At Work

Why We Need Adult Education on Faith & Work

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Dr. Matthew Kaemingk, co-author of Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy and editor of Reformed Public Theology: A Global Vision for Life in the World, sent the following question/challenge out on Twitter and tagged several faith and work groups for responses, including ours:

How do you convince pastors that the “massive gap” between Sunday morning worship and Monday morning work is worthy of discussion?

From my familiarity with Kaemingk’s work, I think his point is not that pastors aren’t doing anything to bridge Sunday and Monday but that they aren’t doing nearly enough. Pastors may preach one sermon on faith and work a year, or host one seminar and think that’s good, instead of integrating faith and work into the life of their churches.

In fact, this question is one of the reasons we started the Institute of Faith, Work & Economics. While we have spoken at church retreats and conferences, preached in numerous services, and written on the issue, we have had a significant impact on the people in the pews but not as much on the pastors. 

There are many reasons why pastors have not embraced the faith and work movement more strongly. For example:

  • They see their primary job as preaching the gospel.
  • They were not taught about the importance of faith and work in seminary.
  • They are extremely busy. 
  • They see faith and work as a secondary doctrine such as religious liberty, abortion rights, worldwide poverty, environmentalism, etc. 

The Fellows Program

One program is making an enormous difference within churches in the area of faith and work; it is called The Fellows Program. This nine-month program does two things exceptionally well. It helps college graduates reintegrate into the life of the church and teaches them the importance of their work to God regardless of what that work might be. Here is how the program is described:

A fellows program is an advanced leadership and discipleship program for recent college graduates. Through graduate courses, a paid internship, one-on-one mentoring, and many leadership and community service opportunities, fellows develop and apply their gifts in real-world situations while learning to integrate a Christian worldview into all areas of life. It is a unique opportunity to live and work in a new city and to be an active member of a supportive community that seeks to serve the city with the love of Christ. It is also a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience in the workplace while deeply exploring God’s design for us as workers and contributors to human flourishing.

I found out about The Fellows Program in 2007 when I was the executive director of Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. I got a call from Dennis Doran, director of a Fellows Program in Charlottesville, VA. He asked me if RTS would be interested in accrediting seminary-level classes their program offered. I went to Charlottesville and spent a day with his Fellows to learn more about the program. Not only did I offer accreditation, but I was also so excited that I went to the pastor of my church and told him we needed to start a program as well. 

My pastor said that he had seen the one at The Falls Church Anglican, which originated the program over 30 years ago. They also started a non-profit called The Fellows Initiative to help other churches start Fellows programs. My pastor said, “We might start one someday.” I responded by saying, “No, we need to start one now.”He laughed and said, ”If you want to start one, go ahead.” That is what I did. In 2007 I started the Capital Fellows

An Interest From Lay People 

Interestingly, most programs are started by lay people at their churches. Also, members of the church get highly involved as host families, mentors, internship providers, and other support positions.

At the end of our first Fellows year, we hosted a banquet to thank all the volunteers. There were about 200 people at the banquet. At first, people would come up and say that they wished they had participated in such a program. Then people began to say, “I would like to learn what the Fellows are learning.” This gave us a tremendous opportunity to provide adult education on faith and work, including conferences for our church.

An Interest From Pastors

One of the most interesting things that began to happen was an increase in interest from our pastors. If you look on the Capitol Fellows website today, you will note five pastors are included on the leadership team. In 2007, there were none. 

While today there are just over 30 programs across the nation using this model, the idea has spawned a number of similar programs. For example, Katherine Leary Alsdorf came down from Redeemer NYC, the church where Tim Keller is pastor, to observe the Capitols Fellows program. She went back and started the Gotham Fellows, which has become the most successful program within their faith and work ministry. That program has been copied around the world.

The Fellows Program is a secret weapon to get pastors interested in the faith and work movement. Let’s make it not-so-secret. 

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