The Wesley Foundation at the University of Georgia is known as the most welcoming place on campus. Each week, the staff of 92 bakes more than 400 cookies and sends hundreds of texts, emails and handwritten cards to welcome visitors to Wesley Foundation events. As a result, they’ve grown by 30 percent over the past three years, with thousands in weekly worship and discipleship programs.
Yet, their goal isn’t numbers. They seek to disciple others to share what they’ve been given and be re-filled to overflowing.
For 16 years, Clay Kirkland, Lead Associate Director of Staff Development at the UGA Wesley Foundation, has invested in young adults, so that they in turn can invest in others.
“My main passion lies in the fact that there’s so much potential in this generation,” Clay said. “They’re a generation that thinks they already have it figured out. I love being able to take people from this generation and intentionally invest in them so that they can pull off and excel in the things that they’re going to go after.”
When Clay first started working at Wesley, he created an internship program based on the Matthew 10 experience, in which Jesus sends his disciples into the world.
Clay currently works with 76 interns and oversees 13 other associate directors. Three of the associate directors, Aaron Vickroy, Jessica Longino and Taylor Childers, are also studying at Asbury Seminary via distance learning.
Aaron Vickroy became involved with the Wesley Foundation at UGA during his freshman year of college through Freshley, their freshman event. After graduation, he wanted to give what he had received and served as an intern for two years. For the past five years, he’s been the Associate Director of Discipleship Leadership.
Aaron enjoys helping young adults make the transition from their parents house to forming their own through a new, deepened or re-discovered faith.
“College students are learning who they are and what they want to do with their life,” Aaron said. “It is the perfect time to help them discover a relationship with God that allows His voice to give them answers to those two questions. It is such a powerful thing for God to speak identity over us and have Him reveal to us what we were created for.”
The Wesley internship program is designed for students who graduated one to three years prior. Those at the Wesley see the program as a 10-month intensive for how to live life abundantly.
Students in the program participate in weekly discipleship programs, lead one of Wesley’s many ministry areas, assist with Wesley’s Wednesday Night Worship Service, raise support and develop leadership skills. Interns can choose an area of leadership that interests them, such as Freshley, the unique ministry to Freshman students; prayer ministry; the worship team; Crosstown Kids that mentors 150 underprivileged children; the media department; or Connect, a vibrant ministry that welcomes visitors to Wesley.
“The whole crux of the internship program is not built around what an intern can give us, but what we can give them,” Clay said. “The reason I go to work each day is to equip interns to be who Jesus died for them to be and do what He died for them to do.”
Clay shares how one young woman’s life, body image and ultimate destination was transformed as a result of her time at Wesley. When Clay met her, she weighed about 85 pounds, her body completely ravaged by anorexia. She started her internship in August and by January had gained 25 pounds. That spring she started discipling four other young women. Now, she’s married and completely free of the eating disorder that kept her from being who God created her to be.
“We invest in them to help them understand that they’re sons and daughters of the king and that they’ve been given a ticket to live the abundant life,” Clay said. “We give them a way to understand the things they’ve received. When that investment keeps giving, then my investment will last as long as they live on this earth.”
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