1. Why did you choose to become a Briarwood Fellow?
I wanted to do youth ministry, but I had done nothing else but ministry internships. I knew that Fellows would prepare me with real world experience in a safe environment, but at the same time, an unknown and uncomfortable environment. Moving to a new city and knowing no one was hard, but definitely needed. I also liked the seminary aspect of the program and the opportunity to learn more about Christ.
2. Did you have any preconceived notions about the program that were different in reality/did anything surprise you?
The people. At the beginning, from the surface level, there were some people that I didn't think I would be friends with. But those are the ones that are some of my very best friends now. It was surprising. I also didn't realize how deep and fast friendships would form. Fellows is the perfect situation for that, and because all but one of us weren't from Birmingham, we all had to rely on each other to hang out with.
3. What did you expect to learn through the program and how, if at all, did that differ from what you actually learned?
I didn't have a ton of expectations. It was one of those things that I thought I wouldn't fully grasp until I was in it. I did expect to learn a lot about Jesus in seminary classes and because Briarwood Fellows is through such a strong church, and that expectation was fulfilled. But I don't think I expected to learn as much about myself as I did. All the tests and assessments, and interacting with people and different scenarios taught me a lot about myself. We saw in a lot of ways how sinful we are as people, but those realizations just made Jesus that much sweeter.
4. What was your favorite weekly activity?
Tutoring. Beforehand, we got 20-30 minutes waiting with the fellows, and that was always a fun time to catch up with everyone. There was a lot of laughing: seeing everyone talk to a 2nd grader and learn how to teach kids that weren't always the most well behaved was comical. We also were paired with the same child each week, so I got to know my little girl over the course of the nine months and see actual improvement, which was a really cool experience. One of the fellows is a teacher, so on top of everything else, it was great to see her in her element and see her doing what she was made to do.
5. One of the more difficult aspects of your 9 months as a Fellow?
The demanding structure of it was very different than what I was used to. Fellows has so much structure, which was so different from college, and that was good but could be overwhelming. I had never worked an 8-5 job so jumping in and doing that was a lot. We had to learn time management, adjust to a new city and a new family, and so many other things. You don't always have time to think about it because you have to go onto the next thing. Working through that was hard at times, but it prepares you really well for post-fellows work.
6. Most rewarding part of being a Briarwood Fellow?
The relationships. With the other fellows, but also with Briarwood the church. Everyone understands and is bought into the program. Small things like Pastor Reeder inviting us to his house and telling his story made a big church feel small. The church as a whole does a good job of seeking out relationships with the fellows. That's one of the best parts about it.
7. What was the most memorable moment?
There were so many memorable moments. We were the first class to be there when Seth's dog had puppies, and we loved that. The best moment though, hands down, is from our regional conference in Memphis. Every group has to do an introduction, and it can either be a dance, skit, or video. Most groups did videos, and we decided to do a step routine. Half of our group was pretty talented, and the other half can't dance to save our lives, so it went downhill very quickly. Seth started it off rapping, and we couldn't even finish the dance we were laughing so hard. Every other program was so confused, so we didn't make friends that week, but it was definitely one of the funnier moments for sure.
8. How would you summarize your Fellows experience?
Funny. Fellows is like learning to be an adult with a safety net beneath you and room to fail. It was a hard, growing year accompanied with lots of laughter and lots of love.
9. What is one word you would use to describe the program?
10. How did working in an internship jump-start or prepare you for your career afterwards?
I worked at UAB Hospital for their cancer foundation. There was a lot of event planning, marketing, etc. and I have definitely used a lot of that for my job in youth ministry now planning retreats and parent events. Marketing is all about talking to people about something you're passionate about and making it compelling, and that translates so well into youth ministry. I'm just marketing for Jesus with middle and high school students.
I had the best boss that year, and he was very influential in developing me and the other fellow that worked there as people. He was great with personal development, which is a strong suit of fellows overall, and a lot of that carries over to what I do now.
Along with that, Briarwood knew that I wanted to do youth ministry, so the high school staff brought me in more and let me come to trip planning and staff meetings to learn from them. Briarwood was so great to show me more behind the scenes of their youth program, and I was so thankful for that guidance.
11. How did God change your outlook on faith, family, community, or work?
"Seamless Life" is a buzz word in the Fellows world, but Seth does a great job of explaining what that looks like. There was such an emphasis on that in all facets. He told us what it meant, showed us what it looks like, and walked us through it before we did it ourselves. We had leadership lunches where people explained how they take the gospel into the workplace and so many other things that worked together to tell us and show us examples of what a seamless life can look like in the world.
12. What advice would you give to prospective students interested in applying?
Do it and don't look back. I couldn't think of anything better. In my world, a lot of people think they should do RUF internships, Fellows, or something similar. In Fellows, you're working towards something and getting paid, not paying to do something that's not setting you up for a career. Fellows is going to have eternal impact at the most basic level. There's not a better use of your time.
13. In retrospect, what are you most thankful for from your time as a Fellow?
All of it. The requirement to get outside of your comfort zone was needed, because if it wasn't, I wouldn't have done it. You have to be all in or it's not going to be worth it. It's not easy to have one foot in: the program requires all of you and it won't have the same impact if you're not all in.
14. If you could go back, would you choose it again?
100%. There are so many different personalities of programs, and different directors, and I think Seth is the best all around. Not only would I do Fellows again, but I would do it at Briarwood again. (But only if there were puppies again.)