Pastor Peer Groups Ponder Good Preaching

Across the United States and Canada, 10 peer groups of pastors are meeting on a quarterly basis to discuss vital questions related to preaching.

Convened by Calvin Theological Seminary’s Center for Excellence in Preaching and sponsored by a Lilly Endowment grant received by the Center, these groups are tackling questions like the following:

  • In these early years of the 21st century, what do most people think is a “good sermon”?
  • Does the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter help or hinder pastors in their sermon preparations and in how they evaluate sermons after they are delivered?
  • What can preachers learn from other communicators in society today?

One peer group leader is Marc Holland, whose group in the greater Sacramento/Bay Area around San Francisco, Calif., is pondering what they can learn from watching TED talks and other popular forms of public speaking.

Randy Engle of North Hills CRC in Troy, Mich., is having his group listen to some leading voices in contemporary homiletics even as the group considers attending a MOTH radio show recording to see what they can learn from the skilled storytellers on that program.

All the groups are looking at books and resources that center on communication challenges presented by postmodernism and a shifting sociological landscape increasingly populated by immigrants from a variety of especially Southern Hemisphere churches.

The goal is to generate a conversation across the denomination as we try to come up with better and more consistent answers to the question “What is good preaching today?”

After leading their groups for a year, the conveners of these peer groups will travel to Calvin Seminary to help professors and students harvest the learning from all of the past year’s conversations.

This will have a shaping influence on how preaching is taught at Calvin Seminary even as current students gain a better grasp of the challenges they will face as pastors in congregations of their own.

New peer groups will form for 2015 and again for 2016.

If you are a pastor interested in leading a group or wish to be in a group, contact CEP Director Scott Hoezee at

About the Author

Rev. Scott Hoezee is director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He is the author of several books, including Grace Through Every Generation, an overview of the CRC’s history, particularly the past 50 years, as well as a peek ahead (available from Faith Alive:, 1-800-333-8300).

See comments (2)


When I did my Ph.D. studies under the world-renown homiletician Klaas Runia in the Netherlands,  he was a strong proponant of pastors developing their sermons together each week affter each had done their initial research. The creative synergy of sharing each strengths in exegesis, design, illustration, applications, communications, etc.would produce a much  better product more quickly than pastors grinding out sermons alone each week. Kudos on this project, Scott. 

When I read your article I immediately thought of the excellent book Giving Blood - A Fresh Paradigm for Preachers by my friend, Dr. Leonard Sweet.

Giving Blood was published this year by Zondervan. It is a fascinating,challenging and helpful book about preaching styles and purposes. It is written primarily to preachers, and although I am not one,I really enjoyed reading the book.  Of course I do attend a church where I listen, ponder, and respond to a sermon on a weekly basis, so that puts me, and thousands of others, into the sermon process. You might want to consider putting "Giving Blood" on your list of reccommended reading.

"There is no one right way to preach, and in the course of your lifetime as a preacher, you will need to change preaching styles many times... Like Picasso, whose artistry went through various "stages," so will your ministry and your preaching go through various stages." ~ Leonard Sweet;#GivingBlood


Teri Hyrkas