A year ago this week, I graduated from college—qualified, credentialed, and confused.
I remember the flood of well-meaning encouragement from friends and family: the opportunities were endless; the world was my oyster; I could do anything I wanted. Each sentiment felt more hollow than the last, because beneath all the excitement and potential lurked an almost paralyzing uncertainty. I had learned in my campus ministry that my life was meant for more than the American dream, and I believed it deeply. I knew I was meant to serve God and others with my vocation. I knew I was meant to be deeply involved in the life of a local church. But life after college was something entirely new, and I had no idea how to actually do any of this. And for the first time in my life, there was no obvious next step.
Enter the Trinity Fellows Program. This ministry is designed to help recent college graduates transition well by immersing them in professional experience, vocational discernment, theological formation, intergenerational community, one-on-one mentoring, thoughtful self-assessment, strategic relationship-building, and community service, all in the context of deep participation in the life of a local church. The goal of the Fellows Program is to equip young men and women to better love and serve their churches, their communities, and the world by teaching them to orient their education, gifts, influence, resources, and hearts toward the church’s work of sharing in God’s renewal of all things.
For me, finding this program was like discovering buried treasure. I learned to think of my vocation as an extension of my Christian walk and of the original biblical purpose of work. I came to understand my own gifts, skills, and personality traits and how to use them for the glory of God. I worked and studied under wise and godly role models in both the church and the workplace. I was invited to witness and participate in the daily life of a loving and healthy Christian family with young kids. I had the privilege of getting to know a fifth-grader from the community through Abundant Life’s tutoring program. I have spent hours in conversation with six-year-olds and seventy-year-olds and everyone in between. And along the way, I found some of the deepest friendships I’ve ever had. This year has redirected my vocation, reestablished my community, and rekindled my love for the church—it has truly been one of the richest of my life.
The Fellows Program knows what every young adult ministry and theology-of-vocation curriculum knows—that my experience of vocational confusion is all too common among young Christians. Even those of us who had transformative experiences in campus ministries, as I did, often leave college without a clear sense of how to faithfully navigate life after college. The unique insight of this program, however, is that the kind of wisdom young adults need to transition out of college well is not simply taught—it must be modeled, embodied, and practiced in community. Graduates like me aren’t confused because our churches or small groups or campus ministries failed us—it’s just that as we enter a new phase of life, we need new mentors to walk alongside us, new examples of of mature faithfulness to study and imitate, and new communities in which to reflect, process, and serve.
And as I looked around the crowded room at the Fellows’ closing banquet last week, I was struck, as I have been so many times this year, by how generously this church has responded to that need. Host families, mentors, Bible study leaders, teachers, employers, and friends were all present—a great cloud of witnesses to the good work God began in each of this year’s fourteen Fellows. The work of the Fellows ministry is not merely the work of the program director and ministry team; it truly is the work of an entire church body, a community giving generously of their time, their resources, their homes, and their wisdom. As one who has been loved, served, challenged, encouraged, and sharpened by the Trinity Fellows community, I want to say to everyone involved, from the bottom of my heart: thank you.
This fall, Trinity will welcome its thirteenth class of Fellows. Each member of the class is at a critical juncture in life. What they will learn from our church community will stick with them for the rest of their lives. If you have a gift or a resource that God has put on your heart to share—a spare room, an internship, an hour a week in conversation—please consider becoming part of the Fellows community. This new class of Fellows will need host families, employers (part-time), and friends to welcome them to a new home in Charlottesville and invite them to a new mission: the pursuit of God’s renewal of all things.
-Sam Speers (Fellows '15)