Union’s director of discipleship revels in her go-with-the-flow job

By Kathryn Flippin
Staff Writer

Photo by Olivia Wallace
Keely Hart, Director of Discipleship, at right, talks with LifeGroup Leaders in her office.

While Keely Hart, director of discipleship in the Office of Spiritual Life at Union, does not define herself as an expert of Christian theology or a counselor of psychology, she said being a diligent follower of Christ is the most important ingredient in implementing discipleship in a community.

Hart, who graduated from Union in 2007 with a Christian Studies degree, believes discipleship and community stem from an inherent focus of mobilization among believers.

After serving in Botswana for two years as a “Journeyman” for the International Mission Board and spending her third year with the program at Union, Hart said she knows what it takes to reach out to college students and mobilize them toward discipleship.

On a typical day, Hart’s job requires her to meet with several students — whether they are Life Group leaders, Klemata leaders (a women’s Bible study group), a few girls she specifically mentors, or the occasional student who “pops in” for guidance.

“I come to my day with open hands and an open heart because you never know who will need to stop by and chat about something they are dealing with,” Hart said. “So much of my job has to do with availability so that when that student comes with a great need, I can drop what I am doing and meet with them.”

Hart tries to follow the biblical example of meeting with a few to impact the many. She knows she will not be the first person to whom everyone comes with their problems, but she wants to be available for even the ones who just want to chat over coffee.

“Realizing that my job takes on more than just tasks and allowing myself to realize I may not get everything done in one day because of some random stuff that comes up has allowed me to be free from guilt,” Hart said. “I know my job looks different than most, but that is the beauty of it. I am living life with students and going with their flow and their time. I think that is effective discipleship.”

The challenge Hart faces is deciding who she needs to be in several different students’ lives.

Ally Mynatt, senior art major, said she thinks Hart does an excellent job in reaching out to those not typically noticed.

“I have never seen someone in her role do as good of a job at going to the margins of the people – people who I often forget about,” Mynatt said. “Keely connects with women who are from all different areas on campus and is also really good at facilitating discipleship amongst campus leaders and those different women she has met.”

On any typical day for Hart, she said she wants to make those connections that do prompt opportunities for leaders and students to internalize the teachings of Christ.

Whether on a Thursday morning going through “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Hart’s favorite spot on campus, Barefoots Joe, with students, or on a Tuesday night at a Klemata large group meeting, Hart said these are the times when discipleship happens.

The women who have been most influential in Hart’s life are those who have invited her to be a part of their everyday lives.

“A lot of meaningful conversations have happened while washing dishes, talking over loud children or cooking a meal,” Hart said. “I am inspired by women who take the truths of the Gospel to the world (in which) they live in everyday tasks great and small.”

Sometimes frustration comes from the fact that she knows she can only do so much for the women with whom she meets.

“It’s frustrating – and a blessing – to be reminded of your limits. So much of this job is relational, and relationships are unpredictable,” Hart said. “There is also a temptation in this kind of leadership position to feel like it’s your responsibility to produce spiritual growth and maturity in the lives of those you serve and mentor. But that’s just not possible. This is a work of the Spirit.”

With that attitude and a daily commitment to act upon the disciplines she has learned throughout her life, Hart said she hopes her desires and intentionality develop and nurture the spiritual life of the students she comes in contact with.

Hart added that the benefit of having a woman’s Director of Discipleship role (to counter the male position) is that students, such as Mynatt, have been able to tap into the role of the woman in the Christian community.

Many of the women Hart meets with on a day-to-day basis want to know what that role looks like, and Hart’s one hope is that she will be able to be an example of that role.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.