A Fellows Perspective: What Do Fellows Learn
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
by Annie Monson
Is there a spirituality of learning that grows out of the gospel of the kingdom? If the Christian vision of life and the world is true, what ought learning to be like? - Steve Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness
Fellows learn a lot. Lessons seep in from every area of the program, far beyond just the classroom. And this learning is always purposeful: that it may not just stay in our heads but be lived into practice. But because fellows learn so much, I cannot tell you everything here. So my purpose now is to share some ways the fellows program taught, trained, and shaped me.
For me, the classes were like ligaments and tendons in the body: the bones of my faith were set long ago when I became a Christian, but theological learning connected those bones, giving them strength and structure and connecting them to muscles that now have a strong place to grow.
There are common themes among all fellows program in the TFI network, but each program features its own specific set of courses. Fellows are trained in areas of biblical literacy and systematic theology, culture and worldview, vocational discernment, servant leadership, and personal identity and relationships.
Biblical Literacy & Systematic Theology
Through a cover-to-cover review of the Bible, fellows learn the overarching metanarrative of Scripture: the path of the world from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Restoration. This metanarrative is a cohesive story with a purpose, not a random compilation of recorded incidents in ancient times. Fellows set off to learn about the mission of God in the world (the missio Dei) and our place within it. We learn that theology should never be abstract; all theological learning should be intentioned for heart change and constant reorientation to God.
This kind of grand story provides us with an understanding of the whole world and our own place within it. It’s a big story that encompasses and explains all the smaller stories of our lives - Bartholomew, Gohen, The True Story of the Whole World
Culture & Worldview
How do we know the world and the darkness in it, and still love it? Fellows spend a year sitting at the intersection of worldview and the world, discussing how God calls Christians to live here. This coursework encouraged me towards a faith that asks big questions, because the pursuit of big questions takes us on journeys that transform us and bring us closer to the heart of God.
How do we become cultivators of God’s created order? How do we speak truth in a language that the world can understand? How as Christians, can we engage with our culture in a way that promotes truth, beauty, and the common good? How can we break down the barriers we've set between what we've deemed sacred versus secular, and see every part of our lives as a significant space for God to transform and use as ministry? Through pursuing these kinds of questions, we find that we are “integral to the missio Dei, not incidental” (Steve Garber, Visions of Vocation).
Vocational Discernment & Leadership
This is the reason so many college graduates find themselves in a fellows program. Fellows learn to see “vocation” as the bigger word, and “job” as the smaller. By expanding our understanding of vocation, that it is the call of God on every part of our lives and pairing that with a deep dive into our personal gifts and interests, fellows start to hone in on how we can be used for God’s kingdom work wherever we work or live or play.
Bono says, “I'm a musician. I write songs. I just hope when the day is done I've been able to tear a little corner off of the darkness.” Fellows learn to see their vocation in such a way. Every part of the world matters to God, and he cares deeply about our work, whether we’re a musician, a project manager, a cashier, or a pastor.
As for leadership, it always seemed easier in college. There are plenty of organizations that offer titled positions, and year by year seniority is inevitably granted. The world after college is formless in comparison. It’s up to us now how we organize and prioritize our lives. The fellows curriculum has a particular focus on the sacrificial servant leadership that Jesus shows to a world that seeks position and power. How can we order our lives in a sacrificial way? How can we protect our time from wastefulness and use it to the glory of God? How can harness our resources to serve the kingdom of God? How can we cultivate community and friendship in new places and phases of life? These questions are servant leadership questions, because they’re counterintuitively born from humble hearts.
Identity & Relationships
Fellows learning also looks inward to self and outward to relationships. Whether through courses on counseling, courses taught by counselors, or a course unique to the individual program, fellows gain a deeper understanding of human nature, personal identity, relational styles, and how their life stories have formed them.
I am not alone in saying that this coursework stirred my heart and pulled out pieces of greater self-awareness and vulnerability which are now tools to enhance relationships, heal brokenness and understand how God means us to flourish.
The process of being known is the vessel in which our lives are kneaded and molded, lanced and sutured, confronted and comforted, bringing God’s new creation closer to its fullness in preparation for the return of the King - Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul
Our learning extends far beyond the program year. Now two years later, I have read class material as if I had never read it before. What I learned in my year persists in forming me into a disciple of Christ. What that means to me is that for a fellow, the learning never stops. Once a fellow, always a fellow.
‘Come and see’ was the pedagogy of Jesus. The truest learning is incarnational; we learn the deepest lessons looking ‘over the shoulder’ and ‘through the heart,’ seeing that a worldview can become a way of life. - Steve Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness
TFI News and Updates
Looking for more fellows! There will be more than 250 fellows in the TFI network this fall! There are still slots available in programs across the country. Know a college senior that should be in a fellows program for the 2019-20 program year? Please let them know about these amazing opportunities. CLICK HERE to apply.
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