So You Want to Be A Preacher–first in a series

If you are like me that could happen at the age of 15; which it did, when I walked down a church aisle, told the preacher God was calling me into the ministry, and the congregation promptly voted to license me as a young preacher.

License is a form of endorsement and is meant to begin the process toward ordination. It was 12 years later before the ordination happened: after high school, college, and seminary.

But in between my pastor paid little attention to me; an elderly woman in the church gave me money to buy books; a pastor during my college days took me under his wing. Other than the guidance of my parents, this was about the only mentoring I had during those dozen years.

It would have been different if I had declared an interest in farming. I could have joined Future Farmers of America, attended all sorts of events, and tried my hand at one project after another, including annual trips to the State Fair.

If I wanted to play percussion in, for instance, the Boston Pops, I could have worked toward that goal by playing in a whole series of musical groups, from the high school band where I did learn to play the drums to the youth symphony that performs as part of Governor’s School of the Arts.

But for the young preacher there was nothing.

Young boys in the independent Christian church denomination can sign up for an annual preaching competition held every year at their North American Christian Convention. I have a nephew who did that.

If I were African American, I might get the opportunity to preach in the middle of the night at one of their many national gatherings—long after the men finish preaching (and they don’t finish until midnight). And once I got to seminary I could enter a sermon manuscript in the competition sponsored by the African American Pulpit.

True: I did get to speak to the youth prayer meeting and one or twice on Sunday morning when the church had Youth Sunday. When I got to college, they were always looking for young preacher boys to lead a weekend revival team of students; and I did that a lot.

But I never took a class in preaching; I don’t remember anyone talking to me about preaching; I am sure I did not ready anything about preaching. Given this, it is a wonder than anybody had the grit to sit through one of my so-called sermons.

Which is why—partly—I am launching The Academy of Preachers.

Another reason is this: for eleven years I have been teaching the “Communication for Ministry” class at Georgetown College. Kids knew it as the preaching class. I have a decade of experience with students who have a passion for preaching.

So I am using some of them—and a dozen others—to help shape this new opportunity for young people who want to preach. St. Matthews Baptist Church of Louisville is sponsoring it; the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis is funding it; and I will take the rest of this week to tell you how The Academy of Preachers has come to be the focus of my life work.

5 comments so far

  1. Clark Bunch on

    First, I’m glad to hear you followed through by attending college and then seminary. Some churches that will accept the call of a 15-year-old and license him to preach might discourage continuing education. They might tell that God has called you into the ministry, and that was qualification enough. A 15-year-old being lisenced is a little on the unorthox side for many churches, and such a preacher might not feel the need to be seminary educated. For a lot of reasons, I find your story unique. Good for you.

    Secondly, you have made clear that there was nothing for the young preacher in the way of teaching or mentoring. The Bible sets the precident there should be; look at the pastoral letters from Paul to Timothy. We need to train church leaders. A school teacher must continue to receive and education for the rest of his/her career. Have you ever heard of a Sunday school teacher being taught how to teach? Once a teacher is given a class, it’s up to self to study and continue the learning process, with little supervision or evaluation. There should be something for young preachers, Sunday school teachers, etc. who are not going to seminary. Plenty of churches have part-time leadership who work a job during the week outside of ministry, and teach on Sunday morning, lead youth, or teach during vaction Bible school and/or other outreach programs. Have you considered any of these things besides training young preachers?

  2. Pastor M on

    Let me know how that I can help.

  3. Greg Magruder on

    That is exciting news Dwight. Blessings on you.

  4. Mera Kathryn Corlett on

    As a junior in college who has always felt some type of call into ministry, I am glad to have been given the chance to be a part of this program. As I look toward furthering my education in divinity school, I have gained a peace knowing that I will have the opportunity to work with other individuals who are in similar places. Thank you so much.


  5. Josh on

    I’m excited for you. As somebody who took your “preaching class” I can proudly say that I still don’t use any of the ten forbidden words/phrases. I nearly had them tattooed upon my wrist.

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