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The Pause Button

Written by Adrienne Kuchler Eldridge, AYTI Program Director

 

Pause. /pôz/

A rock with a pause symbol on it with the blue sky behind it. a temporary stop in action or speech. 

 

So many times in my work as a youth director, in my job as a high school career counselor, and my life as a mama, I have found myself pushing the pause button to explain a scene in a movie, describe the steps in a college application, or decipher a lyric in a song. According to Wikipedia, the pause button was invented in the 1960s “during that decade for use on reel-to-reel audio recorder controls” and was intended as an “indicator which stops operation intermittently and keeps the equipment in operating mode”. Today, we only have to look at the little two line symbol to know that once we hit that button, it’s just a momentary pause in whatever we are doing.

This summer, the staff at the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute had to make the difficult decision to cancel our summer institute due to low enrollment. This is the first time this significant decision has been made in our history. We are grieving. And yet with the hopefulness toward the future, we have energy for listening, dreaming, and creating. In order to do that, we are choosing to see this point in time as a pause in our regular communications. This pause will allow us to lean in, stop operations intermittently, and keep our program in operating mode as we discern the next steps on our journey. We are not “out” of this pandemic yet and we are not returning to any old “normal”. Our congregations, our communities, and our young people are experiencing a shift. In response, we are choosing to accompany our congregational partners as we first listen and then learn a different way forward. 

We believe wholeheartedly in the mission of the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI). To inspire emerging high school theologians to observe, interpret, and engage their world through Christ for the sake of their neighbor. Our participants learn how to reflect theologically on culture and find meaningful ways to respond to the call from God that happens in this process of reflection. 

Our social media posts and stories will be on pause for the summer as we listen to all that is happening, moving, and changing around us and for the young people we serve. We will be spending our time accompanying congregational partners, learning from them about the changing landscape of the young people they serve, and discerning next steps for mutual aid in these partnerships. We will be thinking theologically about our work at the institute and discovering meaningful ways to respond to God’s call in the process of this reflection. We look forward to sharing what we have learned through this important time of intentional reflection later this fall. 

How is God calling you to press pause this summer? 

AYTI will see you in September! 

 

Daily Devotions: God’s People [re]connect!

Each year for the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute, daily themes are chosen that are grounded in a biblical text. During the months of training and preparation for the Institute, the college mentors engage in theological reflection as a team and dig deeper into the biblical texts together. Through their leadership development with staff and the Institute chaplain, they read, plan, write, and eventually lead daily devotions for participants using these verses. The following themes and verses are now this year’s devotions. 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Separation

Genesis 3:1-13

Covenant

Genesis 9:8-17

Reunion 

Luke 15:1-10

Breaking Bread 

John 6:1-15

Companionship 

Luke 24:13-35

2022 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to Pastor John Schwehn and Pastoral Intern Tori Remer for their guidance and support as mentorsDevos 2022 Title Image prepared to write these devotions. The hours of conversation, prayer, theological reflection, and support that were given throughout the process is gratefully appreciated. We are proud of our college mentors and their work this spring.

PERMISSION

AYTI offers these themes and devotions for use by our partners. All credit should be given to the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute when using this material. Thank you. 

MISSION OF AYTI

The Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) inspires emerging high school theologians to observe, interpret, and engage their world through Christ for the sake of their neighbor. Our participants learn how to reflect theologically on culture and find meaningful ways to respond to the call from God that happens in this process of reflection. 

To achieve this, we provide an intense, one-week residential experience with a new theme every year. Students read theological texts and experience a college classroom, participate in worship, explore diverse community-based learning, and have intentional small group conversations led by college mentors. Following their week on campus, students write a theological paper on the theme and their paper is published in a journal to be shared with congregations and the wider community.  www.augsburg.edu/ayti

Continue reading “Daily Devotions: God’s People [re]connect!”

Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: A Place for Curiosity in the Public Square

In the Christensen Center for Vocation, our staff team equips and accompanies students, staff, faculty, and ministry leaders as they engage in place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good. One of the initiatives that lives this mission is the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI). 

THE BEGINNING…

The first version of what is known now as AYTI, began in 2009 when Augsburg University received its first Youth Theology Network grant from the Lilly Endowment. With over 100 schools across the country leading theological education and vocational discernment experiences for high school students, we are grateful to hold this history of commitment to vocational discernment with young people. 

TODAY…

And today, the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) is an annual summer program for high school students (9th-12th grades). This experience aims to offer young leaders an opportunity for place-based vocational discernment around a theological and leadership focused theme. Students who attend AYTI take their questions and curiosity to the public square to learn, listen, pray, and play on the Augsburg campus, in the neighborhood, and in the city. Participants engage in daily reflection with a theologian, community based learning, small group relationship building, and worship. This commitment to wonder about how God is calling us to the common good for the sake of the world, is the reason why high school students leave AYTI inspired to be God’s hands and feet in the world. 

THE INSTITUTE…

On the ground, AYTI is a place where staff and college mentors work diligently to create an inclusive and welcoming space for high school students to get really curious about all their big questions about God. And these days, and especially in these last few pandemic filled years, our young people have had a lot of big questions about God, the church and our call to be neighbor, racial injustice and how they should respond, mental health needs and the struggle to connect, a sense that they don’t belong, death and dying, health and living.  Continue reading “Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: A Place for Curiosity in the Public Square”

RIH Cohort Reflection: Springtime is a Time of Being Slowly Led by the Spirit

Our Riverside Innovation Hub Lead Facilitator Geoffrey Gill reflects on the past month’s cohort meetings with congregations. Geoffrey shares wisdom and learnings from these important gatherings. 


The word spring comes from old English meaning to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow. It’s roots go back to Sanskrit sprhayati “desires eagerly,” and Greek spekhesthai “to hurry up”. (Etymonline)

Spring felt like it took its sweet time this year. It was like expecting a child to be born and then the child is not ready to come out yet. You can’t force these things, you take it one moment at a time and breath. As we breathe into the fullness of spring and our work becomes more and more rooted, it is clear that this work requires us to slow down, to be patient and to move at the pace of a growing flower. It may look slow and arduous at times, and this is the work of sowing seeds; we are like community gardeners for the public church and we are learning that this projectA red tulip in a garden bed. moves at the pace of building trustworthy relationships. You can’t force this to work, and you can’t just bypass any important part because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t understand it. What I’m finding inside of most congregations is this sense of needing things to speed up, there is this deep eagerness to spring forth and jump into action. And on the other hand God is calling us to slow down. Yes, move forward and take action, and don’t move so fast that you can’t smell the spring flowers. Don’t move so fast that you forget or bypass why you’re even doing this work. This time and space of work requires us to trust the flow of the process; to do all we can and then let the spirit do what it’s capable of doing.

So, In-between our large learning events RIH hosts smaller cohort meetings. These meetings focus on the art forms of the public church framework. All of the cohorts met this April. The intentions of these meetings were to build and deepen relational trust, reflect on the process of sharing learnings with the leadership in each congregation and expand more into the art form: interpretation. 

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2021-2022 Christensen Scholars

Today we are celebrating the 2021-2022 cohort of Christensen Scholars who are wrapping up their year together. Up to ten students are selected each academic year to participate in the Christensen Scholars Seminar. This program provides a unique opportunity for students to discuss and explore theology, faith, and vocation in a small, supportive cohort. Each Christensen Scholars is also connected with a community-based learning experience designed to enhance this seminar experience. You can learn more about our Christensen Scholars program here


Headshot of Renee Christensen outside in front of a tree with pick flowers

Renee Christensen ‘23 

Major: Theology and Public Leadership, Minor: Psychology

Hometown: Shafer, MN.

 

I joined Christensen Scholars because I was drawn to the common interest with those who want to talk about theology and embrace the questions and the “tough stuff” that comes along with theology. Throughout my time as a Christensen Scholar, I have learned SO much about my own faith and from the other participants. I am so glad that I decided to be a part of this great program. 

 


Headshot of Ed Loubaki standing in front of a red background turned to the side and smiling Ed F. Loubaki ‘23 

Major: Biology, Minor: Religion 

Hometown: New Hope, MN.

 

I joined the Christensen Scholars program out of the belief that I was going to come out being more community-oriented and to know more about what others’ values are in their walk with God. While that was accomplished, I also learned more about my faith and vocation in a world that is ever-changing. Through Christensen scholars, I learned the values of taking care and loving of our neighbors as Christ would do. The world as we know needs so much love and community whether that is giving out hygiene kits, washing feet, taking blood pressure, or even just listening to individuals, I am proud and happiest to say that through Christensen Scholars I am able to be the change I wish to see.

 


Headshot of Anaiya Martin inside in the sunlight with her hand by the side of her headAnaiya Martin ‘23

 Major(s): Pre-Law concentration in Political Science

Hometown: Brooklyn Park, MN. 

 

I joined Christensen Scholars because I am interested in opportunities that come with learning about vocation and spirituality more in-depth. I feel learning about the evolution of religion helps me re-evaluate and grow spiritually within myself. I am grateful for the openness and expansion of free-thinking in this class both inside and outside of being present for Christen Scholars. Joining has been a beautiful way to connect with others in my community more intimately, and I feel this is molding me into the kind of person I am proud to say I am becoming. Intersectionality is critical to recognize and is respected and encouraged in each conversation I engage in, especially since becoming a Christensen Scholar. I am grateful for this opportunity, much more than I can sufficiently express. It has been an outstanding contribution to my life.

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Mentors for the 2022 Youth Theology Institute

One gift we have each year at the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI), is hiring current college students to train and lead as mentors during our annual summer institute. These students come to AYTI with energy and gifts for serving young people who are curious about how God is working in their lives and the world. These leaders spend the spring semester developing skills for small group facilitation, studying and researching biblical stories to prepare to lead a daily devotion with our participants, and honing their leadership skills to provide a safe and welcoming place for the high school participants during the institute.

2022 AYTI Mentors being goofy!
2022 AYTI Mentors being goofy!

We are excited to introduce to you the 2022 AYTI Mentors. They are such a fun group and we know the high school participants are going to enjoy spending the week of AYTI with them!

Continue reading “Mentors for the 2022 Youth Theology Institute”

2022 Youth Theology Institute Theme and Instructor

The Christensen Center for Vocation is proud to present the 2022 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. After two years of virtual programming, we are looking forward to returning to in-person programming on campus at Augsburg University. We will continue to follow recommended guidelines for health and safety and will welcome a new group of high school participants to reside on campus for this year’s institute. We are delighted to welcome two Augsburg University professors as co-instructors this year to lead the institute participants in theological exploration through a college classroom experience as well as experiential learning in the community. Participants will be led by college mentors who will engage small group learning and relationship building through daily devotions and experiential learning. Together we will worship together with guest liturgists and musicians from the Twin Cities and explore the neighborhood as we seek to understand how God is calling us to [reconnect] and live in unity.

SAVE THE DATE

Sunday, June 26th – Friday, July 1st, 2022

THEME

God’s People [re]connect!

participants at youth theology institute

We believe God invites people to live together in unity, a beloved community. As we emerge from two years of change and uncertainty, we invite participants to ask big questions about connection and disconnection.

Continue reading “2022 Youth Theology Institute Theme and Instructor”

Youth are Rising in Faith and Leadership Today

AYTI participants, Zoe (left) and Dinkenesh (right)
AYTI participants, Zoe (left) and Dinkenesh (right)

For years, I had wanted to nominate youth to attend the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute, but had not yet been able to have one attend. Then, finally, my own daughter was midway through high school and we were in the midst of Covid. She applied for several opportunities in the summer of 2020 when she was looking toward her junior year of high school, and AYTI was the only program that found a way to offer their summer program online. She was not certain that she was prepared for a week of theological engagement or a week that resulted in writing a paper, but she was willing to give it a try. We promised to support her.

Continue reading “Youth are Rising in Faith and Leadership Today”

Starting the Year Together

Eight Augsburg University students, both AYTI mentors and participants, gather together for chapel in September 2021.
Eight Augsburg University students, both AYTI mentors and participants, gather together for chapel in September 2021.

The Augsburg University community is in its first few weeks of in-person classes after a year and a half of being apart from one another due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. The last two summers the participants, mentors, and staff of the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) have gathered for our annual event virtually. This means that some people had not been able to meet each other in-person. This week however, we got to meet one another in person, some for the first time ever, and others for the first time in a long time. AYTI mentors and participants, who are current Auggies, gathered to connect as the semester begins. We ate donuts, told stories, attended chapel together, and celebrated the AYTI community.

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Celebrating Young Theologians

The Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) is one of the many initiatives of the Christensen Center for Vocation. AYTI inspires emerging high school theologians to observe, interpret, and engage their world through Christ for the sake of their neighbor. Our participants learn how to reflect theologically on culture and find meaningful ways to respond to the call from God that happens in this process of reflection. Following their week at the institute, students write a theological paper on the theme that is compiled into a journal and shared with congregations and the wider community.

At the end of June we wrapped up the 2021 institute, and it was incredible! So many amazing young people were excited about our theme, And It Was Very Good: Affirming and Advocating for Gender and Sexual Diversity in God’s Creation. We welcomed instructor Deacon Ross Murray to guide us through a week of curriculum that focused on faithful advocacy that allows LGBTQ people to be full members of society, reading the bible through a queer lens, assessing our congregations using the Reconciling Works Building an Inclusive Church tools, and telling compelling personal stories rooted in theology. Our young people engaged in deep discussion, thoughtful reflection, and learned what it means to be a young theologian.

Continue reading “Celebrating Young Theologians”