The Accredited Preacher Scheme is open to church members, male or female, who have a gift in communicating God’s Word and who have attended the Handling the Word introductory course on preaching. There is no upper age limit.
The scheme develops the gifts of participants through training and mentoring over one year. On successful completion of the scheme the participant will be recognised as an Accredited Preacher for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Accredited Preachers will then be able to provide support by leading worship services and preaching, for example, in vacant congregations or their own congregation.
The classes for the course are delivered in an Intensive Course over one week, from 9.30am to 4.30pm each day, Monday to Friday, usually during the first week in July. All participants are also assigned to a preaching mentor who will help them develop through the practical experience of taking three Sunday services.
Applicants are first interviewed by their Presbytery and, if endorsed by Presbytery, have a further interview by a panel from the Council for Training in Ministry.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some frequently asked questions about the Accredited Preacher Scheme:
What will an Accredited Preacher do?
Accredited Preachers will have a voluntary role helping out with leading worship services and preaching. For example, this could be in their own congregation and/or in others, particularly in vacant congregations or helping when a Minister is on holiday.
How big a time commitment will an Accredited Preacher be expected to make?
The number of Sundays a year that Accredited Preachers will take services will vary depending on how much they can do and what the need and opportunities are in the area they live. However, it is not intended that Accredited Preachers act as itinerant preachers and spend every Sunday away from their home congregation.
Will there be a central person for Ministers to ask for a list Accredited Preachers?
There will be a list of Accredited Preachers held centrally but only the contact details of those Accredited Preachers who have said they are available to be contacted will be given to Ministers.
What sort of person can apply to be an Accredited Preacher?
Any church member, male or female, of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland who is over 18 who has a recognised gift in communicating the Bible can apply. There is no upper age limit. Attendance of the ‘Handling the Word’ introductory course in preaching is also normally a requirement. Extensive experience is not necessary but evidence of having demonstrated giftedness is required. A willingness to learn and develop your gift is crucial.
How do I demonstrate I have a gift in preaching?
You must give evidence of having delivered Bible talks/sermons on a number of occasions (no fewer than three but more is normally expected). These talks should be 10 minutes or longer and not be an interactive Bible study or a testimony. Possibilities include giving a Bible talk to a youth fellowship, to a men’s breakfast, to a Presbyterian Women meeting, on a mission trip or preaching a sermon in church. It is preferable to have preached a Sunday sermon at least once but it is recognised that not everyone can be given this opportunity and there are other ways to demonstrate your giftedness. Experience alone is not evidence of giftedness and your referees will be asked to comment specifically on aspects of how you communicate God’s Word. While you will need a recognised gift, it is recognised that there may be many areas for development which is the reason for the course.
Are there any academic requirements?
There are no academic requirements. This course is open to people from all academic backgrounds. However, although the course is designed not to be overly academic, participants should still expect to have to work hard whatever their level of academic ability.
Can I have an exemption from ‘Handling the Word’?
If you feel that you have met the requirements of the Handling the Word course in other ways you can outline this in your application. However, it is best to first contact us for advice. For example, a degree in theology may not meet the requirements unless it included training in how to prepare and deliver a Bible talk/sermon but successful completion of a course like the Cornhill preaching course would.
Can I complete ‘Handling the Word’ after the application deadline but before the Accredited Preacher course?
Yes, this is a possibility but acceptance onto the Accredited Preacher course is dependent on you completing ‘Handling the Word’ (at least five out of six training sessions) so you must be sure you are able to make this commitment.
What happens after I apply? Is there an interview?
Application forms will be forwarded to your Presbytery and they will then hold interviews. If you are endorsed by your Presbytery then there will be a further interview by a panel from the Council for Training in Ministry.
How much does the course cost?
The course currently costs £150 or €180. This includes lunch and refreshments on training days as well as all training materials. The cost is also partly funded by the Council for Training in Ministry so that participants do not have to cover the full costs. You may be able to get help from your congregation with the cost, as this should be seen as an investment in the building up of both the local and wider church.
What will the training involve?
The training will cover all aspects of leading a worship service from choosing Psalms, hymns and songs, to prayers, children's talk and preaching. There will be a major focus on preaching especially on how to correctly handle the text as well as delivery. There will also be a module on biblical theology to build understanding on preaching for the whole Bible. The course will include lectures and workshops as well as assignments to work on at home.
Will there be an opportunity to practice?
Yes, as well as practice in the course workshops, upon successful completion of the training phase, participants will be assigned to a 'preaching mentor' who will help them develop through preaching and leading worship services at least three times in the second part of the year. The preaching mentor will normally be a Minister. Normally the preaching mentor will not be the participant's own Minister. The participant may be invited to the preaching mentor's congregation to lead services (which could be evening or midweek services as well as Sunday morning) or the preaching mentor may come to hear the participant in their own congregation or elsewhere.
How will those doing the course be assessed?
Assessment will be both through assignments during the training course and an assessment of practice by the preaching mentor who will decide if the participant is at the stage where they are ready to go out and lead services and preach without needing help from someone else. At the end of the course participants will also be assessed in leading a service and preaching by an independent assessor. It should be noted that the outcome of the assessment is not a simple pass/fail but that in some cases it may be recommended that the participant gets further practice before they are accredited.
Once someone is an Accredited Preacher will they be qualified for life?
It is expected that Accredited Preachers will do some further training in the years following the course and also seek to continually develop themselves as preachers and leaders of worship services. This will involve receiving some form of training approved by the Council for Training in Ministry every three years as well as a minimum requirement to preach at least four times during those three years. Accreditation that has lapsed can be renewed within eight years if these criteria are met. However, it is important to say that it is expected that Accredited Preachers will be the sort of people who want to be always learning from God's Word and improving how they carry out their role so that they can have more to give to others.
I have a further question. Who should I ask?
If you have further questions please contact the Union College office - email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (028) 9020 5080, or 048 9020 5080 from the Republic of Ireland.