Kerusso Experience training high school students for preaching

DSCN5833July 6, 2016 | Kerusso Experience |

This week, the College of Bible and Ministry is hosting 30 high school students for a weeklong preacher training camp called the Kerusso Experience. The program takes its name from the Greek word kerusso, meaning “to preach” or “to proclaim.”

The Kerusso Experience was developed as a response to a shortage of young men willing to consider preaching as their vocation. According to Assistant Professor of Bible and Ministry Devin Swindle, this preacher shortage has been well documented both in in the churches of Christ and in churches across the denominational spectrum. The camp aims to instruct and inspire young men to serve in the church.

“The ‘call to ministry’ is perceived by some to be a supernatural phenomenon accompanied by burning bushes or blinding lights,” Swindle said. “This may be true for some — but more commonly students who end up in ministry do so because they have been taught about the Lord and his word by their parents, they have been mentored by a spiritual role model, they have a congregation that has been supportive and encouraging, and they have a desire to do so. This is Timothy’s story.”

“I’ve been waiting an entire year to get back here.” -Nathan Pappas

The week offers participants a college-level course in biblical text. This year’s study is Amos, Hosea and Micah. Students receive tutelage in preaching and have nightly opportunities to observe and interact with preachers at local churches. Nathan Pappas from La Vergne, Tennessee, said listening to different preachers allows him to compare styles and discover what works for his own sermons.

“It’s always good,” Pappas said. “You get to analyze their styles and take what you want and leave what you don’t want.”

Pappas said he connects with a deductive style, where the speaker makes his point at the start and supports it throughout the sermon. Kennedy Barden, a camper from Searcy, Arkansas, said he benefitted from an inductive style, where the speaker begins with a question or story and arrives at his answer or connection point during the sermon.

IMG_0069-2“Mac Sandlin came and talked to us one night and told an elaborate, funny story,” Barden said. “He spoke about a pretty deep theological concept — the way Jesus continually cleanses us — but illustrated it in such a simple way. I love hearing those things explained so simply because I will have to explain them to someone, too.”

A favorite activity for many during the week is a time called Soul Speak. Students are given a topic, usually something from the daily study, and must speak about it for 1-2 minutes.

“The beginning of the week tends to be shallow, but by the end, by the time they’ve gotten to know and trust each other, there tends do be deep theological reflection and even confession,” Swindle said. “They confess their sins and struggles and look to each other for prayer and support.”

Pappas said, as a returning camper, he felt ready and receptive to whatever spiritual growth the week may bring through times like Soul Speak, and he has been looking forward to it.

“I’ve been waiting an entire year to get back here,” Pappas said. “It’s a time for me to refill spiritually.”

On Friday, each student will present a sermon they have worked on for the entire week. Presentations are recorded so that they may be shared with family and friends. The Kerusso Experience is now in its fourth year and is going strong. The week’s program has added materials to accommodate return campers, and a sister session has been established at Camp Ne-O-Tez in De Soto, Missouri, for students that cannot make the trip to Searcy. Additionally, Swindle teaches a Kerusso preaching class in the fall semester at Harding Academy, which has led students like Barden to enroll in the summer program. Approximately 20 former Kerusso campers are currently Bible or leadership and ministry majors at the University. ­­

“Some of these had considered ministry before Kerusso, but others had not,” Swindle said. “We are trying to provide positive ministry experiences to high school students in the hopes that they will consider doing ministry as their life’s work.”

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