Making new connections and building on those relationships can be really exciting but also really scary. I got the opportunity to make new connections with high school youth at the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: The Confluence! This program was filled with connections between our story, God’s story and The World’s story. We learned about our own spiritual gifts, practiced vocational discernment and heard stories from the neighbors in our community. Many memories, laughs, smiles, and even cries were shared. All of these things influenced why I chose to be a mentor this year. Having these connections with people who come from all over is a really important part of who we are. We get to hear each other’s stories, learn from them and grow because of them.
This weeklong program had a lot to offer to young people. However, as this week progressed there were some challenges that arose for us mentors. “Having the energy, the patience, and the positive attitude around the participants was the most challenging part” (A 2023 Mentor). But not only were there challenges, there were exciting moments. A fellow mentor said, “It was exciting to see the participants interact with guest pastors, speakers and teachers. Their curiosity was so inspiring and fun to watch.” As mentors, we realized that it was truly amazing to get to know each other and all the participants. We were able to create a relationship with everyone at this program. By having our own small groups, we got to know and understand participants at a deeper level spiritually and we were able to help each other grow in our faith”. Continue reading “The Confluence 2023 Mentor Experience”→
What a gift to host the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: the Confluence! Our souls are refreshed, hearts are full, and bodies exhausted. On Sunday, June 25th, 20 high school students from Northfield, to North Minneapolis, to North Dakota and beyond, arrived on campus to spend a week focused on vocation, think theologically, and ask big questions about God’s purpose for their lives. This was the first in-person Institute we have been able to host in four years, and it was an incredible experience. Young people arrived eager to meet new people and share their stories, excited to learn more about themselves and the world around them, and dig deeper into God’s story.
WHAT DID WE DO?
Participants stayed on campus in Anderson Hall and spent the week eating in the dining hall. We woke up every morning and started the day with a devotion prepared by college mentors. Participants spent 1.5 hours each morning in a college classroom with a college professor, digging into theology and exploring the same biblical texts offered for daily devotions. We built relationships with others in our small groups, we played games, we told stories. We got out into the community and we ate delicious food. Every evening we worshiped, in unique and different ways each day. A favorite of all participants was Dinner Church where we shared communion, a meal, and a little karaoke! The song “Wade in the Water” was a constant throughout the week (Refrain: wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water. Don’t you know that God’s gonna trouble the water.)
One of the ways the Christensen Center for Vocation is engaging in vocational discernment with students is through the hiring and training of college mentors as facilitators for the annual Augsburg Youth Theology Institute. Mentors spend the spring semester discerning their own God given gifts, practicing small group facilitation, digging into theological texts with curiosity for how they might give us some insight into the questions we have about how to show up as neighbors in our own neighborhoods, churches, schools, and communities.
This year’s mentors are engaged, curious, and determined to create a community of belonging for our participants. And that means focusing on their own development. They are practicing leading prayer, asking questions, developing their strengths, understanding their spiritual gifts, and digging into texts. Stay tuned for our upcoming social media introductions and highlights from the end of the month training retreat – follow up on Facebook or Instagram to learn more!
Do you know high school students who would benefit from an experience like this?
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. In June of each year, we invite high school students to spend a week living on campus with our college mentors, building relationships and getting to know one another, exploring theology and discerning vocation through experiential learning opportunities. Our hope is for them to gain deeper insight into who they are and the life they want to live as children of God. This learning happens through many forms: academic inquiry in the classroom, community engaged learning, a variety of worship styles and spiritual practices.
College mentors play an important role as facilitator and guide for the high school participants throughout the week as everyone leans into opportunities for vocational discernment.