John Kyle has a passion for mentoring and developing leaders in the millennial generation. He is the executive director of the Capital Fellows program in Washington, DC. Each year, he leads a cohort 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 Capital Fellows program.
Describe the Capital Fellows program in a sentence.
JK: (Laughing) No, unfortunately, I can’t! A sentence doesn’t do it justice. Capital Fellows is a nine-month program in Washington DC 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. They take biblically-rich classes through Reformed Theological Seminary.
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 not sure about 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, I like to say that Capital Fellows is a mid-life crisis prevention program. 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. The Capital Fellows program is 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 graduate consider the Capital 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. 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. The Capital Fellows program is rigorous and, in many ways, will probably be one of the hardest (but also one of the best!) years of a fellow’s life.
You are currently recruiting the 2017-18 class of fellows. What do you look for in an applicant?
JK: Thanks for reminding your readers that we are recruiting for the next class. If you are a college senior or know one, please check out our (soon to be updated) website – www.capitalfellows.org. Our early application deadline is November 30th and our standard deadline is January 1st.
To answer your question, let me start by saying that we don’t have a cookie-cutter ideal fellow in mind. Fellows come from a broad mix of universities, majors, and denominational backgrounds. We do like to see a high level of personal and spiritual maturity, a tendency toward leadership, and an eagerness to live and learn in authentic Christian community.
And, of course, we do look for solid academic performance. Washington D.C. is arguably the internship capital of the world, so we try to ensure that our fellows are well-aligned with the needs of the local job market.
How would your life be different if you had been a Capital Fellow in your 20’s?
When people in their 40s and 50s learn about the program, they often say, “I wish we had a program like that when I was young!” I have that same feeling.
As the leader of this program, I see the impact it has on the fellows. I see the growth they experience individually and as a community. I can’t help but wonder which choices I would have made if I had been better equipped to seek the Lord’s counsel, more inclined to live in Christian community, and more willing to serve others in the places where I was planted.
The good news is that I get to go through this program every year with a new group of fellows. And, every year, it profoundly impacts my life. So, even if you are old like me, it’s not too late. Resources like those here on the IFWE website are a great place to start your own deep-dive with the Lord into your questions of faith and vocation.
What benefits does a fellow’s program bring to the church and the community? Why should a church invest in a fellows program?
JK: The Capital Fellows program has been an incredible blessing to our church, McLean Presbyterian. During their time in the program, the fellows are integral to the life of the church. Our families are deeply invested in the lives of fellows. It is probably the most incredible picture of adoption, hospitality and discipleship I have ever seen.
The Capital Fellows program is just one of several like-minded programs around the country. If you’re interested in starting a new fellows program at your church, please visit our website – www.capitalfellows.org – and leave us a message. We will connect you with people that can help you get started.