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History, Format and Eligibility

History of the IOP

The IOP was established in 1984 through a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Sherman out of their desire to encourage Florida pastors to be the most effective preachers they could be. It is based on the assumption that every preacher can become a more effective preacher than he or she currently is.”  The purpose is to motivate all of us to accord priority to the preaching event and to discover fresh resources in inspiration and craftsmanship for the task of preaching. 

The Institute began as an annual event for preachers to hear sermons and lectures from some of the finest preachers from across the nation and around the world. In 2007, the Institute entered a partnership with Duke Divinity School and the program became an intensive formation experience focused on peer group learning and personal mentoring so that preacher's unique gifts could be affirmed and enhanced.  From 2008-2019, it included preachers from the Western North Carolina Conference funded through the Parish Ministry Fund. 


Preachers who are accepted into the program are engaged in three critical elements in the process.

  • Fully participate in three retreats at Bethany Retreat Center (Lutz), Fenway Hotel (Dunedin) and Epworth By the Sea (St. Simon’s Island, Ga) with the approval of their Staff-Parish Relations Committee.
  • Preparation for the retreats including appropriate readings and submitting a video recording of a sermon.
  • Recruiting a team of lay persons from the congregation who will be trained to give support and feedback to the preacher.

Each retreat will include time spent in practical training by faculty members and communication specialists.  There will be time for group interaction and personal reflection as well as a consistent focus on worship, prayer, and spiritual growth.

Eligibility of IOP

The Institute is open to Full Connection Elders and Deacons, or if you have finished your two year RIM Commitments as a Provisional Elder or Provisional Deacon, or are a licensed Local Pastor who has completed their education (COS or MDiv) in the Florida Conference. The Institute will cover all expenses associated with the three sessions including tuition, room and board. The only cost for pastors and their congregations is for all travel to and from the lay orientation and the three retreats. There is a $25 application fee.