Dollywood?! Yep. --The Sky is Not the Limit

Published: June 11, 2012

I knew it would be an interesting summer when I was sitting in my apartment in Winston-Salem, studying for midterms with the television on (for white noise of course) and heard a commercial for Pigeon Forge, TN. Pigeon Forge is not just any tourist trap in the Great Smokey Mountains. It is the home of Dollywood, the best theme park on this side of the Mississippi. It was about that time when I committed to return to Pigeon Forge for my third summer to work on the leadership team for a ministry that was near and dear to my heart throughout college: Discipleship Focus. A part of the program includes a part time job at Dollywood that is equally entertaining as Dolly Parton herself.

I get the privilege through this program to disciple college students for ten full weeks as we complete a Bible study together. As a participant the past two years, I have come to truly appreciate my time in discipleship, relationships with my leaders and friendships with the other people in the program. I have been blessed to meet several lifelong friends through this program in the past. This summer I get to help create the environment that was given to me as a college student. I lead a small group of eight college women from all over the country (who are also working at Dollywood). I meet weekly with the small group and individually with them.

The work aspect of the program is what is enticing. Who would not want to work at Dollywood for the ten hottest and busiest weeks of the year? In reality, it is one of my favorite parts of the program. I fell in love with the park and the people in it during my first summer. I even overcame my fear of roller coasters! This will be my second summer working for Q2Q, the virtual line reservation system on the park. Last summer I was awestruck by the way that my team at Q2Q bonded. Although I was one of the youngest workers on my team by several decades, I was able to laugh a lot and work a little at Q2Q. I returned this year, only to pick up right where I left off. While it is entertaining to count mullets and child-leashes on the park, it is way more fulfilling to catch up with my co-workers at Q2Q while we help our guests have a better time on their visit.

I have learned a lot since beginning this job this summer. Here are a few highlights:

  1. I am thankful for theological education because somehow people can always come up with questions pertaining to what we talk about in school. Even if I do not know the answer to them, we can talk about them for hours.
  2. I would like to work at Dollywood one day when I retire.
  3. My first year of Div School has changed me for the better and re-affirmed my calling to ministry.
  4. Work is much more fun when your outfit is called a “costume.” I was more excited about getting my Dollywood costume than I will be about getting my first robe at church.

It is only a week into the program and I am already thankful for this experience. The only thing that could make it any better would be if I could meet Dolly again. I can go into this summer confident in the way that Wake Div has helped to prepare me!

Katie Schlimmer
Second Year MDiv