by Greg Ayers
Earlier this month, fellows program directors from around the country gathered for a week of sharing and growing together. The annual TFI Director’s Summit is a special and important time for program leaders to encourage one another in this unique ministry.
Although the program directors come from many churches and cities, they share a passion for equipping and inspiring the rising generation of Christian leaders for the workplace, church, and society. They also share a passion for the broader mission of equipping the church to impact the world around us.
The occasion of this year’s TFI Director’s Summit gives us the opportunity to reflect on the strategic importance of this role.
The Strategic Role of the Fellows Director
Leading a fellows program is a unique role in Christian ministry. Building, launching, and leading each class of fellows is a rewarding yet challenging effort that can have a significant and lasting impact on the church and city.
At first glance, a fellows program may appear to be a small ministry that only benefits 12-15 recent college graduates each year. In reality, it has a large footprint that can be a catalyst for transformation of the entire church and city.
Fellows directors play a vital, strategic role in helping an entire church – not just a cohort of fellows – grow in Christ.
Under the leadership of the program directors, fellows learn in classes, retreats, and weekly gatherings. This knowledge quickly spreads into the congregation, since fellows are deeply connected to host families, mentors, youth, and others. As the fellows learn and grow, the church learns and grows along with them.
What do they learn? They learn that Jesus is the central figure of our lives and the one that gives meaning to all we think and do. He cares deeply about every aspect of our lives – at work, at church, in the home, and in society. In all of these areas, we are called to be like Him: creative, intentional, sacrificial, servant-minded.
In addition to these critically important lessons, the program director is also ensuring the fellows receive practical training in vocational discernment and professional development. To accomplish this, the typical fellows program director manages a massive network beyond the walls of the church - employers, service partners, civic leaders, and community service partners.
So, while each class only has 12-15 fellows, the fellows director is in a key strategic position of influence within and beyond the church.
“I have so much respect for the fellows directors. Their programs are bigger on the inside than they appear to be on the outside,” said John Kyle, executive director of The Fellows Initiative. “They are incredible teachers and shepherds of intimate-sized cohorts. They also manage and influence massive networks within and beyond the church.”
About the TFI Director’s Summit
For the past four years, the TFI Director’s Summit has been held in the mountains of East Tennessee. The beauty and serenity of the mountains provides the perfect backdrop for this gathering of directors.
The TFI Director’s Summit is the only time each year program leaders gather together to compare notes, share best practices, decompress, and build one another up in this unique ministry.
“The value of the Director's Summit cannot be put into words, said Theresa Wilson, director of the Nashville Fellows program. “It's the one time a year I know I'll have extended time with those who actually understand the dynamics of being a fellows director, and this provides camaraderie that is crucial for my well-being.”
The Summit attempts to address the depth and breadth of the fellows director role. Each year, the directors spend time learning from one another in areas of one-on-one discipleship, recruiting, admissions, work placement, volunteer management, etc. The agenda often includes outside speakers and guests that help the directors with important topics such as theology and mental health issues among young adults.
“I really appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Directors Summit as we will be launching our first class of fellows this September, said Bruce Nelson, director of the St. Andrews Leadership Institute which is launching this fall. “Most impactful was the time spent with such wonderful, kind and gifted fellows directors. It gave me perspective on this special calling and I learned so much from these new friends. Those who become fellows are richly blessed to have people like fellows directors to come alongside, love and shape them for such and impactful season of life.”
None of these leaders do this work for personal recognition. But, if you have been involved with a fellows program, as a fellow, host family, employer or volunteer, please take a few minutes today and send a word of encouragement to the program leaders you know – the director and assistant director.
TFI News and Updates
Time is running out, but spots are still open for 2019-20! Several fellows programs - all across the country - still have spots available. If you know a college senior that should be in a fellows program this year, please let them know about these amazing opportunities. CLICK HERE to apply.
Interested in starting a new fellows program in your church? TFI hosts a 2-day training program for prospective program leaders. The next one will be September 19-20, 2019 in McLean, Virginia. Please join us to learn how a fellows program can impact your church and city. CLICK HERE to register.
TFI's New Fiscal Year - And We Need Your Partnership!
The TFI fellows network continues to grow. You can be part of this important movement to inspire and equip the rising generation of leaders for the workplace, church, and society. In the coming year, we have a brand new fundraising goal of $76,300.
Please consider making a recurring donation or a one-time gift. CLICK HERE to donate online. To give by check, please mail it to The Fellows Initiative / 20130 Lakeview Center Plaza, Suite 400 / Ashburn, Virginia 20147. Thank you! TFI is a donor supported 501c3 nonprofit.
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