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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!”

Interview with Adjunct Religion Instructor and Author: Chris Stedman

Quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjery Williams

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Reconnection 

As we sink deeper into our June theme of RECONNECTION, we are excited to share the great privilege we have at Augsburg University to stay connected with incredible people like Chris Stedman (he/him/his). Chris is a 2008 graduate from Augsburg and is now a writer, activist, and professor who currently teaches in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, MN. 

chrisstedman
Picture of author Chris Stedman

He is also the creator, writer, and host of Unread, named one of the best podcasts of 2021 by the Guardian, Vulture, HuffPost, Mashable, and the CBC. Additionally, Chris is the author of IRL (2020) and Faitheist (2012) and has written popular essays for outlets including the Atlantic, Pitchfork, BuzzFeed, VICE, and the Washington Post. Previously the founding director of the Yale Humanist Community, he also served as a humanist chaplain at Harvard University and a trainer and content developer for Interfaith Youth Core, he has most recently served as an Interfaith Fellow with the Interfaith at Augsburg center. 

In Chris’ most recent book, “IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives” – which will be coming out in a new edition this August – we are invited to get curious about what it means to have connected lives both in real time and online. For so long, online sharing was seen as shallow and disconnected from truth and honesty. Chris invites readers into the possibility that we can find connection in those spaces and that through that experience we might experience fuller reconnection in our real lives. 

We caught up with Chris and asked him a few questions about his book and the concept of reconnection. Thanks so much Chris for sharing your wisdom and insight.

Interview with Chris

WHAT DO THE IDEAS CONNECTION & RECONNECTION MEAN TO YOU? 

We’ve spent the last few years navigating what has been, for most of us, an entirely unfamiliar landscape when it comes to connection, disconnection, and reconnection. 

In the early days of the pandemic, for example, I was working from home and living alone, so for the first time in my life all of my interactions were digitally mediated. Though I’m probably more online than the average person, it’s impossible to overstate what an immense shift this was. It gave me more of an appreciation for the internet’s ability to connect us in unprecedented ways, but also of its limitations, and our need to not only connect but also disconnect.

Even before the pandemic arrived, we lived in an age of constant connection, where we spend more and more time on digital platforms designed to monopolize our attention. Because of this, we have to be intentional about taking a step back from them sometimes—not because life online is inherently fake or inherently harmful, as some argue, but because we need the kind of perspective we can only get when we’re alone.

Continue reading “Interview with Adjunct Religion Instructor and Author: Chris Stedman”

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”

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”

CHRISTENSEN CENTER FOR VOCATION STUDENT ASSISTANTS

Angelique Young ‘25 (she/her)

Major: Social work, Minor: PsychologyStudent Worker Angel Young

Hometown: Brooklyn Park, MN. 

 

I am one of the Student Assistants at the Christensen Center and Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. Having a positive impact on others is very important to me, from my work to my schooling to my personal life. I have worked for organizations like City Hall and Second Harvest that value helping others. It is also why I accepted my current position with the CCV and AYTI. I value gaining experience and opportunities that will benefit me in the future. 

 


AYTI Student Worker Renee Christensen

Renee Christensen ‘23 (she/her)

Major: Theology and public leadership, Minor: Psychology

Hometown: Shafer, MN.

 

I am one of the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute Student Assistants, and have worked with AYTI for 3 years! I was lucky enough to attend AYTI as a participant and fell in love with Augsburg and this program! I am so excited to share all of the great ways AYTI has impacted the lives of youth!

 


 

CCV Worker Jam PashyayevaJam Pashyayeva ‘25 (she/her)

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Capital of Azerbaijan, Baku.

 

I am an international student at Augsburg. I am good at a range of different skills such as cooking, writing, and all sorts of sports (cycling, tennis, basketball, swimming and etc.). I know English, Russian, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani languages on an exceptional level and currently learning French and Italian. I worked as a personal translator for KoçSistem Company Director. Art was always my passion since a very young age that’s why I decided that working in the sphere that will require my skills and this position at CCV as part-time work is the best opportunity to start learning and getting on the right track for my future career.

 


Student Worker Aaron Puent

Aaron Puent ‘23 (he/him)

Major: Religion w/ Concentration in Global Religions and Interfaith Studies

Hometown: La Crosse, WI.

 

Working in CCV is important to me because it combines my passion for studying theology with my interest in helping others find the spiritual and intellectual tools that they need. I began working with CCV last year when I was an AYTI mentor. The following fall, I was able to join as a recruiter for the Public Church Scholars program. Because of this work, I can help others find what they need for future success, and I am still learning about Augsburg, its affiliations, and the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in the background.  

 


 

Student Worker Sarah RunckSarah Runck ‘24 (she/her) 

 

Major: Music Therapy 

Hometown: New Ulm MN

 

I love to play instruments which include flute, piano, guitar, and ukulele. I also grew up on a farm where I always liked to be outside and go on walks. Along with this, I was involved with my church growing up. Some church things included helping with VBS, teaching Religious education to 2nd graders, helping with music, and helping with festivals. Faith has always been a strong passion of mine and working at CCV has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith and learn about other religions. I am excited to keep learning and to hear more stories!

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”

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”

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.”