During our research phase of the Riverside Innovation Hub, we are collaborating across disciplines with a team of Augsburg faculty in our work learning alongside congregations already engaged in meaningful ministry with young adults. Our team brings together faculty with backgrounds in education, psychology, social work, political science, communications, sociology, religion and gender, sexuality and women’s studies.
Meet one of our research team members, Terrance Kwame-Ross…
I am currently a full-time Associate Professor in the Education Department at Augsburg University. I’m also a Faculty Associate in the Youth Development Leadership (YDL) Graduate Program in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. My research focus has been on the nature of learning and development throughout the life-span across different cultural, political, social, and geographic settings and areas. My study and studies focus on youth and young adults, teachers, and youth workers in formal, non-formal, and informal settings. The Riverside Innovation Hub project allow me to further explore these ideas inside of a spiritual and religious context. It also, affords me an opportunity to have a dialogue with myself around faith and learning. My unique perspective about the nature of learning and development can contribute to the overall study in the sense that in all that humans do, sometime without knowing it, is learn. However, all learning isn’t positive learning. In short, I look forward to broadening my own and others’ perspectives about learning and growing inside of the church, congregation, and “the body of God.”
Prior to joining Augsburg’s Riverside Innovation Hub, I spent 15 years working and serving as a social worker, youth director, and community networker in the places where congregations and their greater communities intersect. Several years ago when my oldest was 5, I asked him if he knew what my job was. “Yeah Mom, you work for love. That’s what the church does.”
To have anyone – let alone a 5 year old! – name the calling they see in you is a beautiful and transformative thing. Needless to say, his words continue to hold a central place in my heart and affirm my belief in the importance of the work I get to be a part of with the Riverside Innovation Hub. This work allows us to accompany both young adults and congregations discerning what working for love looks like in their callings, contexts and relationships.
At a time when uncertainties, fears and brokenness dominate the headlines, our communities and even our own lives, working for love is a much needed response. Following this call and discerning what this love must look like in the communities and contexts where we live, serve, work, worship and play is not intended to be done alone. WE NEED EACH OTHER.
We listen better together.
We learn better together.
We problem solve better together.
We respond better together.
We LOVE better together.
I have heard enough stories that lead me to believe that young adults GET this and WANT this and some in fact are DOING this in impactful ways and surprising places. I am grateful to be a part of an effort that invites their voices, experiences and questions into the conversation with a Church that is called to work for love in new and often challenging times and places.
The Spirit is at work. I pray we are open to the relationships, places and stories that allow us to join in what God is already most certainly up to – working for love in our broken and beautiful world.
Our research began on Sunday, October 22, 2017. We are conducting site visits at 12 different congregations across the Twin Cities who have been identified as communities of faith engaged in effective ministry with young adults. We are seeking to learn from them by observing their ministry with young adults, conducting focus groups with their active young adults, interviewing key leaders, and surveying their entire congregations. We will conduct these site visits throughout the fall and winter. We will spend the winter and spring analyzing these visits and distilling our findings down into key components of effective ministry with young adults. The visits, interviews, and analysis will be completed by an interdisciplinary research team of eight faculty members from Augsburg University including . . .
Adriane Brown, Assistant Professor and Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
Augsburg University will host two Meet and Greet events on campus this fall for local congregations and others interested in learning more about the Riverside Innovation Hub, Augsburg’s newest initiative in relationship with congregations discerning their call to ministry with young adults.
Meet the Riverside Innovation Hub team
Learn more about the scope of this 5-year project and ways to get involved
Consider applying for our Innovative Ministry Partnership
Share your curiosities about ministry with young adults
Connect with local congregations and leaders
We are hosting an evening event on Nov. 13 and a morning event on Nov. 16. Information at each event will be the same. Light refreshments and beverages will be served. Those attending on Nov. 16 are also invited to stay for chapel from 11:30-11:50PM. Kristina Fruge, Program Manager for the Riverside Innovation Hub, will be preaching.
Augsburg University is located at 2211 Riverside Ave. in Minneapolis, MN on the north side of Hwy 94.
We are able to provide a limited number of parking permits on campus for each November event. The first 30 people who register for each date will receive parking permit via email the week before. City street parking is available around campus on a first come, first serve basis. Please pay attention to parking signs as they are strictly enforced!
Please join us in this endeavor! Here are some ways you can become involved in the work of the Riverside Innovation Hub at varying levels of commitment.
Attend our events
Hub Seminars – Our annual Hub Seminars will be a place to share ideas, and learn from one another as we support each other in our ministry with young adults. These seminars will feature keynote speakers and breakout sessions with lots of time for networking and dreaming.
Pop-up Conversations – Our Pop-up Conversations at coffee shops and brew pubs around the Twin Cities will be an opportunity to have less formal conversation around one specific aspect of faith and ministry with young adults.
Meet & Greets – Our upcoming Meet & Greets are a great opportunity to come to Augsburg University to hear more about the Riverside Innovation Hub and decide how you might want to become involved. We are offering the same program at two different times.
Monday November 13th from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Thursday November 16th from 9:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Apply to be an Innovative Ministry Partner
Innovative Ministry Partners will be ministry sites committed to a coaching, innovation, evaluation, and dissemination process. We will open the application process for congregations in mid-January 2018. Applications will be accepted through mid-April 2018 and selected congregations invited into the partnership early Summer of 2018. An Innovative Ministry Partner will . . .
Work with the Riverside Innovation Hub for 4 years from the summer of 2018 through the summer of 2022.
Year One (summer 2018 – summer 2019): Commit to working 20-hours a week with a Riverside Innovation Hub Young Adult Congregational Coach who will guide your congregation through a year-long process of reimagining its ministry with young adults.
Submit a sub-grant proposal at the end of Year One to the Riverside Innovation Hub to receive funds for innovative approaches to ministry with young adults in your context over the following two years.
Years Two – Three (summer 2019 – summer 2021): Manage the funds granted to your congregation and implement your plan for engaging young adults in your context in new and innovative ways.
Year Four (summer 2021 – summer 2022): Work with the Riverside Innovation Hub to evaluate your two years of work in order to learn what worked and what did not. Congregations will also work with the Riverside Innovation Hub to share our findings through written projects and seminars.
Attend regular cohort meetings and trainings offered by the Riverside Innovation Hub throughout your four years of partnership with the Hub.
To stay up to date on when our application process opens and informed about other opportunities with the Riverside Innovation Hub, join our mailing list and follow our project online and with social media.
I have been a member of the Religion department at Augsburg University since 2006 with specific responsibilities for facilitating the University’s Theology and Public Leadership degree program and the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. I am also a rostered Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Chuch in America (ELCA).
I love young people. In some ways, today’s young adults are unique from previous generations, but in many ways they are similar. It is important for us to remember this. They long to find meaning in their lives. They have not dismissed God, but seek authentic ways and communities in which to explore the possibility and impossibility of God. They would not use the terms vocation or call but they are desperately working to craft a life of integrity in which what they do (act) matches who they are (being). These desires are no different than those of previous generations. Yet, the contexts and cultures in which young adults strive to satisfy these desires have changed greatly.
One can make the argument that it is congregations who have been leaving young adults rather than the opposite. The church’s failure to engage young adults in their search for meaning in light of today’s cultural realities is emblematic of this departure.
I’m not sure young people today are longing for anything different than previous generations. But the culture in which they experience these longings has grown increasingly complex and the gap between our young adults and congregations is greater than it has ever been. This gap has appeared as congregations have failed to move into this complex culture with their young people. I am certain congregations can learn and implement practices that move them into this complex public square where our young adults are seeking to navigate life and faith.
I am the happiest cynic you know. I love the institution and think it is falling apart. I trust that God will show up even when we can’t get our acts together. Therefore, I am the happiest cynic ever.
I am called to word and sacrament ministry as a church planter in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). I am called to find different ways to share the good news of Christ crucified and risen. Simultaneously, overwhelming and exciting. I love it.
I believe the church isn’t dying. I believe this because Jesus ALREADY died. And Jesus rose again. We don’t have to worry about anything.
Which means, we can take risks, trusting that God is in all the messiness and goodness. We can be innovative. We can try something a bit different and see what happens. Jesus died so we have the freedom to live. This is why I get excited to work alongside the good folks at Augsburg University and the Riverside Innovation Hub. We get to be cheerleaders for God’s people wanting to be God’s people in the world. We get to be the folks who cheer you on and believe that risk-taking is a part of our baptismal identity.
I hope that you will join me in trusting that God is at work in this world and calling us to engage with the good news. I hope that you will join me in imagining all the ways we get to be church together. For this is so very good.
Our research team will seek a deeper understanding of how congregations and other faith communities are effectively engaging young adults. Our hope is to learn from those who have developed effective practices, systems, and communities in order to share what they have learned with other faith communities who are seeking to improve their ministry with young adults.
Before we begin to define effective engagement and describe our methodology, it is important to highlight our team’s commitment to interdisciplinarity. The life of faith cannot only be studied theologically, nor can the dynamics of a faith community or congregation. Christianity confesses belief in an incarnational God. Jesus is God’s word become flesh. God’s word lives and moves among us, in this physical world. Lutheranism confesses a belief in the Deus Absconditus or the “hidden God”. This is the belief in a God whose revelation is not obvious but hidden. It is the belief that God reveals Godself to humanity in, with, and under the physical realities of life. This nature of God’s revelation demands that our inquiry be interdisciplinary. God is to be found in the stuff of this world – nature, human community, struggles, etc. – and therefore the other disciplines shed light on the substances and phenomena in which God is present. Second, because God is hidden in these phenomena and substances, our inquiry must be theological otherwise our interpretation of the thing will be incomplete, from a theological standpoint. Therefore, in order to fully understand how communities are effectively engaging young adults in a life of faith, our inquiry must be interdisciplinary – theological and scientific (for lack of a better term right now).
We have allowed our commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry influence not only our interpretation of the data we will gather, but also our definition of important variables on the front end. Some Christian faith communities might consider effectiveness to mean large numbers of participants, large numbers of conversions, or assimilation to a particular lifestyle condoned by the specific faith community. Our team’s understanding of effectiveness is shaped by the following commitments, which grow from our own discipline-specific theories as well as the teaching and learning culture at Augsburg University.
Our intent is not to eliminate faith communities who hold a different definition of effectiveness, but to offer other explanations for why what they are doing with young adults seems to be working and in what capacity is it (or is not) effective. A system will always behave the way the system is designed to behave, but that does not always mean the system’s effectiveness is optimal or healthy.
Therefore, effective ministry with young adults will . . .
Reflect an ethos, or spirit, of effectiveness indigenous to the community.
Take place at the intersections of faith and the arts, faith and political activism, faith and environmental stewardship, and interfaith engagement as well as other places where faith is wrapped up in active, public lives.
Listen deeply to their life stories in order to hear and understand the “bad news” in their lives so that “good news” might be proclaimed in word and deed. It will provide a promising alternative to a personal theory that is no longer working for them.
Weave together text and context in a way that results in deeper understanding of both the text and the context.
Learn from them, equip them, and empower them for active discipleship that is theologically aware and publicly engaged.
Be developmentally appropriate for those in this age category (i.e., relationships based on values, not activities; right and wrong is easier to determine at this age than in adolescence, questions and answers are more relativistic).
Have a strengths-based perspective that enhances the strengths that are already present in individuals and the community.
Produce grassroots interaction rituals, which results in “collective effervescence,” or an intensification of collective awareness, attention, experience, emotion, and energy.
Clearly communicate these rituals as well as the community’s stories and values along to the participants.
Will balance the desire to address the needs of the individual while simultaneously addressing the needs of the larger context and the world.
Will demonstrate a desire and ability to adapt to new members and maintain a cohesion between its inward identity and external identity.
We assume any congregation currently engaged in effective ministry with young adults has already incorporated many of these things, whether they know it or not. Effectiveness is very contextual and we try to leave room for that, but at the same time we hold some commitments which we believe should always be present. Our working definition of effective ministry will continue to grow and change throughout this study.