Institute of Preaching

The Institute of Preaching is a nine-month program of three retreats designed to help clergy from the Florida and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church improve their preaching.


Unlike other programs that focus only on style or techniques, the Institute of Preaching takes a comprehensive approach to preaching. Pastors examine not only their sermon content and delivery but also the contexts in which they preach and the integrity of their life and work.

During each retreat, participants hear from recognized authorities on preaching – both practitioners and Duke faculty — and also work with other participants in small peer groups, discussing their ministries and reviewing each other’s sermons. Between retreats, participants are encouraged to work with a small group from their own congregation to receive critical and constructive sermon feedback.

The Institute of Preaching is a partnership of the Florida Institute of Preaching Committee and Duke Divinity School. It is sponsored by the Florida Conference and the Parish Ministry Fund of the Western North Carolina Conference. All full-time elders and local pastors serving in either conference are eligible to apply.


Registration is now closed.

 Duke Divinity School will begin soliciting nominations for the 2015-2016 Institute of Preaching in early 2015. Ideal candidates are United Methodist pastors who:

  • Serve as full-time elders or local pastors in the Florida or Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Do not anticipate a change in appointment in the coming year
  • Have been complimented on their preaching and wish to take it to the next level

The Institute is a highly selective and intensive program, with enrollment limited to no more than 12 pastors from Florida and six from Western North Carolina. Pastors who are selected for the program will participate in a congregational training day and three retreats.

If you have any questions or concerns about the application process or would like assistance determining whether you are eligible for the program, please contact us.

Dates & Cost

2014-2015 Institute of Preaching

Attendance  at the congregational training day and all three retreats is required. Before applying to the Institute, pastors should make sure they may be absent from their congregation on all session dates.

Congregational Training Days Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tampa, Fla. (for Florida pastors)
High Point, N.C. (for Western North Carolina pastors)
Retreat I September 8-11, 2014

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Retreat II January 26-28, 2015 Lutz, Fla.
Retreat III April 13-15, 2015 St. Simons Island, Ga.

Thanks to the support of the Florida Annual Conference and the Parish Ministry Fund of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, pastors may attend at minimal cost. The annual conferences cover the full cost of tuition, room and board, and instructional materials for each participant.

Pastors and their congregations are responsible only for the cost of travel to and from the sessions.


The sessions will be led by practicing preachers and educators who are known for their ability to teach and mentor others in the arts of preaching and communication.


Christine Parton Burkett is a visiting professor of speech at Duke Divinity School. A native of North Carolina, she has worked with the homiletics and worship students at Duke since 1991, helping them find and enhance their voices in preaching and worship and communicate the gospel effectively and with grace. She has a B.S. in fine arts and a master's degree in speech-language pathology. She has contributed an essay on voice to the “Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching” and considers herself to be a professional pew-sitter.


Jim Harnish has served as senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla., since 1992. Before that, he was the founding pastor of St. Luke's UMC, Orlando, after having served at Howe Memorial, Crescent City, and Trinity Church, DeLand. A native of Pennsylvania, he is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and has served in leadership positions throughout the church. He is the author of 10 books and numerous Bible studies and articles. He has served as a Teaching Congregation pastor for Duke Divinity School, where he chairs the board of visitors. He is passionately committed to effectively communicating the gospel through preaching. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from Asbury Seminary and Bethune-Cookman University.

Nathan Kirkpatrick is a managing director with Leadership Education at Duke Divinity. He is also the Pastor-in-Residence at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he preaches regularly. Prior to joining the staff at Duke Divinity School, he served as the pastor at Asbury and Longtown United Methodist Churches charge in the Western North Carolina Conference. Among his other responsibilities at Leadership Education, Kirkpatrick directs the City Strategy, a team-based leader development program for congregational, denominational and nonprofit leaders in cities across the United States. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Duke Divinity School and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Durham (UK).