What began 16 years ago as a leadership development program to train young people for vocational ministry, has now become a national movement impacting the worldview of a generation by actively teaching a Reformed view of work and its effect on culture.
The Fellows Initiative, a nine-month leadership development program for recent college graduates, helps young men and women start their professional lives with a sense of purpose. During the program, which runs September 1 to May 31, fellows work in part-time internships in their field of interest, while simultaneously being taught how to live out their faith in the workplace. The program helps young men and women lay a foundation they will continue to build on for the rest of their lives.
Dennis Doran, director of the Fellows Program at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Va., became passionate about uplifting the vocation of work within the Church as a response to the message often communicated by para church organizations on college campuses. “These Christian organizations were encouraging students to go on staff with them or into full-time missions,” Doran said, “but no one was stopping to say, ‘Wait, how has the Lord made you? How has He gifted you?’”
While The Fellows Initiative helps participants live out their theology at work, Doran points out that there is more to being a Christian in the marketplace than just sharing your faith with co-workers. “Work is not just a platform to ministry,” Doran said. “Work is an expression of worship. If you build a bridge, that’s an expression of worship.”
Doran also emphasizes the importance of teaching young people a sense of their own responsibility with respect to work. “The Lord really cares how you invest your power. If you own a company, what are the global consequences of this business? What part will your work play in ushering in a new humanity?”
These are the kinds of questions and challenges Fellows participants think through and discuss with one another and their mentors throughout the program. In most of the Fellows programs, participants live with a host family who also serve as mentors. The Fellows environment is intentionally designed to foster deep relationships, both with mentors and with other fellows in the program.
The Fellows Initiative intends to not only impact the workplace, but also the family, local church, community, culture, and the world. As fellows learn theology through close-knit Bible studies, their theology becomes practical. They learn to live it out in the workplace and in service to the Church and the community. As a part of the program, fellows mentor teens within their local church, as well as inner-city children through one-on-one weekly tutoring. Fellows participants develop a real sense of purpose through acts of service and emerge with a heightened anticipation of the future.
Additionally, The Fellows Initiative encourages young people to think through how they can impact culture, believing that Christians have a responsibility to engage secular culture, rather than withdraw from it. There is an awareness of being stewards of God’s creation whether in business, politics, the arts, or education.
There are currently more than 20 Fellows programs across the country. All programs are founded on the same principles, but each one is unique, adapting to the needs and provisions of the local community and church.
For more information on how to participate in one of the 2009-2010 programs, or how to start a Fellows program at your church, visit The Fellows Initiative website at www.thefellowsinitiative.com.