A year ago, Thomas Hargadon knew he was feeling a call to the ministry, but he wasn’t sure at all what that was supposed to look like.
“It was very difficult to figure out what the Lord was calling me into specifically,” said Hargadon, a student at the University of Alabama.
Then he heard about Timothy Initiative, a discipleship program for Alabama college students that pairs them with a mentor serving in ministry.
“Timothy Initiative was presented as an opportunity to not just navigate what that looks like, but also to help me grow as a follower of Christ and a leader in the church and to understand the responsibilities behind that as well,” said Hargadon, who was paired with Kyle Bryant, a Baptist campus minister at UA, as his mentor.
Students in TI — a ministry of the collegiate and student ministries office of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions — meet weekly with their mentor to discuss and learn from a specially designed curriculum. They also complete weekly readings and serve in a missions setting during the summer between their two years of mentorship.
If they finish the two years, they’re eligible for a $5,000 grant from Alabama Baptists to help with the cost of post-graduation missions service or seminary.
“I think Timothy Initiative is a great opportunity if you feel somewhat of a call. It’s a really useful tool,” Hargadon said. “The relationship you build with your mentor is a very strong bond.”
TI is designed for rising college juniors so that they can meet with their mentor for two years before graduation, but Hargadon, technically a senior when he started, had changed his major and still had two years of school left.
He said TI came at the perfect time to help him think through the next steps.
And Bryant said he’s grateful for the opportunity to walk alongside Hargadon as he works out his calling.
“It’s been good because part of the program is [pairing] students up with a mentor who is in a similar kind of ministry,” said Bryant, who in his role also serves as a worship leader. “Thomas has been one of our BCM worship leaders here on campus. So we will talk about the nitty-gritty of how music went, but we will also talk about how he’s doing, investing in him with prayer and accountability and encouragement.”
Along the way, Hargadon and Bryant traveled with a team to help a church planter in New York City, and that experience impacted Hargadon in a big way.
“He just really fell in love with the city and the work that was happening there,” Bryant said.
Now after serving there during his school breaks, Hargadon is preparing to move there this summer. He will finish the rest of his school online.
“I will be serving with the church plant up there to build relationships in the community to point people to Christ and to the church as well,” Hargadon said. “I’ll be working part time at a local shop somewhere.”
He said he’s felt the confirmation from time spent in Scripture, and through TI, he’s had “support unlike anything I’ve seen in my life, with this capacity to serve the Lord in a different setting and the chance to continue to learn from Kyle from long distance.”
Mike Nuss, who serves as the coordinator for TI, said the inaugural class of students “had a great start” in their first year.
“Timothy Initiative is a new venture for Alabama Baptists,” Nuss said. “We are coming alongside students who are exploring a call to vocational ministry to essentially raise up a new generation of missional leaders for the church.”
In addition to Hargadon, Kalei Lucius is one of those students. A junior at the University of North Alabama, she’s been serving as a children’s ministry intern for Highland Baptist Church in Florence where Stephanie Gilliam, director of children’s ministries, is her mentor.
“Timothy Initiative is a really safe place to explore your call to ministry,” said Lucius, who came into TI considering a range of ministries including children’s ministry, missions and collegiate ministry. “You don’t have that fear of finding out this is not for you. It’s a good place to explore the calling and get to know yourself and your spiritual gifts.”
The deadline to apply for TI for the next school year is May 15. The first meeting of the new class will be at the Called Conference on Aug. 5 at Samford University in Birmingham.
For more information about Timothy Initiative or to apply, visit timothyal.org.
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