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Preaching Conference

young man preaching

The Preaching Conference is offered to help high school young men develop their ability to communicate God’s Word clearly and effectively. You will prepare one sermon to preach two times, attend workshops designed to help with sermon construction and delivery, and receive one-on-one feedback and coaching.

In addition to the Preaching Conference, you may enter up to two Festival individual/solo contests and may compete in the group contests. Please keep in mind, however, that participation in other events may result in scheduling conflicts that prevent you from getting the maximum benefit from the conference workshops and preaching sessions.


You should prepare a 10- to 12-minute expository sermon from one of the New Testament epistles. Your text should consist of one paragraph from one of the letters. For help selecting your text please read these two articles (Part 1 and Part 2) by our Preaching Conference coordinator, Dr. Kerry McGonigal.

In general, your main points and any subpoints should come directly from your preaching text or the immediate context. Any cross references should be employed to shed light on the primary point of your preaching text. The sermon will be evaluated on the basis of content and delivery.

You may use an outline when preaching. The sermon should be well prepared but not memorized word for word.

Each time you preach you should plan to have 2 copies of your sermon outline to present to the coaches who will be listening to you and giving you feedback. You may use the Bellis Copy Center on campus to make additional copies.

You will preach your sermon at least two times. Between the first and second sessions you will have an opportunity to watch a portion of your sermon on video, get feedback from an experienced preacher, and make any changes.

We ask that you preach from the King James Version in accordance with our university policy for on-campus teaching and preaching.


You will benefit from the following:

  • The opportunity to preach God’s Word
  • Helpful written feedback from members of the School of Religion and Seminary faculty
  • First-session messages recorded digitally and shared with participants
  • One-on-one coaching from an experienced preacher
  • Workshop sessions designed to aid in accurately interpreting the New Testament letters and then constructing and delivering a biblically faithful and compelling message
  • A free book for those who attend the workshop sessions
  • Cookout and informal interaction with School of Religion and Seminary faculty

Basic Schedule


  • Workshops designed to help with interpreting and preaching the NT letters
  • One-on-one coaching designed to help you improve the sermon you prepared for the Preaching Conference


  • Preaching (first session) with faculty feedback, video analysis, and opportunities to revise sermon


  • Preaching (second session) with feedback
  • Cookout with faculty

Helpful Hints

  • Keep in mind that we are not looking for the “perfect” sermon. Can you stand up in front of a group of people and with some degree of confidence and clarity say what God has said in His Word? That’s what we’re looking for.
  • Do not view the Preaching Conference as a contest. Work hard to grow in your ability to communicate God’s Word and avoid the temptation to compare yourself with others.
  • We do not assume that every participant has the same level of preaching experience, giftedness, sense of calling to the ministry, and preaching style. Our desire is to work with you where you are and take you to the next level.
  • Pay attention to the comments and suggestions your coaches give you, especially repeated ones. When you sit down and view a portion of your sermon, look for those things, and then ask for help in addressing those areas of weakness. Be humble and teachable.

Sermon Presentation Helps

  • Biblical content of message. The primary task of the preacher is to be faithful in saying what God said. If you need help understanding any of the Bible verses you are preaching from, consult someone you know and trust, like a Bible teacher or pastor.
  • Appropriate illustrations. Illustrations are powerful tools to help your audience see and feel the truth. Be sure to incorporate some stories or analogies in your sermon.
  • Appropriate application. Think about your target audience as you prepare. Don’t be content just to read or deliver the information to your listeners. Pray that God would transform those who hear the preached Word.
  • Personal appearance. Some participants wear coats and ties. Others go business causal. Regardless, make sure your appearance complements (and doesn’t distract from) the message you are preaching.
  • Facial expressions/gestures. Sometimes we think we are more expressive than we actually are. Consider preaching your message in another context before coming to the Preaching Conference so you can get feedback from others on how you are coming across.
  • Eye contact. Eye contact is important for communicating sincerity and authority.
  • Grammar/pronunciation. Take the time to look up words you don’t know and find out how to pronounce them. Have someone, like an English teacher, look over your written sermon to spot any grammatical problems.
  • Voice variety. Vocal variety is an aid to communicating the truth. No one likes to hear someone speak in a monotone voice for any length of time. So be aware of your pitch, rate, volume and use of pause.
  • Considerate of time. You have 10–12 minutes to preach your message. Be sure to plan and practice enough to fit comfortably into those time constraints.
  • Enthusiasm and authority. Be passionate about your message and make sure it’s based on God’s Word. If you are preaching the Bible, God is speaking, and when God speaks He speaks with authority.

Workshops/Special Events

While the preaching opportunities allow you to hone the skills you already possess, the workshops will offer useful information to help you communicate the Word of God even more effectively.

This year we will be conducting workshops designed to help you interpret and preach from the New Testament epistles. In subsequent years, we will explore different genres like Old Testament narrative.

On Thursday, sponsors and participants have the opportunity to enjoy a free cookout dinner with members of the School of Religion and Seminary faculty.