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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!

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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.


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


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.

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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.

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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.

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Meet Our Newest Team Members!

Meet Danielle! headshot of Danielle Tucker

She is the new Program Coordinator for Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI). She was born in Minneapolis and has spent most of her life here.
In 2014, she graduated from Augsburg University with a degree in Educational Studies. She also holds an Associate of Liberal Arts from Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

“I love Jesus and engaging with youth and young adults for his purposes on this side of heaven. I am an active member of my home church, New Salem Missionary Baptist Church where I serve as a Youth Bible Study teacher and for Lead our Youth/Young Adult Mentorship Initiative. I believe we were created to live relationally and hold sacred the relationships I have been blessed to experience in my youth servant leader role both in the church and in my community as well as where they intersect. When I am not with my family or serving Gods’ people, I enjoy crafting, curating, creating for my business “Created to Create” and listening to audiobooks.”

Meet Lara! headshot of Lara Moll

She was hired in January as the Communications Coordinator for the Hub. Her primary responsibilities include running social media, developing storytelling platforms, and updating the blogs and websites as we begin accompanying the next wave of congregations.

Lara graduated with her B.A from Concordia College in 2019 with a double major in theatre art and communication studies. In June, she will be graduating with her M.A from Luther Seminary in Children, Youth and Family Studies. In her free time, she is an editor for Working Preacher podcasts, a director/choreographer for children’s theatre, and a very involved dog mom to her best boy, Winston.

“Since joining the team, I’ve seen passion, patience and a push toward the public church framework. This Hub is doing incredible work to accompany congregations as they learn to thrive beyond the walls of their buildings. I look forward to sharing their stories in unique ways that showcase their transformations since we started our walk together.”


Meet the 2021 Youth Theology Institute Mentors

Each year the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute (AYTI) hires a handful of college students to be leaders for the upcoming summer institute. With the goal of developing a campus wide student leadership culture, AYTI collaborated with other organizations on campus to develop an application, interview, and training process for students interested in working leadership positions on campus. This was such a powerful witness to the ways in which Augsburg’s mission is lived out in our community.

AYTI Mentors joined Orientation Leaders, Strommen Center Peer Advisors, AugSem Leaders, and more in a semester long class for credit that served as their leadership training for their job as AYTI Mentors. In this course all students worked to develop knowledge and skills utilizing the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. This model helps students understand their individual values (consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment), the values of the group (collaboration, common purpose, and controversy with civility), and societal and community values. The class training also focused on topics such as identity, intersectionality, anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy, brave space, disability as difference, and becoming interfaith allies. All students were able to complete the Intercultural Development Inventory and reflect on the ways in which they show up as leaders in all spaces and places.

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Augsburg Student Reflects on the Youth Theology Institute

Grace’s Journey

Augsburg student Grace smiling in a field
Grace Porter, 4th year Augsburg student

This story has been written by Grace Porter, a 4th year Augsburg student studying Theology & Public Leadership with a concentration in Youth Studies and a minor in Music. Grace will graduate in December 2021. 

I had just finished my junior year in high school, and I was starting to think about my future when I discovered that my love for God and my passion for working with young people could be an actual job! My youth pastor at the time said to me, “I have a friend at Augsburg College who runs a summer theology program for high schoolers, you should check that out!” From the moment I stepped foot onto the Augsburg campus, I knew that this place was special.

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Book Launch: Made, Known, Loved by Ross Murray

CCV Endorsement for Author and Alumni Ross Murray

We are thrilled to endorse Ross Murray’s brand new book, Made, Known, Loved: developing LGBTQ-Inclusive Youth Ministry, available on April 20th on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble.

cover of the book Made, Known, Loved by Ross Murray
Made, Known, Loved book cover by Ross Murray

Made, Known, Loved shows congregations how to create a program that affirms LGBTQ youth in their faith and their identity, accepts and welcomes diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and equips future leaders for the church and the LGBTQ community. This book is filled with personal anecdotes of successes, failures, and important learnings. You will learn from Murray’s twenty years of experience doing ministry with LGBTQ youth through The Naming Project.

This book is not LGBTQ apologetics for the Christian crowd. You won’t hear an explanation of Leviticus 18. Instead, you will read scripture passages as it supports a new way to view and include LGBTQ youth in your youth ministry.

This book is not for you if you are still deciding if LGBTQ people are made, known, and loved by God, just as they are. This is for those who recognize the beautiful creation LGBTQ people and how best to minister to them while they are still in the identity-formation stage.

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