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Written by Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge, Institute Program Director

Since 2005, Augsburg University has been gathering high school students from all over the country for an annual weeklong on-campus experience focused on theological exploration and vocational discernment. This gathering is  one of 90+ Youth Theology Network programs across the country.  This program is a collaborative effort sponsored by Augsburg University’s Christensen Center for Vocation and supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc. What an incredible gift to be able to do this work with young people.


These last three years, young people have navigated online schooling, virtual meetings, programs ending and not returning, friends graduating and not returning, the staff that supported them being laid off or leaving positions. This has been difficult. We know that.

The impact of the pandemic has confirmed what we have known all along about young people, they want a place to belong and make sense of how to use the gifts God has given them for a more loving and just world. The places and spaces where they could co-create that beautiful world were shut down and in some cases never returned. Coming back from that feels like starting over. And that is hard. Yet, the youth theology institute at Augsburg has continued to be a place that offers hope and community for high school participants and college mentors. Read one story here from a former Augsburg student, institute mentor, and past participant. 


We have always known that attending our program is an additional opportunity for young people. High school students are competing for for multiple activities demanding their time. We offer a place where they can authentically be themselves and the experience of belonging. No matter who they are, where they come from, how they identify, who they love – God has created them in God’s image and their story matters here.

This year more than ever we are reminded of our roots as a university; we are guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran Church and rooted in the place based neighborhood of in the Friends of the Mississippi image of the confluenceCedar-Riverside neighborhood and alongside the Mississippi River. God has called us to this place and our vocation is to learn to love and serve our neighbor here. And we know how to teach young people to do that in their communities and neighborhoods.

This summer, we are excited to launch a new name for our summer Institute and bring the story back home:

THE CONFLUENCE  is an experience that empowers young people to be curious about how their personal story, the world’s story, and God’s story flow together to create a loving and just world


We will start with your story, weave in the world’s story, and be guided by God’s story that all flow together. A confluence is defined as “the junction of two rivers, especially rivers of approximately equal width” and “an act or process of merging.” There are many confluence’s in our lives, this summer’s Institute will be just one place to explore how those stories flow together. This experience offers young leaders an opportunity to learn to love themselves more fully through discovering the gifts God has given them. map of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Together in community, high school participants learn how to practice vocational discernment through a variety of experiences including:

  • intentional community building with small groups led by college mentors
  • daily spiritual practices of prayer, journaling, first word, and worship
  • learning how spiritual gifts and strengths inventories can deepen our understanding of the gifts God has us
  • reading books and articles that invite academic inquiry as a way of understanding theology and vocation
  • community based learning in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and the greater Twin Cities


Our hope is that by the end of the CONFLUENCE, each participant will have gained a deeper insight into who they are and the life they want to lead as children of God. These stories all flow together – it’s simple.


Applications open on February 1st, 2023!

The Institute offers young people an environment with the freedom to discover who God has called them to be through building meaningful relationships, engaging in community, and practicing vocational discernment. 

Who are you inviting to attend the CONFLUENCE?

Which high school students do you know that are longing for a faith community that will fully accept them?

We’ve got just the place for you!

Apply for the CONFLUENCE today!