When I went as a mentor with two seminary students to a National Festival of Preachers, the only things that the students had in common were that they felt called to go to seminary - they didn't necessarily feel called to be pastors. But over the course of the event, all of them began to realize that preaching or proclamation or publicly expressing their faith was something that they wanted to be a part of their future vocation in some way.
I was prejudiced against this festival when I first went, thinking it was something for church nerds. But having experienced it through the young preachers’ eyes, I realize that the ability to speak publicly applies to any ministry, whether it is in the church or not, professor, civil rights advocate, social ministry worker, non-profit leader - anyone can benefit.
Preaching - looking at texts, speaking to churches, and speaking to justice - is such an important skill to have, This is an incredible skill that these students now have developed.
Another great thing about the Festival was being able to hear so many different ways of saying the same thing. It's wonderful to experience so many different talents and abilities and expressions. The Academy of Preachers is a lab for people to test out how God might be calling them. The Academy experience is non-judgmental, experimental, and affirming and I love that!