The Jubilee Fellows is in its 10th year of helping students to discern their callings to ministry. Not pictured: Grant Hofman, Joel Sytsma
One wants to work as a youth minister. Another wants to work as a military chaplain. Others want to work with women, the developmentally disabled, in social justice, ecclesiology, overseas missions and other ministries.
All 14 students, all juniors, have recently been named 2012 Jubilee Fellows: Chan Min Anh, Daniel Camacho, Eunsub Cho, Amy Hinkle, Grant Hofman, Nathan Korstanje, Annamarie Koster, Karlie Krieger, Jessica Lamer, Matthew Mulder, Joella Ranaivoson, Joel Sytsma, Robert Van Zanen and Daniel Weeden.
“I hope to learn more of the church, Christ's body, because at times I feel like I have a naive view of how the church is run and the technicalities that are present to get a church going,” said 20-year old Cho, a secondary education major who grew up in Seoul, South Korea.
Mentoring and interning
Over the next six months, through teaching, mentoring and serving in an actual congregation, these students will be testing their callings to the ministry: “This is for the student who says, ‘I don’t know—God’s been waking me up at night ... ,’” said Todd Cioffi, the assistant professor of congregational and ministry studies who runs the Jubilee Fellows program.
Throughout the winter and spring, the fellows will be trained in a weekly seminar class by Cioffi and by the founders of the Jubilee Program, former Calvin chaplain Dale Cooper and Ren and Elsa Broekhuizen. They will learn about church history, about the roles people play in the church, about gifts and positions and about discernment.
"We’ve had a front-row seat to see our Lord making good on his promises to care for his Church, in part, by calling and equipping her next generation’s ministers. What memories we have of those many Fellows, their gifts and personalities so differing, whose singular passion is to use their gifts to serve the Church and thus, in turn, to please and honor their Lord," said Cooper of his decade working in the program.
“We don’t hold anything back on a lot of levels,” said Cioffi, who has been with the Jubilee Fellows for three years. “I’ve been a pastor, and it’s hard … It’s the most challenging, rewarding and difficult work you can take on.”
Fellows coordinator Kary Bosma said that Cioffi has be has been a good fit for the program, founded in 2001 through a grant from Calvin's Lilly Vocation Project: “The mentoring and the way he interacts with students: he’s a natural leader. He’s been able to envision the future of the program,” she said.
Following their training, the Jubilee Fellows are placed in ministry internships in congregations (and sometimes other types of ministry) throughout the U.S. and Canada. Some of the churches have longstanding relationships with the program; others are new ministry proving grounds. All are chosen carefully, Bosma said: “We don’t just pick a name, pick a place and send a student. Over the years, that network of churches has grown exponentially.”
“What we really avoid is churches that need free labor: their youth minister skated, and they need free help,” Cioffi said.
“The vast majority of internships go really well,” Bosma added.
Since its founding, The Jubilee Fellows program has trained 12 students per year—120 in all—and 75 percent of them have gone on to seminary or the ministry. “The 25 percent who don’t, go into active lay leadership in their congregations,” Bosma said.
“This is an amazing program,” Cioffi said. “This should be replicated.”
In its 10th year, the Jubilee Program is mentoring and sending 14 fellows to churches in North America. In past summers, Jubilee Fellows have ventured to churches in California, Washington, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, South Carolina, Florida and many locations in between. “All 14 of them are the kind of students we want to work with,” Bosma said.
Joella Ranaivoson is pleased to be among them. An international relations and writing major from Nairobi, Kenya, she feels called to overseas missions; she believes the Jubilee Fellows program is the next step in that direction: “A month ago, I had no idea I would be in this position, but I am certain that God has placed me right where He wants me … . I expect He has much to teach me about Himself, about the people He loves, about myself, and about where He wants me to go, what He wants me to do. And I'm excited but a bit nervous as well. I don't know what to expect, but I do know things are coming.”