On Developing Leaders: An Interview with John Kyle
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
by Elizabeth Moyer
“The foundation, of course, is Jesus Christ, who is redeeming all things, including our work, our thoughts, and our relationships.” -- John Kyle, executive director of The Fellows Initiative
John Kyle has a passion for mentoring and developing leaders in the millennial generation. He is the executive director of The Fellows Initiative and has led the Capital Fellows program in Washington, DC for six years. Each year, fellows programs in the TFI network lead cohorts of recent college graduates into a deep-dive of faith, work, leadership, service, and community.
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with John about The Fellows Initiative and the many fellows programs in the TFI network across the country.
Describe "fellows program" in a sentence.
JK: (Laughing) Unfortunately, I can’t! A sentence doesn’t do justice to the detail and impact of a fellows program.
In summary, fellows programs are nine-month programs for recent college graduates. Fellows get hands-on work experience in paid internships in local nonprofits, companies, and government agencies. They serve and lead in service ministries in the city and the church. In some programs, they take biblically-rich classes through local seminaries.
Each fellow has a personal mentor. They live and learn in meaningful and supportive community. And, at the core of the program, we wrestle with the question, “What does God want me to do in this life – at work, in family, in the church and in the community?”
How do you see the program impacting a fellow’s life in the short-term and then five or ten years after the program?
JK: Many fellows come into the program unsure of the kind of work God is calling them to do. For many of them, it’s a great year of discovery – of themselves, of the gifts and abilities God has given them.
Fellows also come with questions that have nothing to do with work: Where is God in my doubts? Where is God in my anxiety? Using Scripture as our guide, we wrestle through all of these things together.
Answering the 5- and 10-year question, we like to say that fellows programs are mid-life crisis prevention programs. In mid-life, when we have settled into various patterns and routines, it’s easy to lose track of who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. Fellows programs are designed to give a solid foundation for those future questions. The foundation, of course, is Jesus Christ who is redeeming all things including our work, our thoughts, and our relationships.
Why should a recent college graduate consider a fellows program rather than a full-time job?
JK: I get this question a lot from parents as well as prospective fellows.
First, I am not at all opposed to going out and getting a job. Getting a job – even one you’re unsure about – is a lot better than doing nothing while living in Mom and Dad’s basement.
The reality, however, is that more new college graduates are unsure about their career direction than at any time in our history. In addition, many of us – young and old alike – cannot make a clear connection between our work and our faith in Christ. So, work often seems disjointed and disconnected from our spiritual lives. It is this very disconnect that leads to discontent and a sense of wandering that is so hard for us to manage, and so prevalent in the post-college years.
I strongly encourage parents and prospective fellows not to think about this program as a gap year or an alternative to getting a job. It is a job – and a whole lot more. Fellows programs are rigorous and, in many ways, will probably be one of the hardest (but also one of the best!) years of a fellow’s life.