by Alaina Conley
Twenty-seven years ago, Doug and Kathleen (Kato) Gilbert gave their lives to Christ in the membership class at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland. They have been members ever since. Over the years, they have hosted roughly 25 people in their home, modeling the biblical virtue of hospitality long before the Fourth Fellows program began in 2020. Their history of inviting others into their lives was partly what led Fourth’s senior pastor, Todd Smedley, to approach Kato to join the steering committee for fellows when the program was developing. Doug served as the elder on the committee, so since its early beginnings, Fourth Fellows has been a ministry that has been shaped by and poured into by this godly couple. They have hosted fellows for the past three years and Kato currently serves as the chair of the housing committee.
Doug and Kato cited numerous reasons why they wholeheartedly believe TFI Fellows Programs are great for young adults – it helps them to start well, it causes them to be less “me-centered,” and they are challenged to grow in a wide variety of areas due to the “all aspects of your life” nature of the program. It is clear that the fellows are poured into in many ways, but Doug and Kato explained that Fellows Programs do more than benefit the fellow. Kato believes that incorporating a Fellows Program into a church is “just as good for the fellows as it is for the whole congregation.”
Intergenerational ministry is thoughtfully incorporated into the Fourth Fellows program. The fellows lead middle and high school Bible studies each week and often serve as live-in mentors to the children of host families. The fellows are plugged into the broader community of young adults and they enter into an intentional mentorship relationship with an older adult from the church. If you spend any time around the Fourth community, you will learn that 75% of the fellows from the first two classes have remained in the life of the church after the end of the program – which has led to a vibrant reinvigoration of the young adult community. Doug and Kato pointed out that one fairly unanticipated, yet delightful outcome of the program is the blessing that the fellows have been to young adults who are fellows-aged but are not fellows. Young adults who may have grown up at Fourth, gone off to college, and are returning home can feel comfortable and welcomed by a great group of young adults who are invested in their church.
Doug and Kato emphasized how spiritually enriching it can be for host families to house fellows. Kato has learned that “being hospitable is not a gift, it is a call and a command.” In 1 Peter 4:9, “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling,” Peter implores those in the church to invite people in and to do it in an earnestly loving way. Kato explained that “hospitality and entertainment are not the same things. Inviting someone into your life and allowing them to live with you together is what Christianity is all about.” Doug suggested that “you have to go into hosting with the mindset that none of this belongs to us; not our money, homes, or anything else. Everything belongs to the Lord.” Both acknowledged that being a host family is challenging in many ways – it has caused them to be confronted by their own sin, has challenged them to place less value on material things, and has compelled them to form healthy boundaries – but this is exactly why the Gilberts regard hosting fellows as something incredibly fruitful.
If you are thinking about starting a TFI Fellows Program in your church, consider how it would add a vibrant community of young adults into the life of your church, lay the groundwork for rich intergenerational discipleship, and spiritually nourish the lives of host families, who are answering the Biblical call to hospitality.
Join a TFI Fellows Program
If you are a college senior, recent graduate, or knows someone that is, please apply soon to be a fellow. You can apply to three programs at once with no application fee.
Being a fellow is an amazing way to launch your career after college! As a fellow you will have a paid job in your field of interest. You will take graduate courses in bible, theology, leadership, and cultural engagement. You will have many opportunities to use your gifts serving in the church and city. You will have a personal mentor.
We are now in rolling admissions, but there are still many opportunities to apply. Details of which programs are still accepting applications is on the TFI Common Application itself - Click here to apply today!
Not sure which program to join? You can learn more about all of the TFI Fellows programs by clicking here.
Giving Tuesday is Coming Soon - November 29th!
TFI and the the Fellows Movement has been spreading across the United States for 16 years. There are now 34 TFI Fellows programs and more than 3,000 alumni!
We invite you to partner with us, to help young Christian leaders find their place in the church, workplace, and society and to work toward the flourishing of the world.
With your financial partnership, together we can:
Expand the TFI network to more churches in more cities. There are many areas of the country that do not currently have a TFI Fellows program.
Expand our reach to more young leaders graduating from more colleges and universities. There is room in our network for more young leaders to come and grow in Christ in every area of life.
If you have been blessed by a fellows program or simply want to see this Kingdom ministry expand, please consider making a recurring donation or a one-time gift to TFI. We have made it easy to give online or by check.
CLICK HERE to donate online. To give by check, please mail it to our NEW ADDRESS:
The Fellows Initiative
8227 Old Courthouse Road, Suite 320
Vienna, Virginia 22182
Thank you! TFI is a donor supported 501c3 nonprofit.