Each year, the seminar takes place on two occasions during the fall and winter. Participants attend both sessions for the entire ten-day period. Participants are pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who have demonstrated leadership ability and potential for ongoing service to the church, and have been ordained in the last ten years.

What Participants Gain:

  • New insights from the keynote speaker, resource leader and peers
  • Fresh ideas for congregational leadership and best practices
  • New friendships with peers and mentors
  • An experience of warm hospitality from First Presbyterian, Sarasota

What Participants Bring:

  • Opportunities and challenges of their ministry setting, as well as creativity and ideas
  • Their hopes and dreams for ministry and the congregation they serve
  • An openness to engaging and learning with the resource leader and other participants


Participant Testimonials

"This seminar exceeded my expectations. I left feeling energized and excited. The seasoned pastors, new friends and skilled laity shared their knowledge, experience and wisdom with openness and generosity. I could not be more grateful for this incredible seminar."

"I am immensely grateful to have participated in this seminar. The leadership created a context for each of us to be encouraged and supported. We had meaningful interaction about life and ministry. This is the best continuing education experience I have had in ministry."

"Connecting with new ministers, making friendships and establishing bonds during the seminar gave me new and fresh insights. My ministry has been redefined by this program."

"My experience was very positive. It was helpful to receive advice from experienced pastors. The entire congregation was extremely welcoming and made us feel like part of the church community."

In advance of the program, participants are asked to submit:

  • A 1-2 page situational study of their setting, with a detailed description of a key leadership challenge or concern
  • A transformational sermon and liturgy (including a call to worship, prayer of confession, Old and New Testament scriptures, and prayers of the people), designed to encourage their congregation to embrace a new direction, goal or action.

Past Keynote Speakers and Seminar Leaders

  • Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the PC(USA)
  • Brian Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary
  • Dean Thompson, past president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • Cynthia Rigby, professor of theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • John Buchanan, editor of The Christian Century
  • Shannon Craigo-Snell, professor of theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
  • Jessica Tate, Director of NEXT Church, Washington, D.C.
  • Jill Duffield, Editor & Publisher of The Presbyterian Outlook 
  • Leanne Van Dyk, President & Professor of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Paul Roberts, President, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary

The purpose of the Pastoral Development Seminar (PDS) is to encourage participants to become faithful risk takers in servant leadership. Through this program, participants develop their pastoral abilities to lead change in the church, community and world. PDS is an expression of the hospitality of First Presbyterian, Sarasota. With gifted active and retired clergy and the leadership of officers and members, this congregation finds great joy in encouraging the growth and development of pastors.

October 17-21

Keynote Speaker: Tim Shapiro, President, The Center for Congregations 

February 6-10

Keynote Speaker: Hunter Farrell, director, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's World Mission Initiative 


Seminar Schedule

Wednesday: Arrive (between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) for an afternoon orientation and evening dinner.

Thursday: Small group presentations and discussions with the seminar leader, with opportunities to preach and lead worship.*

Friday: Further seminar work, with relaxed group time in the afternoon and an address by the keynote speaker in the evening.*

Saturday: Presentation by, and lunch with, the keynote speaker, followed by relaxed group time.

Sunday: Sharing about yourself and your congregation at an adult Christian education gathering, morning worship services, with the keynote speaker preaching, and a lunch before your departure (between 3 and 5 p.m.).

*Participants come prepared to lead worship and preach their sermon on Thursday or Friday. One half of the participants preach and lead worship during the seminar in the fall, and one half in the winter.

The seminar schedule includes several blocks of relaxed group time for enjoying Sarasota’s award-winning beaches and a wonderful Main Street and bayfront.

First Presbyterian Church Sarasota_2018-2019 Pastoral Development Seminar Brochure