Jubilee Fellows offers opportunities for students interested in ministry


Abby Brower

As part of the fellowship, these students constructed a little free library for their church

Applications are now open for the Jubilee Fellows, a year-long program for 12 students offering an on-campus service component in the fall, a for-credit class in the spring and a 10-week summer ministry internship.

“If a student is passionate about using their gifts of leadership to further God’s kingdom and [wants] to explore using these gifts in church ministry, they should apply to be a Jubilee Fellow,” stated Cindy De Boer, the program coordinator, in an email to Chimes.

Classes are led by Todd Cioffi, director of the Calvin Prison Initiative and associate professor at Calvin’s Department of Congregational and Ministry Studies, and Pastor Mary Hulst. In an email to Chimes, Hulst emphasized that “this is for anyone curious about ministry, whether they are thinking about seminary or not.” 

Fellows are paired with pastors and church leaders who mentor them through their summer internships. Discovery of spiritual gifts, discernment of calls to serve in the church, and lessons on ministry are important avenues that mentorship pairs explore. Pastor Matt Postma, Hulst and Cioffi also help mentor fellows during the school year. 

While some current fellows like Ben Van Haitsma and Abby Brower applied because they were interested in ministry, others, like James Webb, did not. Webb was a Barnabas at Calvin but never thought of actually going into ministry until a few peers and advisors asked him about it. He concluded that it couldn’t hurt to apply to the program and ended up loving it.“The program is such a valuable experience,” Webb told Chimes.

When asked what surprised them about the program, fellows gave a variety of answers. Webb said he was surprised by how exciting he found planning church worship. “I sat down with the preaching pastor and the minister of music and learned about the process that they went through to pick songs and scripture for the Sunday service,” Webb said. Van Haitsma stated, “ I learned how to communicate and learn from people with very different ideas than you. I also learned just how important prayer and practicing the spiritual disciplines are for spiritual growth.” 

Brower surprised herself by giving a sermon, with Hulst’s guidance. She also interned at Madison Square Church: North in Grand Rapids. Pastor Joy Bonnema, Children Director Stephanie Kammeraad, and Postma mentored her.

“Something I also didn’t expect from this summer was how much I felt poured into and cared for,” said Brower. “I learned more about my identity in Christ, joy and shame, spiritual disciplines, and how eagerly Christ wants to embrace us as His child.” She recognized how her mentors helped her learn how to ask good questions, listen, and embrace mentees with love, understanding, and empathy.

Looking to the future, the fellows have varied plans. Webb is in the process of discerning where God is leading him. He attributed the Jubilee Fellows program to helping him “understand a lot more about church life than [he] had previously known and [that it] was an extremely wonderful and valuable time of [his] life.” Van Haitsma is currently applying to seminaries with the goal of getting his Master of Divinity. Brower acknowledges how her internship changed her perspective on life and faith, and she believes her growth this past summer was personal and more related to her relationship with God than professional ministry. Brower will continue to work as a discipleship assistant mentoring Barnabas students this year; the future after that remains uncertain.

Open to juniors, the application deadline for next year’s Jubilee Fellows is Oct. 19.