By John Kyle
Fifteen years ago, Hugh Whelchel had the vision of helping McLean Presbyterian Church grow in its understanding of faith and work. As an elder in the church, Hugh wanted people to see Jesus not simply as “a bus ticket to heaven” but as Lord of every aspect of our lives. Over the years, Hugh has been helping us see that God made us to work and that our work, whether accounting, engineering, pastoring, or teaching, is important to the mission of God. Our work is one of the ways that we worship God and contribute to the flourishing of the world. When Hugh learned about the Fellows concept, he famously said to our pastor, “We gotta get us one of these!” With that, the Capital Fellows program was born.
With little more than an idea about what a Fellows program is, Bill Fullilove was hired as the founding director of Capital Fellows. He launched the first class in 2007. In those early years, Bill formed the structure, culture and ethos of the program. In his sixth year as director, Bill was called to join the Reformed Theological Seminary faculty full-time. David Stephenson came in 2012 to be the new Capital Fellows director and young adults pastor. (Yes, David was the second Fellows director!). In the spring of 2013, David was called to lead our multisite and church planting efforts and I was asked to lead the program starting that fall.
From its founding until now, the Capital Fellows program has played a key role at McLean Presbyterian Church and now the broader Capital Pres Family. Nearly 200 incredible young people have successfully completed this program. Fellows have served in elected leadership in our church, on the staff, as community group leaders, and as leaders in Children's and Student Ministries. They have been on many missions trips and have been key to Cornerstone School's progress. Capital Fellows are working around the world in various careers and vocations, serving God and blessing the city through the work of their hands. As we look forward to the next 15 years of the Capital Fellows program, I can only imagine the impact it will have.
As we celebrate this 15-year milestone, it’s worth pausing to remember and celebrate why we do this. In addition to equipping 15 classes of emerging leaders, the Capital Fellows program has formed and strengthened meaningful connections between the generations in our church. It has inspired the Fellows and many others to consider the centrality of Jesus in all areas of life and, correspondingly, their sense of calling and servanthood at work, in the church, and in society.
To understand the impact of the Capital Fellows program, it’s helpful to also understand a key trend in the church: According to Barna Research 64% of Millennials that grew up in the church are no longer attending church. That’s a shocking number. Research also shows that the 36% that remained active in the church, did so for five main reasons.
First and foremost, those that remained active said that their church helps them grow in their relationship with Jesus. He is front and center and they treasure their church for that.
They experience multigenerational connections with older and younger people. They are part of a discipleship ladder that allows the generations to appreciate and learn from one another.
The church helps them understand their sense of calling and purpose, reflecting Hugh Whelchel’s original vision for this program.
They feel connected to the good work their church is doing such as sharing the Gospel, serving the poor, and fighting for justice and mercy.
Their church helps them navigate the increasingly difficult cultural reality of our time.
The Capital Fellows program touches all of these areas while helping Fellows grow in leadership, servanthood, and professional excellence. It helps them successfully transition to post-college life with all its new demands, rhythms and responsibilities. It is a season of deep discipleship and mentorship designed to help Fellows explore God’s callings on their lives, while connecting them deeply in our church community.
We can’t look back over the last 15 years of Capital Fellows without acknowledging, with deep gratitude, all of the people in the Capital Pres Family that have made this program possible. The program has been blessed to have an amazing group of assistant directors, each one wonderfully and uniquely gifted for this role: Kim Mascher, Michelle Gray, Lauren Herndon, Sarah Sarsfield, and now Martha Roszak and Chin-Chin Minniear. God has also blessed us with a world-class teaching faculty: Dr. Bill Clark, Rev. James Forsyth, Rev. Dr. Bill Fullilove, Dr. Steve Garber, Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince, Rev. David Stephenson, and Rev. Rob Yancey. These incredible people have left a lasting mark on the Fellows, the Capital Fellows program and our church.
There is a community of many hundreds of people without whom the Capital Fellows program just wouldn’t exist: the steering team, admissions team, work placement team, host family team, those that have served as host families, mentors, employers, and guest speakers, those that have financially supported this program, those that have helped fellows find jobs after the program, and so on. On behalf of the Capital Fellows staff, thanks to all of you for your dedication to this ministry. We praise God for each one of you.
Become A Capital Fellow in 2022-23
We are now receiving applications for Season 16 of the Capital Fellows program!
WINTER APPLICATION DEADLINE: JANUARY 15th!
Most fellows work in the marketplace - for companies, nonprofits, government offices. Three Capital Fellows work at our church each year as well. For these roles, we are looking for a worship fellow, a children's ministry fellow, and a missions fellow. These are special Capital Fellows opportunities because you are not only paid a salary, but also your Capital Fellows program fees are covered as well!
The Season 16 program year runs from late August 2022 through mid-May 2023. If you are a college senior or recent graduate - or know someone that is - we would love to hear from you!
Pray for the Capital Fellows
Thank you for praying for the Capital Fellows each week!
The Capital Fellows are their Winter Retreat this week in Maryland. This week-long retreat is a deep-dive into vocational discernment, preparing for the job search, and preparing for the spring semester. Please pray that the Fellows would emerge this retreat ready to take on the second half of the program.
Want to pray for the Capital Fellows throughout the year? Download this handy prayer guide for your phone or tablet.
Benefits of The Fellows Initiative
You probably already know that Capital Fellows is one of 32 fellows programs in The Fellows Initiative network. Capital Fellows benefit from our affiliation with The Fellows Initiative in many ways. One of those ways is that all Capital Fellows alumni receive a 33% tuition discount at Reformed Theological Seminary for 5 years. For more information, please contact us.
If you know a church in the US or Canada that would benefit from joining The Fellows Initiative by launching a new fellows program. Please contact TFI by visiting their website.
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