The Importance of Guided Independence

Vaughn Brown has years of experience mentoring young people.

His mentorship experience has impressed him with the importance of guided independence and the key role it plays in a successful transition into adulthood.

Vaughn describes guided independence as giving young people the freedom to make their own choices and experience the outcomes — both the successes and failures, but with age-appropriate parameters and guideposts in place to provide safety and wise advice as needed along the way.  His time in the military combined with long-term experience mentoring students has confirmed this over and again in his own mind and heart.

Meet TBC alumnus Vaughn Brown, Jr., former church planter turned TBC college student (class of ’21). After serving as Dean of Students at TBC for seven years as well as student pastor at Trinity at Oakleaf, Vaugh is now a high school principal in Jacksonville, Florida. Vaughn has packed broad ministry and life experience into a short time. Even though his roles have varied, much of it has centered on mentoring high school and college-age students, offering guidance in their various stages of independence.

Because of this background, Vaughn brings valuable perspective to his current role as University Christian School’s upper division principal.

“I see myself in a position… at the top of the funnel, preparing students for… life in general whether they go to college or take another route.  Preparing men and women for life and ministry has been the TBC mission while I was there, and that is something that is deeply a part of who I am and fundamental to how I engage this next generation.”

Over the past eight plus years, Vaughn has been deeply involved with resourcing and supporting students. 

First, as a dean at Trinity Baptist College, and now as a high school principal.  Vaughn sees first-hand the challenges that face today’s youth as well as the nearly limitless potential they carry around in their pocket – a literal statement in today’s age! 

He sees the potential in students today as constantly evolving and expanding.

Their potential now, as students, will grow exponentially by the time they become completely independent adults.  Comparing it to the periodic (and frequent) updates on our phones, he says that today’s students are in a constant mode of updating and experimenting, and are unafraid to try new things.  

“There is a constant ‘rebooting’ of their world – and therefore, their ability to adapt to that new world is phenomenal.”

In terms of the gospel, this is both great news and a huge challenge.

And a great part of the success of reaching future generations is rooted in how well those in a position of influence relate to those generations.

“If the church is going to reach this generation and the generation to come, we have got to find a way to update ourselves in ways that will be relative to the generation we are trying to reach.

Now, let me say this.  This whole thing is a double-edged sword. Because Scripture makes it clear that we should be in the world but not of the world.  Biblical truth is what guides our path… with that said, we have to find a way…

Vaughn believes that the potential for the future spread of the gospel is tied to our ability to invest deeply into our youth and into their potential to do what they can to reach one another. 

“The responsibility that we have {as mature adults}, is found in the Jeremiah 1:5 principle.  Before you were formed, God knew you and ordained you to be a vessel unto him.  You and I have to find a way to make that tangible to the current day student.”

It is no secret that today’s youth are experiencing a different and unique world.

Vaughn is quick to admit that today’s world is different than the one he grew up in. But he also advises that “there is nothing new under the sun” in terms of being human! Young people today still need what they needed in generations past. The investment of time, interaction, and genuine interest in them and their lives is essential.

“It comes down to the fact that we have to make sure they understand that God cares, and we care, and there is purpose beyond what they’re currently going though.  It is constant repetition and conversation.  The more we engage our students, the more their interests become our interests and vice versa.  We find out how God has gifted us individually and are able to move God’s agenda forward with the skillset that God has given each of us individually.” 

The unfortunate reality is that failure will be part of everyone’s story. 

This is true for youth as well as for those who invest in their development. It is a painful process, but a necessary one.  And one that is best handled proactively with guided independence.

Vaughn cautions parents, leaders, and mentors to understand that what takes young people under is a lack of awareness, acceptance, or experience with failure.

“If they’re not aware that they will fail, or can’t accept that failure isn’t final, or if they don’t have experience with failing because we step in each time, we can’t blame them.  That’s us. That’s part of stewardship.  We have to lean into the wisdom of God to teach them how to master the art of failing and recovering.  Independence with guidance gives them the ability to do that.”

With extensive experience mentoring college-age and high school students, as well as his own child entering high school, Vaughn has witnessed this process prove true many times. 

Vaughn is hopeful and optimistic about the future.

On a regular basis, he hears from students whom he served as Dean at TBC. Sometimes they call for advice, sometimes just to catch up or share good news. The years of investing in them has in turn become an investment in his own life: encouraging and challenging him to continue to believe in and provide guided independence for future generations.

Speaking of his time as an adult learner at TBC, Vaughn says it was a time of personal growth and change in ways he did not expect. 

During his first year as a student, God unexpectedly shifted his direction from church ministry to Christian education. He describes this experience as painful, but – in hindsight – he sees the hand of God moving his trajectory with exactness and purpose.

“My time at Trinity was pivotal to my understanding of how to be gracious with an age group that was different than my own.  I have learned just as much from them as I have tried to teach them.  I grew in my ability to be a mentor and come along side students no matter what their experience was…  Being real with students in a way that related to them has made all the difference.  In a short amount of time the Lord grew me as a leader and my ability to reach the next generation.


  • Trusting in The Lord yields fruit that when traced by man can seem impossible . The life and journey of Vaughn Brown Jr. continues to be a story of a life surrendered ! I have been blessed to walk this journey with him for 25 years , I continue to be in awe of all the ways the Lord has touched our lives . Truly, I’m excited about the things to come. -💌

  • I love Mr.Vaughn Brown very much he has been my dad for 14yrs (all my life) and I am very thankful and proud of him . I am really happy that he is being recognized for the amazing person he is (it’s about time everyone knows what our family knows)! He’s awesome!!!
    I am Excited to see what God has next for our family! Love you Dad!


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