Preaching and Embodying the Love of Jesus to Students: The Impact of the Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship on Youth Workers
Two recipients talked to us about the impact of the Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship on their life and ministry.
Throughout the Bible, God is constantly working in and through young men and women. As the lives of Joseph, Josiah, Esther, Jeremiah, Mary, John Mark, and Timothy attest, youth is not a hindrance to taking part in the Kingdom life.
For the global church, the importance of reaching young men and women with the gospel cannot be overstated. They are the future of the church and the world, and the church needs more men and women who are called to preach and embody the love of Jesus to the next generation.
That’s why we’re proud stewards of the Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship. Named after the founder of The Generosity Trust, this scholarship has been awarded since 1965 to students from (or serving in) the greater Chattanooga area who are studying for current or future ministry service.
With over 450 students who have received the Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship serving in a variety of roles all over the world, its impact on the lives of Christians pursuing full-time vocational ministry is far-reaching. And in particular, those who have a heart for reaching young people.
Just ask Aaron Anand.
Part 1: Aaron’s Story
Born and raised in Chattanooga, Aaron’s ministry roots run deep in the family. His grandfather served as a pastor for many years.
Aaron grew up and came to faith at East Ridge Presbyterian, a church just a 10-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga. As early as high school, he felt a call to vocational ministry.
“I just sort of had a feeling that that’s where God wanted me,” he said. “I really enjoyed reading. I loved learning about theology and about God’s word.”
Aaron attended Covenant College, a small Christian school on Lookout Mountain, where he majored in biblical and theological studies. After graduation, he got engaged and started working full-time as a youth leader at his home church in East Ridge.
For Aaron, seminary was an obvious next step. But with a number of major expenses on the horizon—a wedding, a ring, and a new apartment—the cost of graduate school was a little daunting.
Thankfully, Aaron heard about the DMB scholarship from a few youth pastor friends in the area. After an encouraging interview process, he was awarded a scholarship.
“It was a huge weight lifted off not having to worry about [finances],” he said. “I could just do the work at the church that God’s given me, take the classes, and not have to worry about another thing.”
As he serves in his church’s youth ministry full-time, Aaron has been taking classes at Reformed Theology Seminary in Atlanta, GA. One of the most exciting ministry developments at East Ridge has been a major opportunity for evangelism to a group of neighborhood kids.
“God sort of dropped this evangelism ministry in our lap. We have about 25 kids from the neighborhood that come on Sunday nights. They’ve never been in church before and never really heard much of the Bible before.”
Although he’s still discerning where God is leading him to serve long-term, there’s no doubt Aaron loves walking with students on their journey of faith.
“I do really enjoy pastoral and relational ministry, especially working with students. They need that relationship and someone who can walk alongside them.”
Part 2: John Mark’s Story
John Mark Scruggs is another pastor who has been greatly impacted by the Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship, albeit in a slightly different way.
Like many others raised in the South, John Mark says that growing up in Tupelo, MS, his understanding of Christianity was essentially moralism.
“I thought that what makes me relationally safe and secure with God is what I have done, which is completely missing Jesus,” he said. “I felt it was really up to me to be a good boy and just felt this increasing insecurity with age.”
During his sophomore year at Ole Miss, John Mark hit a wall. He felt “spiritually exhausted and dead.” He had been doing all the obvious Christian things but was lacking a thriving, personal relationship with Jesus. “I was tired of being a good boy…I just wasn’t convinced I had ever been good enough.”
Desperate for renewal, John Mark joined a fraternity Bible study led by an RUF campus minister. The decision turned out to be pivotal. A group of friends came around him and loved him where he was. The campus minister took his doubts, fatigue, and frustration seriously. He learned that it wasn’t his obedience that kept his relationship with God secure—it was Jesus’s perfect life, obedient death, and resurrection.
Experiencing these gospel truths was “liberating” for John Mark. He began to walk in newness of life with Jesus.
“I thought it was a total disaster.”
During and after college, John Mark consistently gravitated towards youth ministry. One week his church’s youth director was out of town and asked him to teach the lesson.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I thought it was a total disaster.” And yet, he was shocked by how much students resonated with his message.
That experience turned out to be a vocational turning point for John Mark. He returned to Tupelo and served as an intern in a local church. After a year, the church encouraged him to pursue seminary, which he eventually did at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. There he met and married Caroline Lamberth, who was also attending Covenant.
While in seminary, John Mark felt like his sweet spot was working with college students. After he and Caroline completed their degrees, they moved to Chattanooga to partner in campus ministry for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga (UTC).
Needing new tools
In the early years of his campus ministry, John Mark met with many of his students one-on-one. Over coffee or tea, they poured out their stories and hearts to him—their struggles with friends and family, their vocational uncertainties, and their questions about faith and Jesus.
“They were processing so much,” he said. John Mark knew to ask questions, but he felt limited in his ability to engage deeply in their stories.
“I felt like the amount of time students were going to [hard places in their story] caught my attention. I needed to be able to interact with them better and with more resources. I was asking good questions, but I couldn’t move the ball down the field of story and how the triune God works in those dynamics…It was as if I bought this new home—a fixer-upper—but the only tool I had was a hammer.”
John Mark began considering ways he could become better equipped to serve students. Eventually, he decided to pursue a Master’s in counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary. Despite the challenges of taking on graduate school coursework in addition to his full-time role with RUF, he’s already experienced the fruit of his labor.
“I found it immediately energizing and life-giving for my own heart. And within each day’s lesson, it applied within a week to a student and what they’re talking about and processing…If I had to summarize it, it’s being able to help move students from death to life.”
The cost of discipleship
Although John Mark and his wife are nine years removed from their initial seminary experience at Covenant, they are still paying off their student loans. So, you can imagine the trepidation they felt at the thought of John Mark returning to grad school.
“I had the desire, but I really needed The Generosity Trust or a church to sign off and say, ‘We also believe in what you’re doing. We want to empower you to have more tools.’”
Because he and Caroline were living in Chattanooga, John Mark applied for and was awarded a DMB scholarship. With substantial support from both RUF and TGT, his tuition is now completely covered.
Aside from the financial burden being lifted and his vocational calling being affirmed, John Mark sees God weaving a much bigger, interconnected story in it all:
“I do think there will be more ripple effects from this than I will ever be able to see of Jesus and his kingdom. The Generosity Trust has affirmed and empowered me, but it’s also interconnected with what I’m doing on the ground and for the future of the church. It will impact the future of God’s church and the future of generosity as well.”
To learn more about the Dora Maclellan Brown Ministry Scholarship and the work of The Generosity Trust, visit thegenerositytrust.org/scholarhips.
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