaching.

    Sessions for 2017-18:

    • September 26-28: Dr. Kimberleigh Jordan
    • November 7-9: Rev. Jacob Armstrong
    • January 9-11: Preaching Lab
    • April 10-12: Stephan Cady
    • May: 15-17: Preaching Lab

    Fee is $800, with a $200 deposit due upon registration and $600 due on Nov. 10. The deposit will complete the registration. All session will be in Room B at the United Methodist Center.  Deadline to register is Sept. 15.

    Click here to register.


    “And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone”—Mark 16:15(NLT)

    Preaching is one of the primary tasks of a pastoral leader. While there are many other important tasks, preaching is the primary opportunity to interact with a majority of a congregation at one time. Every preacher has their own style, their own ability, and their own way of preparation. Something that all excellent preachers have in common is the desire and willingness to work on the craft and art of preaching. To this end the Illuminate Preaching Academy has been developed to come alongside preachers who wish to continue their development as a transformational preacher.

    Before getting into the details of Illuminate, there are some assumptions that need to be laid out.

    • The intention is to help good preachers move toward being great.
    • Illuminate is not a remedial or punitive tool.
    • Participants are committed to developing their skills by being prepared for sessions, and being vulnerable to change.
    • Preaching for information will not help develop disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century, this requires transformational preaching.
    • Narrative, metaphor and storytelling are key components to transformational preaching
    • Not everyone is at a place to be on the Illuminate journey

    Basic Overview

    From October through March Illuminate will gather for four sessions.  Each session will begin on Tuesday at 10am and conclude on Thursday at 11am. The focus of each session will be as follows; Session 1 is the basics of great preaching. This will include teaching from those within our Conference as well as guest faculty. Session 2 will be an opportunity for each participant to preach and receive feedback from their peers. Session 3 will again be a teaching session with guest faculty as well as insight from peers from inside the Conference.  Session 4 will be another opportunity to preach with peers and receive feedback. Each participant will be responsible for determining their own learning plan based around the characteristics of a bright spot preacher.


    There will be a limited number of participants in each cohort so that each participant can have more focused interaction with mentors, guests and peers. There will be an open application, meaning every clergy person can apply to participate.  Please note due to the limit space in each cohort not every applicant will be invited to participate at this time. Each application will be held over for consideration in future cohorts. Once the applications are received and reviewed, each cohort will be invited by the Bishop to participate. Applicants will be assessed by themselves, their Superintendent, and anonymously by three persons in their congregation. The assessments will be based on the following characteristics:

    Role of the Mentor

    The primary role of the mentor is to guide the person being mentored as they implement improvements and adaptations to their preaching. It is not the mentor’s role to fix the preacher or even to replicate their own preaching style. Rather the mentor will help the participant explore their style and implement the principles of Transformative preaching with excellence. They will meet monthly with their mentee either in person or via phone or through video chat.

    Role of the Lay Evaluation Team

    The purpose of the Academy is to improve the quality of preaching in the local churches of the Annual Conference. The laity of our churches are the primary recipients of the preaching work offered by the clergy. Therefore, they have a key insight into the quality and effectiveness of the preaching. Before the pastor attends the Preaching Academy the lay team will evaluate the pastor using a provided assessment tool. Along the way the pastor will share with the lay team the action steps and goals they are working toward. At the mid-point of the Academy the team will again evaluate the progress of the preacher. A month after the conclusion of the Academy the lay team will evaluate again to see the overall development of the preacher.

    Ten Characteristics of Bright Spot Preachers

    The following will be demonstrated abilities, not aspirations:

    1. Biblical: Faithful to the biblical text.
    2. Wesleyan: Consistent with Wesleyan theology.
    3. Engaging: Gets and keeps people’s attention.
    4. Relevant: Be relevant to the daily life of the congregation.
    5. Relational:  Winsome, authentic and approachable pulpit presence.
    6. Grounded: Speaks out of a deep and authentic spiritual life.
    7. Eloquent: Skillful use of humor, stories and other communication tools
    8. Deepening: Draws people into a deeper relationship with God.
    9. Focused: Clear and focused on what the preacher wants people to know, feel and do.
    10. Generative:  Inspires, motivates and equips people to make changes in their lives.

    With more than 168,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 867 local churches and 65 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."