Build Skills

Understand & Connect Communities Icon_ connecting dotsUnderstand & Connect Communities

“What if gentrification was about healing communities instead of displacing them?” by Liz Ogbu at TEDWomen 2017 — Video of an architect who works on spatial justice sharing about how to catalyze community healing

Build a learnin g culture icon_human head symbol with a lightbulb insideBuild a Learning Culture

[BOOK]  The Fifth Discipline: The Art of Practical of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge — A business best-selling classic book on how to be a learning organization

Manage and Lead Change icon_an award cup with a star in the middleManage & Lead Change

Mentoring the Next Generation for Innovation in Today’s Organization by Teresa M. Moon (2014) — A journal article on the role of inclusive mentorship for young adults in building a thriving organization of continuous improvement, collaboration, and innovation

[BOOK]  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell — A New York Times bestselling book on three rules of ‘social epidemics’ and key factors influencing changes

Congregational Toolbox

Hub writing icon_a penHUB WRITINGS

[TOOL]  Discernment Questions for Faith Communities (2017) — Consider these questions an opportunity to engage your leadership, young adults and other key people in your community as you discern your faith community’s possible call into deeper ministry with young adults.

[THOUGHT]  Ezekiel and the Public Church Framework (2018) — Jeremy Myers, PhD explains the Public Church Framework and the biblical imagination that serves as its engine, specifically Ezekiel’s vision of God’s abundance. There are discussion questions at the end to help churches explore how to apply this framework to build a sustainable, deep connection with its neighbors.

[BOOK]  Liberating Youth from Adolescence by Jeremy Myers (2018) — Jeremy Myers calls the church to challenge the dominant societal view of adolescents as “underdeveloped consumers” who can only contribute creatively when they mature into adulthood. Myers argues that young people are innately creative creatures called by God to love and serve right now.

[THOUGHT]  “Reflections on Authenticity” by Rev. Mark S. Hanson (2018) —  Rev. Mark S. Hanson, with Augsburg’s Christensen Center for Vocation and former bishop of the ELCA, shared his reflections on the notion of “authenticity” with our learning community.

Articles icon_a page of newspaperARTICLES

Reaching out to young adults will screw up your church by Adam J. Copeland (2012) — The author shares personal stories about the relationships between young adults and churches/church leaders

Other Communities Icon_ human symbols standing in a circle embracing a lightbulbOTHER COMMUNITIES

The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) — data archive (national and international), mapping tool to create a religious and demographic profile of a particular community, etc.

Center for Religion and Civic Culture (Creativity and Innovation) — Collections of articles about creativity and innovation on congregations and religious practices

Disrupt Worship Project — This project offers full liturgical resources and diverse experiences and viewpoints, featuring “voices from different denominations, clergy, deacons, lay leaders, and (sometimes) people who don’t do church but do love Jesus.”

How We Gather — One of the most widely-read documents in seminaries and community startups;  a 2015 student-led exploration of how Millennials are finding and building communities of meaning and belonging has morphed into a ground-breaking study of organizations that are effectively unbundling and remixing the functions historically performed by traditional religious institutions.

Faithful Report by How We Gather — a report reviewing and examine a number of innovative communities to help inspire religious leaders and those who are leading change from within

Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion — Events, research, sightings, and forum



INTRODUCTION TO PHASE 2: Equipping & Discerning (August 2018 – August 2019)

Photo of Innovation Coaches Top row (left to right): Lindsay Boehmer, Emily Kindelspire, Mason Mennenga, Baird Linke, Tim Thao, Asefa Melka Wakjira Bottom row (left to right): Amanda Vetsch, Michelé Crowder
Photo of Innovation Coaches
Top row (left to right): Lindsay Boehmer, Emily Kindelspire, Mason Mennenga, Baird Linke, Tim Thao, Asefa Melka Wakjira
Bottom row (left to right): Amanda Vetsch, Michelé Crowder

On Monday August 6, 2018, we began training our eight Innovation Coaches who will spend the next ten months coaching sixteen local faith communities into a method of discerning and generating innovative ministry with young adults (List of Partner Faith Communities). Our coaches are young adults between the ages of 22 – 30 years old. They come to us from lives lived around the globe — the Twin Cities, Iowa, Rwanda, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Argentina, South Dakota, California, Texas, Europe, Philippines, China, Missouri, and Montana. Read about Our Innovation Coaches!


This training included three intense weeks (August 6 – August 24, 2018). Here were some of the components of that training:

  • Morning and Evening Prayer each day
  • A day in Voyageur canoes on the Mississippi River as we explore our theme text, Ezekiel 47:1-12
  • Time with Augsburg University president Paul Pribbenow exploring the University’s call to be an institution for the sake of the neighbor
  • Learning about Martin Luther’s theology of vocation from Dr. Mark Tranvik
  • Learning to practice one-on-ones with Harry Boyte from Augsburg University’s Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship
  • Finding our type in the Enneagram with Tyler Sit from New City Church
  • A Salon Dinner and day-long training on creativity, change, and welcoming resistance with Rev. Marlon Hall — pastor, filmmaker, storyteller, and anthropologist
  • Intercultural competency assessment and training
  • Immersion into the Public Church Framework

The goal of this training was to equip our coaches to be able to walk into two faith communities and help them engage young adults in their contexts in new ways, creating opportunities for the faith communities to listen and learn. We understand innovation to be that thing that happens when we are responsive to both the movement of the Holy Spirit and the demands being placed upon us by our neighbor in a particular place at a particular time. Our coaches learned to help faith communities locate themselves in these places and respond with hope.

Our work with these faith communities launched on September 18, 2018.



Read the Summary of our Phase One: Research!


Summary of Phase One: Research

We were blessed to be invited into the lives of 12 local faith communities currently doing exceptional ministry with young adults. This post summarizes our that research and the themes which are currently emerging at this point in our analysis. The analysis is not complete and will, therefore, reveal more as the research team continues to work through it. However, we have already identified many important themes. This project takes an assets-based approach, looking to learn from what faith communities are already doing well rather than focusing on critique. Our findings, and this summary, reflect that asset-based spirit.

Study Congregations

These twelve local faith communities were nominated by their peers as communities currently doing effective work with young adults. They vary in denomination, size, context, staff structure, and in how they engage with young adults. No two faith communities are the same. They include:

  1. Bethlehem Lutheran — Minneapolis  
  2. Church of All Nations — Columbia Heights  
  3. Good Samaritan Lutheran (no official website) — Saint Paul 
  4. Grace University Lutheran — Minneapolis 
  5. Hope Community — Minneapolis 
  6. Humble Walk — Saint Paul  
  7. Intertwine Northeast — Minneapolis  
  8. New City Church — Minneapolis  
  9. Our Saviour’s Lutheran — Minneapolis  
  10. Redeemer Lutheran — Minneapolis  
  11. Sanctuary Covenant — Minneapolis  
  12. Solomon’s Porch — Minneapolis  


The Riverside Innovation Hub’s research team consists of eight faculty members from across various disciplines including Religion, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Social Work, Education, Communication, and Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies. Our researchers visited the above faith communities in groups of three to conduct site visits, focus groups, and interviews with senior pastors and young adult leaders. These focus groups and interviews were recorded and then transcribed. The Riverside Innovation Hub staff identified key themes emerging from these site visits, focus groups, and interviews. The research team then coded these transcriptions using key themes (listed below). 

Curious about the research/studies we used as the background/foundation of our research? Go to our Resources on Young Adults page. 

Characteristics and Values

We discovered some fascinating and helpful characteristics which we are excited to share. The following nineteen values were present in our study congregations in various levels, amounts, and combinations. We have organized them into four characteristics to help us imagine how these values shape the character of a faith community. If the local faith community’s call is to proclaim good news into people’s lives to displace their bad news, then what we see below are the various ways in which these faith communities are doing just that. They do it through unique and context-specific practices, but these context-specific practices share the following characteristics.



These faith communities have found ways to effectively enter relationships with young adults by engaging in the real joys and struggles of people’s lives. They are not afraid of tough conversations or hard questions. They allow people to bring their real selves to the table.


  1. Authenticity  There is no need to hide or fake who you really are. Individuals are able to be authentic because the leaders and the community are both authentic.
  2. Vulnerability  Participants are welcome to share their deepest longings and their shortcomings because the leaders and the organization both model this vulnerability.
  3. Complexity  There is eagerness to engage difficult issues and difficult conversations. Faith is both taught and practiced in complex ways.
  4. Energy  There is a noticeable quality of connection. It might not always only be lively, it could also be reflective. It matches the place where the young adults find themselves.


These faith communities are clear about their beliefs and practices. Their theological convictions shape their lives together. Their sense of mission is clear and compelling and is reflected in what they do.


  1. Explicit — Faith community is explicit about its values, mission, and story. They know what they stand for and they are explicit about making it known.
  2. Value Alignment — The faith community’s mission, leadership, and ministries align with the young adults’ values.
  3. Wisdom — Participants are engaged in the integration of theology and real life. They value thinking theologically about the world and thinking worldly about their theology.
  4. Sacred Objects & Rituals — Important symbols of relationships and transitions are present in important artifacts and actions. These help participants make meaning and help give shape and identity to the community by creating collective awareness, experience, emotion, & energy.
  5. Good News/ Bad News — The articulation of how young adults are experiencing suffering or bondage in their lives (bad news) is present as well as ways the faith community is working to accompany them and/ or provide relief and freedom.

icon_human symbols standing in a circle embracing a heartCHARACTERISTIC #3  COMMUNITY

Faith communities are intentional about building community and bringing young adults into that community. There is a palpable sense of family and support and young adults are instrumental leaders.


  1. Social Networks — Young adults find their way into these faith communities through their social networks.
  2. Participatory Young adults are resources, active in the life and leadership of the faith community. There is noticeable representation of young adults within the faith community.
  3. Relationships Meaningful relationships with peers, mentors, across generations, and across other differences are valued and nurtured with intentionality.
  4. Leadership These communities value their leaders for their vulnerability, accessibility, and relationality. They are seen as strong preachers, teachers, and caregivers.
  5. Belonging There is a sense of solidarity and “we-ness”.

icon_three arrows going outwardCHARACTERISTIC #4  PUBLIC

These faith communities empower their people, including young adults, to actively live out their faith in their public lives in a variety of ways. There is a high value placed upon the community gathered for worship, but always with an eye and ear towards those beyond their faith community.


  1. Vocation Tangible action for the good of the neighbor is valued and expected, but as an expression of freedom in Christ rather than legalistic acts to appease God.
  2. Inward/ Outward The needs of the individual and the gathered faith community are met while simultaneously being open to and engaged with those beyond the faith community.
  3. Context The location of the faith community is an important factor in the faith community’s identity and the young adults’ experience with the faith community.
  4. Social Justice The faith community and/ or the young adult lift up social justice as an important component of the life of faith.


There was no special program or approach that made these congregations successful. We believe their success with young adults is related to their clarity of conviction and intentionality about engaging their young adults in leadership roles so that they might lead the faith community into living public lives of faith that matter.


Meet the Riverside Innovation Hub Coaches!

Photo of Innovation Coaches Top row (left to right): Lindsay Boehmer, Emily Kindelspire, Mason Mennenga, Baird Linke, Tim Thao, Asefa Melka Wakjira Bottom row (left to right): Amanda Vetsch, Michelé Crowder
Photo of Innovation Coaches
Top row (left to right): Lindsay Boehmer, Emily Kindelspire, Mason Mennenga, Baird Linke, Tim Thao, Asefa Melka Wakjira
Bottom row (left to right): Amanda Vetsch, Michelé Crowder

We have brought together eight dymanic and dedicated leaders for the role of Innovation Coach. The Twin Cities, Iowa, Rwanda, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Argentina, South Dakota, California, Texas, Europe, Philippines, China, Missouri, Montana, Norway, Germany – these are just some of the places our coaches have lived and learned and led. We are thrilled to bring them all and their collection of experiences across the globe together at Augsburg this August. We are prayerfully holding them up and the new places they will be called to lead and serve this coming year as coaches.

We are thrilled to let our team introduce themselves!

Meet Lindsay Boehmer…

headshot Lindsay Boehmer
Lindsay Boehmer

My name is Lindsay Boehmer and I am from Sioux Falls South Dakota. I grew up in Sioux Falls and attended Augustana University in Sioux Falls where I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. The past couple years I have spent very little time in Sioux Falls, but my favorite thing about going back is visiting my home church. I was very active in my church from the time I was young all the way through college and I love to go and catch up with the staff and kids. They always welcome me with open and loving arms and that place continues to feel like home. Since graduation I have spent most of my time learning and discerning about the world, my faith and what my role is here. I spent a year in Cambodia with the Young Adults in Global Mission program and this past year I served as an intern at a Christian camp near Kansas City. Both of these experiences have shaped the person I am today and challenged me in exciting ways. I am thrilled for this new position with the Riverside Innovation Hub and the opportunity to work with others who are passionate about the church. I am eager to learn more about and be in discussion with others about what Christian community looks like today and how we foster authentic and welcoming environments for that community. One superpower I am bringing to this position is a harkened heart. By this I mean I love to listen to people and to hear what sits on other people’s hearts. I am excited for all the people I will get to meet and work with and hear through this position!


Meet Michelé Crowder…

michele crowder sitting on a rock ledge
Michelé Crowder

I am a singer, actor, worship leader and educator with ultra healing hugs and soothing voice super powers! I was born in Germany and raised around Fort Hood, Texas. I attended Texas Lutheran University for Music as well as Social Entrepreneurship before volunteering a year to Urban Servant Corps in Denver, Colorado. Beginning in 2014, I have worked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a musician-educator in the Glocal organization, the collective of musician-educators embodying “accompaniment” as formed by the ELCA Global Mission Unit. Since coming back to Texas, I have spent time acting on various stages and teaching in Creative Action’s after-school programming. Creative Action is a nonprofit, arts-based, youth development organization located in Austin, TX. The best thing about Austin is it’s diverse cuisine offered at various price points. This lover of the color green is exited to learn what is most valued in the hearts of Minnesotans as well as how to grow that love in my own heart. I am truly excited to walk beside each congregation and experience the joy of the Lord with them.


Meet Emily Kindelspire…

Emily Kindelspire standing on a parth with grass and trees
Emily Kindelspire

I grew up in New Hope, Minnesota, one of the first suburbs outside of Minneapolis. I lived down the street from my grade school, which meant rain or snow, I walked- or sprinted, as junior high me slept until the last possible minute- to school. I’m still running today, having completed my second marathon this summer. The best thing about where I grew up were my neighbors, Mark and Beth, and their two sons Mark and Tom. I spent most of my childhood hopping the fence into their yard, as I was their honorary daughter. They invited me for dinner, brought me to their family gatherings and on vacations and made me feel seen. My desire to be the house on the block where kids know they can come and be cherished is derived from my experience as a part of Mark and Beth’s family. With a background in Justice and Peace Studies and Family Studies, I am able to critically examine the ways that power and privilege show up in relationships. After spending the better part of 16 years caring for children of all ages, I move through the world with gentleness and empathy. These parts of me combine to produce a dynamic superpower, one that allows me to say “I see you” and “let’s figure this out together”. I am excited to embark on this journey of community engagement and building! In the next 10 months, I hope to learn how to assist others in telling their stories in captivating, change producing ways. I am eager to l live in community with strangers, learn the rhythm of life in Cedar-Riverside, and build and sustain deep relationships.


Meet Baird Linke…

Baird Link smiling in front of a mountain
Baird Linke

I was born and raised in beautiful Montana near the Great Divide where I learned to love being outside and exploring. I ran cross country and studied Biology and Spanish at Carroll College in Helena, MT. During the summers, I worked at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, south of Glacier National Park, and I’ve spent the last year living in Buenos Aires, Argentina through the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. I’m excited to bring my curiosity and creativity to this new role as an Innovation Coach in the Twin Cities this year to learn about and join in the work being done there!


Meet Asefa Melka Wakjira…

Asefa Melka Wakjira headshot with water in background
Asefa Melka Wakjira

My name is Asefa Melka Wakjira. I was born and raised in rural Ethiopia. My father finished grade four. He is retired Lutheran Church evangelist. My mother is strong and wise but she has never been to school. I have 10 siblings and I’m the 9th.  I like to say I’m a child of a farmer from rural Africa who got opportunity to be educated because of committed missionaries from Norway, Sweden, Germany and other countries. I finished college in Ethiopia and got my bachelor in Sociology. Besides that, I led campus ministry. After working as a graduate assistant for two years, I got scholarship to study Sociology of Children in Norway for two years. Living in Norway opened my eyes to new culture.  During my study in Norway, I got clear vision that I will serve in congregations. Then I prayed and God opened opportunity to study here in the USA.   I finished my Masters of Divinity last May from San Francisco Theological Seminary in California. I hope to bring diverse educational backgrounds like sociology of children and theology. In addition to that, I will bring new culture of food, worship and ministry from Ethiopia.  I also like to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.  But it was not easy for me to be outgoing person before I went to Norway. I remember the difficulty I faced to adjust to new food and weather in Norway. It was very confusing to see sun at 10PM for me and I could not sleep on time for the first two weeks. I also could not try new food for almost a month except the Ethiopian food that I brought with me from home. I believe, adjusting to new environments takes time. I like to continue to learn new culture and listen to stories of people. That is one of the important lessons I look forward to learning more during the next 10 months of ministry.


Meet Mason Mennenga…

headshot Mason Mennega
Mason Mennenga

I am Mason Mennenga (do not feel ashamed for not being able to pronounce my last name on the first attempt. Baby steps, friends). On top of being an Innovation Coach, I work with the wonderful youth at Solomon’s Porch, a holistic missional Christian community in Minneapolis. I also podcast, write, snob about music, and scroll through Twitter. As an Enneagram 4 I think less about my superpowers and more about my superweaknesses; however, many who know me well would perhaps suggest I have the superpower of creating. I derive much of my energy in my creativity. As of recent, I have been constructing what a church may best look like in our day– a church that values art, is self-subversive, equitable, and kenotic. Therefore, my gift of creativity I bring as an Innovation Coach will hopefully be generative in creating compelling practices and systems that fully engage with the values and longings of young adults. I grew up in the expansive farmlands of South Dakota, so my most cherished memories involved my best friend and I driving around the country roads talking about faith, music, and politics. Little did I know at the time those conversations would later became foundational to the spiritual journey on which I have found myself. I hope I learn, over the course of the 10 months as an Innovation Coach, ways in which our abstract theological commitments concerning young adults’ engagement with the church can be concretized in practice. One of my passions is colliding the theoretical with the practical and this opportunity provides a space for me to creatively explore that.


Meet Tim Thao…

Tim Thao standing in front of a wooden fence
Tim Thao

My name is Tim and I grew up right here in the beautiful Twin Cities of Minnesota. I am a graduate of the University of Northwestern (previously known as Northwestern College) in St. Paul and I am currently attending seminary at Bethel Seminary in pursuit of a Masters in Ministry. I have been happily married to my gorgeous wife Anna for about 9 months. We live just north of Minneapolis in the city of Brooklyn Park. Our home church is a multi-generational Hmong church in Coon Rapids. We both previously served in the youth ministry for almost a decade. Currently, I serve as the Worship Director for our church. We enjoy being active and playing music together. Our current hobbies include volleyball, playing our guitars, and do-it-yourself, home-improvement projects. Compassion is my big thing. I believe that every single one of us has a beautiful story to tell and we all deserve to be heard. It hurts to see that, even in our society today, people are stripped of their own voice and are told that their experiences, their opinions, and their perspectives are not valued. The Church ought to be a place where individuals find value in themselves in the context of community. Christ loves the lowly and the meek and I believe that we ought to as well. In these next 10 months, I am incredibly excited to see the work that God has begun in the churches of the Twin Cities. I believe that God is moving here in our city and I think that we are all blessed to be able to be a part of God’s kingdom-building work. Apart from my home church, I have not had the privilege to work with other congregations. I am eager to see churches seeking to honor and glorify Christ in their unique context.


Meet Amanda Vetsch…

Amanda Vetsch standing in front of green trees
Amanda Vetsch

Hi! My name is Amanda and I come from the great state of Minnesota, born and raised in Minneapolis.  I have recently returned from a year of service in Rwanda through the Young Adult Global Missions (YAGM) program. While there, my work was a mashup of sports coach, youth group leader, and educational support staff.  Before that I got a degree in Biology from Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI. One of my everyday superpowers is the ability to regularly spill or drop things. One might not think that is a superpower, but I like to think that it translates into the ability to accept being bad at things and resiliency. I’m proud of my Minnesota heritage, there are many great things about this state, but especially the accesibility to nature as well as all of the amazing food at the MN state fair.  In these next 10 months, I’m eager to develop my abilities to work with adults. The majority of my work experience is with children and youth so I’m trepidatiously excited to work with full sized humans.

Our Team is Growing at Riverside Innovation Hub!


Spring at the Riverside Innovation Hub has included the completion of two significant milestones adding coaches and faith communities to our team of partners!



We have brought together eight dynamic and dedicated leaders for the role of Innovation Coach. The Twin Cities, Iowa, Rwanda, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Argentina, South Dakota, California, Texas, Europe, Philippines, China, Missouri, Germany, Norway, Montana – these are just some of the places our coaches have lived and learned and led. We are thrilled to bring them all and their collection of experiences across the globe together at Augsburg this August. We are prayerfully holding them up and the new places they will be called to lead and serve this coming year as coaches.

Read more about our Innovation Coaches in their own words.



As we complete site visits with Track 1 leaders, we are encouraged by the curiosity and hopefulness present in each place. Track 1 faith communities are eager to begin a four-year partnership of accompanying, interpreting and discerning towards contextual life-giving proclamations of the gospel in relationship with young adults. Track 3 faith communities will be meeting together in July as they prepare to engage as learning partners with Riverside Innovation Hub and our cohort of faith community leaders during the life of the project.

The faith communities selected – while all local to the Twin Cities – include a dynamic mix of contexts. The place and neighborhood for each faith community presents a diverse landscape to experiment with and learn about ministry with young adults. Learning more deeply the stories of the neighborhood and discerning what a faithful response with the gospel looks, sounds and feels like in these places, will take shape in unique ways among each faith community. Large suburbs with professional networks, multi-cultural faith communities in urban and first ring suburban contexts, neighborhoods of diverse faith traditions, contexts filled with thousands of young adult students at local universities and colleges, neighborhoods where young adults transition in and out frequently, contexts that span the economic spectrum and congregations that do as well.

The blend of faith communities stepping on board as partners creates a promising cohort of faithful leaders and learners. In addition to their unique contexts and stories, our faith communities all share a hopeful curiosity for what the Spirit is up to in the lives of young adults and a humble honesty about the challenges present in our communities. We look forward to learning together about they ways our faith communities are called to shape life-giving ministry and relationships in response to the neighborhood.


Bethany Lutheran Church – Minneapolis 

Bethlehem Lutheran Church – South Minneapolis

Church of All Nations Presbyterian – Columbia Heights

Faith Lutheran – Coon Rapids

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church – South Minneapolis

Fabric – Minneapolis

New City Church – Minneapolis

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church – St. Paul

Pilgrim Lutheran Church – St. Paul

Redeemer Lutheran Church – North Minneapolis

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church – Eden Prairie

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church – Minneapolis

St. Timothy Lutheran Church – St. Paul

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church – Hopkins 

Trinity Lutheran Church – Minneapolis

University Lutheran Church of Hope – Minneapolis



Elim Lutheran Church – Robbinsdale

Hamline United Methodist Church – St. Paul

Intertwine – NE Minneapolis

New Salem Baptist – Minneapolis

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church – St. Paul

St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church – Plymouth

St. Philip’s Lutheran Church – Fridley

Westwood Lutheran Church – St. Louis Park

Zion Lutheran Church – Anoka




Farewell Margaret

Our Riverside Innovation Hub staff has been blessed to work with Rev. Margaret Kelly this past year as our Hub Coordinator. We celebrated her last day this week with Riverside Innovation Hub. She has been instrumental in supporting the research phase of the project, application process with congregations and hiring of our Innovation Coaches. As a team member, she has brought a deep passion for the church, a commitment to the work of Riverside Innovation Hub and a welcomed witty humor to our first year. We value her partnership and friendship and wish her all the best as she moves into full-time social work with chidren’s mental health.

Mararet has written some final thoughts to share as she moves on from Augsburg…

It is both with sadness and excitement that I have resigned my position with the Riverside Innovation Hub. The work the Hub is doing is incredibly important. It has been my great pleasure to play a support role to Dr. Jeremy Myers and Kristina Fruge. The theological thoughtfulness that they approach the work of innovation in ministry is without compare. Our church is in good hands when I see this project taking shape under their leadership. It is hard work and it is good work. Thanks be to God for courageous leaders who risk trusting the Holy Spirit.

I am leaving to pursue full time work as a clinical social worker. I am returning to mental health case management, but this time with children who have a diagnosed mental illness and need extra support to stay in the community. I will be working in Ramsey County and look forward to utilizing this part of my training. My passion is the intersection of faith, addiction, and mental illness. This is one of the ways I pursue that passion.

I look forward to hearing the stories of the congregations who have been emboldened by the Riverside Innovation Hub.


Rev. Margaret Kelly

Margaret’s last day

Authenticity and Christian community

In our learning with faith communities and young adults, the word “authenticity” found its way into many conversations and interviews. There are big important words that sometimes can risk losing their impact as they become more commonplace in our vocabulary. Authenticity is one of these words and it is worth pausing and digging deeper into how this word lands and shapes Christian faith and community.

A big thank you to Rev. Mark S. Hanson, with Augsburg’s Christensen Center for Vocation and former bishop of the ELCA, for putting thought to paper and sharing his reflections on the notion of “authenticity” with our learning community.


Reflections on Authenticity

by Rev. Mark S. Hanson

What words would you use to describe your congregation? When I ask that question I hear a variety of responses but rarely the word “authentic”. Yet when I listen to young adults describe the communities they value, authentic is the word I often hear.

It is more than a choice of words. I hear in the longing for authentic community a criticism of churches that seem more preoccupied with institutional survival, denominational identities, theological categories and structures of authority than with being communities of faith in which one can be vulnerable in one’s humanity and transparent about one’s identity without fear of judgment or exclusion.

It is understandable that a generation that has grown up with intense debates and divisions over who is fully welcome to participate in and lead Christian communities would long for communities that begin not with establishing criteria for acceptance but with a commitment to a radical hospitality that welcomes all.

Furthermore, I hear in the calling for authenticity a rejection of the pervasiveness of a culture of self-deception and manipulation. A culture that is often labelled “post-truth” is rejected as being antithetical to authentic community in which “my truth” and “your truth” are heard and respected. The violation of trust through sexual misconduct by those in positions of authority contributes to this distrust and disconnect from the church.

What might the longing for authenticity mean for a congregation? I believe it calls for a clear commitment that our first priority is to attentive listening rather than “we need more young people in order to help our church survive.” The yearning for authenticity begins with empathy for the challenging circumstances of another person’s life. It calls for appreciative curiosity and compassion rather than judgment. For many, authentic community will occur only after trust is established, expectations are named and wounds from painful relationships begin to heal.

Is there validity in the perception that in worship our words of confession and absolution, our pleas for Christ’s mercy and our prayers of intercession can be heard as more formulaic than heartfelt, more prescribed than authentic? The desire for authentic worship calls for more conversation than simply offering the option of contemporary or traditional worship.

I do not find it helpful to label people “Nones”. Think about what we are doing. We are describing a person as “no-one” in relationship to how we define ourselves as people of faith, religious, church members etc. An authentic community begins by letting others describe themselves in terms of their own convictions and self-understanding.

In the longing for authentic community, I hear a rejection of a culture that ascribes power and privilege on the basis of economic prosperity, gender and racial identity, sexual orientation and citizenship. I think Millennials are seeking communities –Christian and others- that are fully human which is to say communities growing more and more into the image of God whose vulnerability led God to experience the fullness of our humanity in Jesus. It is understandable why many young adults seem far more interested in Jesus than in the church. For Jesus embodies authenticity. In Jesus birth, in his tensions with family, followers and those in authority, in his weeping and pleading for mercy and in his death we see our own humanity. Jesus faithfully, graciously and tenaciously extended the embrace of God’s reign of forgiveness, love and reconciliation to those deemed unworthy, unacceptable and unlovable. It is Jesus who calls us and the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be the Beloved Community for which so many yearn.

As I listen and learn from those calling for greater authenticity I want to explore questions such as these:

  • When authenticity becomes the highest ideal for which one strives and the basis upon which others are judged, what becomes of a sense of wonder, mystery and humility in response to humanity’s complexity and capacity for both good and evil?
  • How do we create safe space for people to speak the truth of their lives without making authenticity, vulnerability and transparency rather than the grace of God freely given on account of Christ the basis for our being community?
  • How is social media serving the longing for authentic community and changing faith communities?
  • Is it possible that a priority given to striving for authenticity can lead to a life more turned in on myself than turned outward to my neighbor and God’s creation? How can the focus on authenticity keep us connected to those for whom daily bread, the cessation of violence and the search for a safe haven is their daily task?
  • How do we explore the tension created by a culture described as “post-truth”, a generation yearning for authentic community calling us to respect “my truth” and “your truth” and the gospel proclamation that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life?
  • How does baptism, the sacrament of beginning and belonging, shape the yearning for authenticity in personal lives and community?

I am grateful that the Riverside Innovation Hub provides a marvellous context for continued conversation on how a longing for greater authenticity might transform lives of faith, communities and ministries.

Rev. Mark S. Hanson

Christensen Center for Vocation

Augsburg University

Riverside Innovation Hub Spring Seminar

MARCH 12 @ 6:00-9:00PM



Please RSVP by March 5.


RSVP for Hub Seminar


The Riverside Innovation Hub at Augsburg University is excited to share the preliminary findings from our research this fall. The insights from listening and observing twelve different faith communities in the Twin Cities will be shared from 6-9PM on March 12, 2018. Find out what was surprising, what was exciting, what brought us hope, and what new questions came from the research.

Learn about the connections between relationships, generations, and the intersections in which young adults live out their faith. Discover the commonalities between the diverse faith communities. The details were different, but the things that worked were remarkably similar.

Participants at our first Hub Seminar will not only hear about major insights from our research but also have an opportunity to reflect with others about the implications these insights have in their own ministry contexts.

Faith communities applying to be a part of our four-year Innovative Ministry Partnership would be encouraged to attend with a team from their community.

Dinner will be served. Parking permits for campus will be emailed the week before the seminar.

Hope to see you at the seminar!





February Information Session Added!

In case scheduling conflicts or massive amounts of snow kept you from attending our January Information Sessions, we’ve added another one in February!

TUES. FEBRUARY 6 @ 9:30-11:00AM


Our application process opened January 15, 2018 for the Riverside Innovation Hub’s  Innovative Ministry Partnership to faith communities interested in deepening their work and ministry with young adults in their context. The information sessions will include an overview of the application process for the first half hour and the remaining time will be for questions and discussion. Come for as much or as little as is helpful.

We hope you will join us!

Register for Info Session