“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
Discipleship is key to growing in faith and is especially important to Tommy Gullberg, a current Trinity Evangelical Divinity School student in the MA in Mental Health Counseling and MA in Theological Studies programs. Growing up in a Christian home, Tommy learned firsthand the importance of discipleship and fellowship with other Christians. From volunteering as a camp counselor and working in business to his journey to TEDS, Tommy is always seeking opportunities to build up the body of Christ.
LOVE FOR DISCIPLESHIP
During the uncertainty of COVID-19 pandemic, Tommy took that season to explore other career paths. He viewed the pandemic as an opportunity to try something new, and he began to see God’s hand in this uncertainty. “My heart was slowly moving towards pursuing ministry,” he said.
With a desire to follow the Lord and explore what was next, Tommy reached out to the church he attended in college—Blackhawk Church, an Evangelical Free Church in Madison, Wisconsin—to see if he could intern there.
His internship was spent leading small groups and meeting one-on-one with students, which is where his love for mentorship, discipleship, and counseling grew. Knowing he wanted to continue to serve the church, Tommy applied to TEDS because he knew he could get a sound theological education and an accredited counseling degree.
“The special thing about being at Trinity is that while we are focused on building skills needed to go out into the workforce, wherever we’re called to be, we are focused on understanding our identity in Christ,” Tommy said.
Besides receiving endless recommendations from his pastors, TEDS passed his other litmus test: “Something I always look for when I move to someplace new is a good church and a good volleyball league.”
Upon arriving at TEDS, Tommy began to look for ways to get involved. He connected with Michael Gardner in the Career and Vocation Office and Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Coach Luke Ward. “Being here a short time, I didn’t see a big connection between the grad and undergrad side,” Tommy said. “I saw that it was a gap to fill, and doing it organically through something I love like volleyball ended up working really well.”
As the semester progressed, Tommy continued to feel called to disciple undergraduate students at Trinity College. Discipleship and volleyball seemed like a great way to continue to put what he was learning in the classroom into practice.
“A lesson I wish I would have learned early on in my faith, but also as a guy figuring out life, is that our relationship with Christ isn’t a performance.”
Volleyball has always been a sport that Tommy enjoyed, from playing in high school to intramurals at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “As I was a college student, I wish I had someone a couple of years older than me investing in my life,” he said. “And a lesson I wish I would have learned early on in my faith, but also as a guy figuring out life, is that our relationship with Christ isn’t a performance.”
Tommy has had the opportunity to come alongside Head Coach Luke Ward, Assistant Coach Kennedy Mang, and Student Assistant Coach Anna Skrzypchaz, as the Volunteer Assistant Coach for Trinity’s Men’s Volleyball, to provide the mentorship and support he wished he had.
“I am thankful for Tommy’s presence this season,” Coach Luke Ward said. “He possesses a calm demeanor and relatable connection to the guys, and he’s able to communicate effectively. It’s obvious that he cares and invests in listening to others. He has a coachable spirit.”
“We hope to encourage maturity not only in a professional manner and in volleyball, but also in one’s identity in Christ.”
Tommy said that his team has been a “breath of fresh air” as the focus has been on building a team that is unified, supportive, and rooted in Christ, which was not his experience as a young athlete. Along with the rest of the coaching staff, his aim is to build up students on the court, in the classroom, and in their faith.
“We really care about you holistically, and we want to make sure that you’re growing in all areas of life,” Tommy said. “We hope to encourage maturity not only in a professional manner and in volleyball, but also in one’s identity in Christ. All these things need to be rooted in an identity that is unshakeable.”
DISCIPLESHIP & COUNSELING
Beyond the volleyball court, Tommy encourages and advises his players and other students through his work in the Career and Vocation office at Trinity. The Career and Vocation Office provides Trinity students with career guidance and advice, resume review, and job interview tips.
“These roles have helped me see how thriving is measured in different ways by different people in all avenues of life,” said Tommy.
After his first year Tommy said that “working and studying at Trinity has broadened and enriched my scope of understanding of people, and I think that will serve me well in my future endeavors as a counselor.”