Duke Divinity School
(919) 613-5323

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 elders and local pastors serving in either conference are eligible to apply.

Application & Deadlines

Ideal candidates are United Methodist pastors who:

  • Serve as 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
  • Want to take their preaching 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.

Application Process and Deadlines:
Once we receive your application form, we will send you an email with instructions on the additional materials needed in order to complete your application. The steps in the application process, as well as the deadlines for submission and review, are included below.

Application Process:

  1. When you apply, you will be asked to submit a URL link to a video sermon or indicate that you will mail two copies to us prior to the application deadline.
  2. You will receive an email confirming that your application has been received and requesting additional items.
  3. Submit the following items:
    -Three short essay questions (you will also have the opportunity to upload this document on your application form)
    -Two recommendation letters (one from your district superintendent and one from your SPRC/PPRC)
  4. Decisions will be released via email.

All materials may be sent via email (preferred way) to events@div.duke.edu or via mail to the following address. If you are mailing anything to our office, please make sure it’s postmarked no later than May 31 to ensure that we receive it by June 14.

Duke Divinity School
Attn: Institute of Preaching
1121 W. Chapel Hill Street, Suite 200
Durham, NC 27701


Registration Opens: March 2019
Apply by: June 14, 2019 (deadline extended)
Application Deadline for Submitting Materials: June 14, 2019
Admissions Committee Meets: Mid-June, 2019
Admissions Decisions Released via Email: June 21, 2019



How can I submit my video sermons?
You can submit them via an URL link (preferred way) or you can mail two copies (address will be included in your confirmation email).

Why do you ask when I was ordained or commissioned?

It is important to the Institute of Preaching Admissions Committee to know how long you have been in ministry. We want the cohort to have a balance of people who are relatively new in ministry and those who have longer tenures.

Why do you want to know how large my congregation is?

Like tenure in ministry, having a variety of congregations represented by the preachers in the cohort—some serving small churches, some medium, and some larger—enriches our learning and makes for better conversations about the possibilities and challenges of preaching today.

Why do you ask for a video of a recent sermon along with my manuscript or notes?

Part of what the Admissions Committee wants to see is where your strengths are and where there is room for development. While we ask you to reflect on these things, it is helpful for us to see you preach to see if our perceptions of strengths and weaknesses are consistent with what you know of yourself.

What if I can’t get a video copy of a sermon?

For application purposes, it is more important that we have a video than that it is of fantastic quality. Even if a member of your church can video you using their phone, that is better than nothing. Throughout the program, though, please know that you will need to be able to provide videos of sermons for review monthly.

Why do you want letters from my District Superintendent and my Pastoral-Parish Relations Committee?

These letters serve two purposes. First, we want to hear from your district superintendent and your SPRC/PPRC about why the Institute of Preaching might be a good learning experience for you. Second and just as important as the first, we want them to know that you have applied for this opportunity and to support your participation from the beginning. Because the Insitute of Preaching requires time away from your congregation (and financial support from your congregation for your travel), we want your DS and your SPRC/PPRC to agree to your participation.

Still Have Questions?
Please contact us at events@div.duke.edu

Dates & Cost

2019-2020 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 17, 2019

High Point, NC (for Western NC pastors)


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Winter Park, FL (for Florida pastors)

Retreat I

September 16-19, 2019

Chapel Hill, NC

Retreat II

February 4-6, 2020

Lutz, FL

Retreat III

April 27-30, 2020

St. Simons Island, GA

Thanks to the generous 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 speech-language pathologist by trade and a pew sitter by profession, and has been teaching and coaching preachers from all denominations at the Divinity School at Duke University for 25 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts, with a focus on drama, religious story-telling, and poetry and a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her work at Duke Divinity she has the joyful task of helping young preachers find and use their own voice to present the gospel with clarity, energy, and persuasiveness. She also travels to speak to seasoned ministers who are interested in fresh ears to evaluate their preaching and offers workshops on story-telling, public proclamation of scripture, and creative language in the pulpit. She has a special interest in women’s voices and their rich textures possible in graceful proclamation. She lives in Durham with her husband, three young children, and two special needs cats.

Jim Harnish retired in 2014 with 42 years of pastoral experience, most recently at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla., where he served for 22 years. He is known throughout the church for his ability as a preacher and as the author of numerous books and bible studies including A Disciple’s Path, A Disciple’s Heart, and You Only Have to Die. He served as a Teaching Congregation pastor for Duke Divinity School, where he is a member of the Board of Visitors. He is passionately committed to effectively communicating the gospel through preaching and has been a facilitator for the Institute of Preaching since its beginning.

Nathan Kirkpatrick is the managing director of Alban at Duke Divinity. He is also the priest associate 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 the Asbury and Longtown United Methodist Churches charge in the Western North Carolina Conference. Among his responsibilities at Leadership Education, Kirkpatrick directs and teaches in a number of leader development programs for congregational, denominational, and nonprofit leaders. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Duke Divinity School.