A Partnership in Effective Proclamation

Developing effective preachers for the church in the twenty-first century


A Partnership in Effective Proclamation is a Lilly Endowment Inc. funded program run by the Styberg Preaching Institute at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. This program focuses on developing effective preachers for the church in the twenty-first century.


A key component of this program is the formation of Peer Learning Groups for local church pastors under the direction of trained facilitators. Another critical component of this program is focused on the development of skilled teachers of preaching through a pre- or post-doctoral fellowship.

Meet the Program Director

Rev. Dr. Gennifer Brooks is director of the doctor of ministry program and the Ernest and Bernice Styberg professor preaching. She is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Her most recent publication is Bible Sisters: A Year of Devotions with the Women of the Bible (Abingdon, 2017). She is also the editor of Black United Methodists Preach! (Abingdon, 2012) and the author of Unexpected Grace: Preaching Good News from Difficult Texts (Pilgrim Press, 2012) and Good News Preaching: Offering the Gospel in Every Sermon (Pilgrim Press, 2011).

Rev. Dr. Gennifer Brooks

2021-2022 Styberg Teaching Fellow

Rev. Dr. Chelsea Brooke Yarborough is the 2021-2022 Styberg Teaching Fellow. Yarborough is an ordained minister, a poet, an enneagram enthusiast, and a lover of leadership development. Her research interests include expanding genre in both homiletics and liturgics.

Dr. Chelsea Yarborough

Now Accepting Applications for 2022-2023 Teaching Fellowship

Applications for the Styberg Preaching Institute Teaching Fellowship for PhD candidates or post-doctorate PhD with an emphasis in homiletics are due by June 1, 2022.

Peer Learning Groups


A Partnership in Effective Proclamation includes a peer support program that encourages pastors to:


    • Gain new perspectives on the challenge of preaching;
    • Discover new resources that will help them in developing sermons;
    • Learn ways to help them to critically reflect on their practice of preaching;
    • Build supportive relationships with colleagues through Peer Learning Groups.


Peer Learning Groups consist of local church pastors who gather monthly to focus specifically and deliberately on their preaching. Gatherings are hosted by a pastor/colleague who has been trained as facilitator for the group. Each group is encouraged to meet monthly, but is required to meet at least ten (10) times for the year.


The group determines its specific agenda, but focuses on topics related to helping group members to be effective preachers as they learn ways to analyze their own preaching as well as to listen to the preaching of others and offer feedback that is both affirming and constructive. Each group develops a unique covenant that defines their commitment to each other and the group as a whole.


The Peer Learning Group program is intended to support preachers to help them become more effective at the task of preaching good news to the people, applicants must be pastors or clergy who are regularly engaged in preaching in the church.

Peer Learning Group Facilitators


Applications for new facilitators are currently closed. Check back in the future!


Peer group facilitators are selected by the Garrett-Evangelical program faculty based on criteria associated with their preaching and leadership skills and their availability and willingness to commit to the requirements of the facilitator role. They will have expressed their interesting in participating in the peer learning groups through the application process. Facilitators will be trained in group dynamics and group leadership as well as other areas specific to preaching. They will be required to commit to the program for three years and will receive a stipend each year for the three years of their tenure.


Along with their leadership of the group and the learning group meetings, facilitators must maintain a personal connection with all participants and will be responsible for recruiting additional persons as needed to maintain the group at the required level. Diversity is a key criterion of the peer learning groups, and facilitators must be committed to both facilitating intercultural engagement and maintaining a diverse learning experience.


There will be a major training event for new facilitators each year, each two and a half days long. Facilitators, who have been trained previously, will be invited to participate on a limited basis in the subsequent training sessions in order to share what they have learned and provide helpful hints to facilitate the success of the new groups. During each year, facilitators will meet as a group once by video conference under the Garrett-Evangelical project leadership as a check-in of group performance and to address any issues that may have arisen in order to ensure the proper functioning of their role as facilitators.


Facilitator requirements are: proven skill in preaching, experience in group dynamics, motivational skills, administrative skill and experience, and commitment to fostering diversity. An advanced degree in preaching or church leadership is desirable. Peer Learning Group Facilitators MUST be available to attend the mandatory training session in October at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Current Peer Learning Group Locations

Reverend Dr. Gessel Berry, Jr. is an ordained United Methodist minister celebrating his forty-sixth year in ministry. He has pastored churches in Illinois and Michigan, and he holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. In addition, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Chicago Theological Seminary.


He has served as adjunct faculty for both of these seminaries and as Vice President and faculty member of North Shore Theological Seminary since 1997. He has also served on the board of the United Methodist Foundation and continues to serve on the boards of ChildServ and the Bethany Methodist Corporation.

Melissa Earley is an ordained United Methodist Pastor, serving churches since 1998, and she is currently the pastor of Northbrook United Methodist. A graduate of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Melissa also holds a degree from Kenyon College.


Preaching is the most important task and greatest challenge in Melissa’s ministry. In wrestling with the text, finding herself and her church in the story of scripture she reconnects with God and gains insight in how to lead her congregation. Preaching is the riskiest and most vulnerable of pastoral disciplines. Even without sharing a single personal story we put our wrestling with God on display.

Hannah Kardon is Pastor of the Wicker Park campus of Urban Village Church. She is ordained in the United Methodist Church, and received her Master’s in Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and her bachelor’s from the University of Chicago.


She has previously served at an Outdoor Church with mostly homeless members, as chaplain at a hospital, and a family-oriented Filipino-American church on the Northwest Side. She believes deeply in the power of contextually rooted, biblically faithful, creatively structured preaching to enable communities to move forward together in Christ.

Virgil Woods has been an African Methodist Episcopal pastor for fifteen years and he currently serves as the Senior Pastor of First AME Church in Gary, Indiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Business from Upper Iowa University. He also earned a Master of Divinity Degree and a Doctorate of Ministry from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Virgil’s passion for preaching started as a child and has never stopped growing. His preaching style is informative, inspiring, entertaining and is often described as “keeping it real.” His unique blend of humor and spiritual insight makes his delivery captivating and his sermons memorable. Virgil’s greatest joy is knowing that someone’s life has been improved as a result of God’s work through him.

Rev. Denise Pickett is the Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, White Plains, New York. She is a graduate of Shaw University and received a Master’s of Special Education from The College of Staten Island. She also holds a Master’s of Divinity from Drew Theological School. She is a second year student in The Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) Doctor of Ministry Program through Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.


Denise believes that her passion for preaching God’s Word has transforming power. The Word of God should be dynamic, thought provoking, and expand the hearers understanding of the Bible. More importantly she holds fast to the fact that proclaiming the word should encourage persons in their everyday journey and teach them how to, “Walk by Faith and Not by Sight”. Denise serves as the Vice President for The Ministerial Fellowship Council of White Plains, New York and Vicinity.

Dr. Dwight Riddick is the pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Mission, Newport News, Virginia. He graduated from Norfolk State University and received the Masters of Divinity Degree from Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University. Dwight also earned a Doctor of Ministry from Regent University. Currently, Dr. Riddick has completed his second year of residency in the Association of Chicago Theological School (ACTS) Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program where he is enrolled through Chicago Theological Seminary.


Dwight has served in numerous positions including President of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia and member of the Board of Trustees for Virginia Union University, and he currently serves as the 40th President of the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference. Dr. Riddick has also founded F.L.A.M.E., Inc., an organization that equips and nurtures pastors.

Daniel Fahs is an ordained United Methodist Pastor and serves as pastor at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Daniel is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, and received a Masters of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He also holds a Masters of Health Service Administration from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.


After years of carefully avoiding ordained ministry, Daniel finally yielded to God’s leading and left a successful career in Minneapolis and moved to Chicago to attend seminary. He is passionate about seeing lives transformed in response to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Leading worship and preaching are, both his greatest joy and challenge. Daniel believes that the future of the church is in hands of lay people; they are our future. He strives to share the great-good news of God’s transformative love for all in preaching and worship.

Mark A. Fowler is the Lead Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Madison, WI. The church is a leader in the capital city. It has chosen to be “downtown for good” and exercise a dynamic public ministry as well as nurture a vibrant congregation. Fowler is the former Leiffer Associate Professor of Congregational Leadership and Executive Director of the Institute for Transformative Leaders and Communities at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He also taught United Methodist studies and preaching. The ongoing focus of Dr. Fowler’s work is to bring together the resources of a formative seminary with living communities of faith to develop and empower visionary, vibrant and missional leaders for the church. Fowler holds the Wilbur C. Zieglar Preaching Award and his sermons are featured in a collection from other winners of the award in Unfinished Business. Among journal articles and contributions to other publications, he has authored two editions of Mentoring Into Vocation for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist church.


Fowler has led workshops and lectured in South Africa, South Korea, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom. He has been part of the original development team for the Plus program in partnership with the Kellogg School of Management as well as the foundational Vocational Formation and Church Leadership program for Master’s students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Dr. Fowler serves as a resource to the church, a widely traveled preacher and speaker.


Lilly Endowment Inc. A Private Philanthrophic Foundation

Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

Styberg Preaching Institute Logo

Styberg Preaching Institute

Founded in 2005, the Styberg Preaching Institute has established an intentional and persistent agenda of addressing the need for relevant, effective preaching in the church. Its motto, The Seminary and the Church: Partners in Proclamation, speaks to the mandate of the Seminary to equip pastors for transformative ministry and recognizes preaching as a critical aspect of that mission. Through programs and activities, the institute engages persons of diverse preaching traditions and cultures, with the aim of improving the preaching skills of established preachers as well as preachers in training at the Seminary.