When Trevecca’s first Six8 Fellowship intensive kicks off on July 8, participants won’t just be a part of another summer camp. The initiative, funded by a $536,500 grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., immerses students in ministry and the study of theology, but also connects students with small groups and mentors who will stay in touch long after the summer is over.
“The goal of these theological institutes is to help young people wrestle with theological tradition,” said Brandon Winstead, director of Six8 Fellowship. “The expectation is that the more they wrestle with it, the more in-depth they are able to understand the connections between living out their theological belief and being involved with a vocation of service in the name of Christ.”
The first Six8 Fellowship intensive runs July 8-15. During the week, 10th- 12th graders will immerse themselves in a seven-day summer intensive that includes both teaching and ministry opportunities. Students will learn from scholars and professors, two from Trevecca and one outside faculty member.
“The week includes interactive lectures with a variety of scholars, including Iris Gordon and Rod Devore who teach in the social justice department,” said Jasmine Hiland, Six8 Fellowship program coordinator. “We also have Carmichael Crutchfield coming in to teach that week from Memphis Theological Seminary. We hope this week will give students theological language to talk about their faith and gain discernment in their walk with Christ and their calling.”
Winstead and Hiland say that each year, the Six8 Fellowship will focus on a different theme, all designed to help students grow spiritually. This year’s theme is “Who is my neighbor?” During the summer intensive, the organizers want the students to really focus on how they can love their neighbors the way God has called them to.
“We want them to think about what this means in their future careers,” Winstead said. “What does it look like be a good neighbor as a lawyer, entrepreneur, basketball coach, or a top chef. So, what does it mean to be a chef in such a way that your career is an extension of doing justice and kindness and [loving] your neighbor the way God calls us to do?”
Students will participate in many social activities to help them wrestle with the question “Who is my neighbor?” throughout the week, according to Hiland.
“Throughout the week, students will participate in a civil rights prayer walk, visit and learn the vision of Room in the Inn and the Napier Community Center, spend time with the diverse residents of Trevecca Towers, and hear from amazing organizations who are loving their neighbors: NICE (Nashville International Center for Empowerment) and No Exceptions,” Hiland said. “We have chosen these organizations because of their compassionate approaches. We believe they are bringing justice and mercy to the city.”
Winstead believes that the program’s emphasis on mentorship is the key characteristic that sets Six8 Fellowship apart from similar programs. After the summer intensive is over, students will remain connected through a year-long mentorship.
“Trevecca has a long-standing history of training and supporting youth pastors and ministry throughout the Southeast Region,” Winstead said. “You see this through events like TNT and various other events for youth. However, Six8 Fellowship provides a more ongoing presence within the lives of youth pastors, youth ministry, and youth on an ongoing basis throughout the year.”
To help the students stay connected, Six8 Fellowship will use social media platforms to keep the conversation about loving our neighbors going. The hope is to help the teens integrate what they learned during the week into their everyday lives.
In the future, Winstead hopes that Six8 Fellowship becomes a bigger presence at Trevecca and throughout the city.
“Down the road, we would like to do some other things, maybe some curriculum development around churches for youth pastors. We want to have avenues for ministry support for youth pastors,” Winstead said. “In the future, we want to teach courses in youth ministry through the Six8 Fellowship. We would like to have regional banquets that are a part of the Fellowship. That’s kind of what I would like it to be in the future.”
The final goal of Six8 Fellowship is to prepare the youth to be disciples of Christ by giving them the tools they need to empower their own communities.
“Ultimately, we believe these students are the future of the church,” Hiland said. “We believe they can be agents of change, justice and mercy in their own communities. We want to give them all the tools and resources they need. We want to affirm their gifts and empower them to return to their communities with fresh eyes and servant hearts.”