What vocations are represented in your church? For each of those industries, your church has an opportunity to help people see what the gospel means for their specific day-to-day duties and skills. One practical way to do this is to mentor a cohort of workers in a specific industry to talk about how they serve God in their work.
When DeLano Sheffield knew there was a large group of educators in his congregation, but it was only when he launched a vocational cohort focusing on education that he learned there were over 50 educators in his church, including school bus drivers, counselors, teachers, and members of the city school board.
I met with the hilariously funny and brilliant DeLano Sheffield for lunch to understand a bit more about the vocational ministry of the Linwood Fellows at Macedonia Baptist Church (Kansas City, MO). Macedonia is a predominantly African-American church and is located just east of Troost Avenue—historically, the racial dividing line in Kansas City, MO.
Where did the name “Linwood Fellows” derive?
Nothing too brilliant. Macedonia is located on a street called “Linwood”; thus the name “Linwood Fellows.” We are approximately two years old.
What’s the mission of Linwood Fellows, and why was it started?
We took the concept of “Whole Life Discipleship” seriously, along with our pastor’s hope to reach the whole city, and launched Linwood Fellows. We figured it would be best to start with the parts of the city where we already spend a lot of time—the workplace.
Your first Linwood Fellows cohort are educators—principals, administrators, teachers, bus drivers, facilities system personnel, and counselors. Why did you initially want educators to be your inaugural cohort?
It sort of just happened organically. A brother and member of our church had recently relocated from Detroit, MI to take the head principal’s position at Central, an urban academy in Kansas City, and another church member ran for and was elected to the Kansas City School Board. So, we said, let’s reach out to other educators in our congregation.
Initially, we thought we had 30 educators in our congregation, but we discovered we had over 50. So a cohort of educators seemed like the natural place to start.
I know you had your first educational session with the Linwood Fellows Educators Cohort last fall (2016). What material did you cover? Do you plan to have a follow up?
For the first session, we covered some elementary FWE principles. In the second session this year, we covered the telos of education based on Colossians 1:15-20. (By telos, we mean complete.) In addition to these sessions, we also meet with them quarterly for breakfast.
We emphasized to these educators that they are the gatekeepers of the reconciliation to God, the reconciliation to ourselves, the reconciliation to others, and the reconciliation to creation. We emphasized that their vocation was not isolated from the gospel; rather, their vocation was integral to the gospel story.
This helped them see that vocation was not just a personal calling but one that fits within the grand narrative of God’s redemptive plan. If we fail to understand this vital teaching, we are holding onto anemic gospel, and this will adversely impact our effectiveness inside and outside the classroom.
You and your staff attended our Beta Learning Community where you learned about the theology of faith, work and economics. Did you have to “translate this learning” for your educators cohort?
We did. They already have a strong sense of calling, but we had to learn their context well to translate new meanings of words and concepts that they at least knew tacitly. Over time we have seen the merging of ideals and living out these ideas.
It just dawned on me that your Linwood Fellows staff are all alumni of our Beta Learning Community. That’s not a coincidence. What’s the next vocation you guys want to target?
Entrepreneurs. We plan to have our informational meeting soon at the PlexPod Westport Commons. Kansas Citians might not know this, but the once vacant Westport High School has been converted into an incubator for launching new businesses. Aspiring entrepreneurs can also use this space during the week.
We want to invite relatively new business owners (those with businesses less than 3 years old) to a 10-month program to help them understand key concepts of faith, work, and economics. We also plan to have this cohort of entrepreneurs travel to the businesses of fellow business owners for sharing and mutual encouragement.
Learn more about Linwood Fellows at the Macedonia Baptist Church website.