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4 min read

How a 36-Year-Old Architect Does the Colson Fellows Program

How a 36-Year-Old Architect Does the Colson Fellows Program

Welcome to the Pursuit, a new series documenting the daily rhythms of the Colson Fellows program through the eyes of participants.

In this segment, we sat down with Derek Hartman (C '24), an architect from Lakeland, FL, and asked him to share his experience with the Colson Fellows program. The Colson Fellows program is designed for busy men and women from all walks of life in mind. Here's a glimpse inside. Enjoy!


What is your occupation? I am an architect with Publix Supermarkets.   

How old are you? 36 

Married? Kids? Yes, married to Samantha for 11 years, and we have a seven-year-old daughter.  

When did you become a Christian? I trusted Christ as my savior in elementary school. I have been very fortunate to be mentored by solid youth leaders and pastors through my teenage years. In college, I attended the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. Even though it was a highly secular experience for me, I was fortunate to be mentored by college ministry leaders who took a real interest in my growth as a young believer.  

What led to your interest in the Colson Fellows program? Through a series of events, I attended the 2023 Colson Center National Conference as what I would call a “spectator.” Even though I had been brought up in solid, gospel-preaching churches, I had not been exposed to what the Colson Center calls a “gospel big enough for all of life.” At CCNC ‘23, I heard Dr. Stephen Meyer explain the intricacies of science and computer programming as it relates to God’s order and pattern for creation, and I was immediately hooked.  

It had never occurred to me that God’s creative order depicted such a strong polemic for His rule and care over every part of creation. As is often said around the Colson Center, before you ask, “what am I do to?” you must ask “what Story do I find myself a part?” My role as an image bearer of the Creator led me to see the how I was imaging God by creating. By extension, that meant my work building grocery stores was intrinsically valuable to the kingdom. The secular/sacred divide that had always been present finally disintegrated. From then on, I was energized to learn more about Christian worldview. 

What Colson Fellows cohort are you in? I am in the Tampa, Florida cohort led by Gary Heffner.  

How many CFITs are in your class? We have about 20 participants, plus eight cohort leaders who assist Gary. In my cohort, we have educators and heads of school, a Vice President of Operations at a nonprofit, a real estate developer, a small business owner, a writer, and just about everything in between.  

What’s your weekly workload like for the Colson Fellows program? Early on, I received a helpful piece of advice to stay on top of my workload; try to do something every day. I start my day off with my usual quiet time, but have used the Colson Fellows daily devotionals this year. In the evenings after my daughter goes down, I try to do 15 to 20 minutes of reading on the books we have to read for the month. I listen to the daily Breakpoint commentaries on my way to work or while working on house projects. Since my wife and I are doing the program together, we usually try and watch the monthly webinar together when our schedules allow.  

Do you find you’ve been able to stay on top of the workload with that approach? Yes. What’s interesting is before I started the Colson Fellows program, I was not much of a reader at all. I was concerned going into it that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the reading requirement (14 books over a 10 month period). But, I have been amazed. The experience has made me enjoy reading more than ever. I am now reading books the Colson Fellows faculty recommends even in addition to the required reading (crazy, I know.) Also, the variety of resources in the program really help keep you engaged. Whether it’s watching a video, listening to a podcast, attending a webinar, or reading a book—it's always good to mix it up.  

What’s been your favorite book? Our Bodies Tell God’s Story by Christopher West.   

Most challenging moment? Preparing to lead the monthly book discussion at my cohort. I am not much of an “up front” person, but you know what ... I survived! 

Where has the Colson Fellows program most impacted you? The gospel being presented as a “get out of jail free card” seemed thin to me, but I wasn’t sure why. Previously, I was what I call a very “detached” Christian. I have never really been interested in current events, the latest controversy on Twitter, or the latest headline of the day. That may have been a good thing, but it also meant I lived with my head proverbially “in the sand.” I lacked confidence in my Christian faith as well as clarity to see how it affected my life beyond Sunday mornings. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Bible college/seminary and have always wanted to be more theologically grounded. Honestly, I wanted to be challenged in my faith in ways I hadn’t before.  

Now, I know that the gospel is the good news of God’s Story that starts with Creation and moves all the way through redemption to the eventual restoration of all things. As the Creator, God calls His image bearers into every part of His world to represent Him. We are to celebrate what’s good and work to restore what has been broken by sin. To put it simply, it’s totally transformed the way I view my salvation. Finally, I understand what I am saved for, not just what I am saved from 

Instead of staying silent at lunch with my coworkers, I am engaging them in conversation. I find I am moving towards others in relationship (even when the topics are tough) instead of running away in fear. I can navigate conversations with my daughter in ways I could not before (which I know will only be more important as she gets older).  

What have you decided on for your personal mission plan as a commissioned Colson Fellow? 

I am excited to be starting a Colson Fellows cohort in my hometown this coming fall. My wife and I are partnering with another couple who completed the program last year. We share a passion for bringing the Christians from many churches together in our town to collaborate for the welfare of our city and the advancement of the gospel. I want to be a part of bringing this transformational program to other Christians because it has had such a look on my life and witness for Christ.  

What would you say to someone considering the program? Do it. This has been the most spiritually impactful discipleship experience I have ever had. I am so thankful that my understanding of the gospel has broadened and deepened. It’s been life-giving to me, and I think it would be for you as well. 


Considering the Colson Fellows Program?

Join S. Michael Craven, Vice President & Dean of the Colson Fellows Program, at an upcoming informational webinar to learn more! 

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