Experienced preachers have much to teach one another. That’s why the Lilly Roundtable Program and the new Sustaining the Preaching Life course series rely on the cohort model.
Learning shouldn’t end when preachers leave seminary. In an effort to deepen its commitment to facilitating peer learning, Princeton Theological Seminary is launching a new continuing education program that will help preachers learn from one another. By working together in cohorts, these ministers will gain inspiration and education — and a refreshed zeal for preaching.
With the support of a Lilly Endowment grant in 2013, Princeton Seminary established a roundtable program to give experienced preachers the opportunity to work together to strengthen their preaching. Pastor cohorts, called roundtables, developed learning objectives and two or more learning modules that would assist them in reaching their preaching goals. Common themes for the learning modules among the roundtables were storytelling, preaching in a multicultural context, and focused teaching from a Bible scholar.
“They did not expect to find that after going to interesting conferences and meeting with elite Bible scholars and other professionals, that they’d learn the most from working with each other.”
But while the cohorts all started with different goals, they came away with a similar lesson. “They did not expect to find that after going to interesting conferences and meeting with elite Bible scholars and other professionals, that they’d learn the most from working with each other,” says program director The Reverend Dr. Nancy Lammers Gross, Arthur Sarell Rudd Professor of Speech Communication in Ministry.
In order to sustain the cohort model without relying completely on grant funding, the Seminary created Sustaining the Preaching Life, a continuing education program consisting of three courses. Over the course of the pilot year online readings, faculty lectures, and peer discussion will help four to six cohorts incorporate peer learning lessons into their preaching. Eventually, Gross and her team plan to also launch a digital sermon library and podcast.
“We want the participants to collaborate and learn from each other,” says Gross. “That’s the purpose of the cohort model: for them to take the reins and reflect on preaching in ways they couldn’t alone.”