Skip to content »

Holy Yearnings, Holy Listening, Holy Partnerships: A Peer-to-Peer Young Adult Ministry Initiative

"There may be nothing more important for the future of the church now than the capacity for relevant and responsive outreach to and in support of young adults." - Dr. Lallene J. Rector, Garrett-Evangelical President

YAI Videos


YAI Videos

YAI 2020 Report Cover

YAI 2020 Report


YAI 2020 Report

Holy Yearning, Holy Listening, Holy Partnerships March 2018

YAI 2018 Report


YAI 2018 Report

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, in partnership with Lilly Endowment Inc., is engaging in a bold initiative to help churches launch new ministries that will attract young adults – a population that congregations today are struggling to reach. With financial support of 1.5 million dollars from Lilly Endowment, Garrett-Evangelical becomes one of 12 innovation hubs around the country participating in Lilly Endowment’s Young Adult Initiative that will help churches create innovative and meaningful ministries that appeal to millennials. To learn more about The Young Adult Initiative at Lilly Endowment Inc., click here.


Interview with Dr. Jennifer Moe

Dr. Jennifer Moe, assistant director of the Young Adult Initiative at Garrett-Evangelical, was recently interview by the Christian Curious radio program. You can listen to it below!


Hear From Our Young Adult Initiative Congregational Fellows!

Alexa EisenbarthAlexa Eisenbarth

When we gathered with the other innovation hubs in Indianapolis, we learned that many of the themes we heard from the young adults in our participating congregations were heard around the country, with some distinguishing variations, and even different vocabulary, as well. Everyone, however, could speak to the fruitfulness of listening to young adults in their respective communities. Additionally, the themes which emerged from these listening sessions do not offer a clear formula for designing ministry for young adults. In fact, the participating congregations worship and practice their faith in very different ways. What we know is that churches in every denomination and theological tradition are being called to do a new thing with God, and we trust that God is already doing a new thing in the world, with or without us.

You can read Alexa's full essay, "The Posture of Trees: A Picture of Church Leadership" here.


Colin McDonaldColin McDonald

Reflecting on my participation in Phase One of the Young Adult Initiative, two repeated and associated observations have endured and have a chance to guide our work toward reinvesting in young people going forward: testimony and surprise. On the surface, both aspects are currently and steadfastly a part of the integrity and principle, or guiding light, of Urban Village Church. But a deeper look suggests that we as leaders of the church have yet to celebrate, and so, to comprehend, the kind of space we make for alternative togetherness as a vital and intrinsic model for the "space for change" and innovation Gregory C. Ellison II has spoken of and which young people can no longer afford to live without.

You can read Colin's full essay, "God is going to be God and I am going to be lovedhere.


See What Our Young Adult Initiatve Congregations Are Doing!

CityPoint Community ChurchCityPoint Community Church

CityPoint Community Church in Chicago demonstrates one model of deploying young adults as change makers within congregations by making small grants to context-specific missions! They also employ an effective low-cost way of sharing a project idea via social media and/or church websites using a short, entertaining video. 

Watch Video

Young Adult Initiative Events by CityPoint Community Church


Gilead Church Chicago

Gilead Church in Chicago

Gilead Church in Chicago was featured in articles by the Religion News Service and The Christian Century that highlights unique aspects of the church, including storytelling and throwing parties.



3D Block Builders | Discovery, Direction, Development

3D Block Builders

3D Block Builders, sponsored by Arnett Chapel A.M.E. Church, focuses on discovery, direction, and development to support young adults in Chicago's Morgan Park neighborhood, where both jobs and resources can be in short supply.

Learn More


Dinner Club Logan Square

Grace UMC Logan Square Dinner Club

Grace United Methodist Church Logan Square is using their grant money to host 100 dinners in their community. The goal of each dinner is to invite new friends and get new dinner hosts involved by simply having a meal and conversation together. 

Learn More


Third Place Chicago

Third Place Chicago

Redeemer Church Chicago opened a brand new site with support from the Young Adult Initiative. Third Place Chicago is a gathering place for all ages, focused on conversation and leadership. Third Place hosts events like Land of 1000 Conversations - an opportunity for community members to connect over casual conversation that bridges divides. Individualized spiritual growth coaching is also offered to those who are looking to go deeper in their life of faith.

Learn More


The newly established Garrett-Evangelical Innovation Hub has four objectives:

  1. to help congregations design and launch new ministries that will nourish the Christian faith of young adults,
  2. to offer a context for new learning, connection, and relationship building,
  3. to provide a space for young adults to put their faith into action in local and surrounding areas, and
  4. to invite widening networks of congregations to adapt holy yearnings/holy listening/holy partnership methodologies for their own contexts.

Phases of the Initiative

The seminary’s five-year program will have three phases. In the first phase, Garrett-Evangelical will identify 8-10 Mentor Congregations (congregations who are already reaching young adults well) and 10-12 Launching Congregations who seek to strengthen their young adult ministries. One representative young adult from each Mentor Congregation will participate in ethnographic research and will interview young adults in their contexts. Additionally, Garrett-Evangelical will host a young adult consultation gathering to gather the wisdom and insight of leaders researching and working with young adults and to hear the voices of young adults.

The second phase is dedicated to working with the Mentoring and Launching Congregations. Through coaching, mentoring, and assessment, Garrett-Evangelical will help the congregations better understand their own congregation’s attitudes toward young people, as well as the interests, concerns, and yearnings of young adults. During this phase, Garrett-Evangelical will assist the Mentoring and Launching Congregations to implement and assess a young adult ministry project, participate in cluster peer team coaching groups, and host a pre-young adult ministry conference. Representatives from Launching and Mentoring Congregations will also attend a young adult education course at Garrett-Evangelical.

In the third phase, Garrett-Evangelical will host a post-young adult ministry conference to share the findings from the congregations. The seminary will also produce an edited volume of articles, reflecting on the learned outcomes from the project and any recommendations that might help other congregations reach young adults.

Innovation Hub Team

  • Dr. Reginald Blount, Associate Professor of Formation, Leadership, and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical; Program Director
  • Dr. Jennifer Moe, Assistant Program Director
  • Dr. Dori Baker, Senior Research Fellow at the Forum for Theological Exploration; Research Director
  • Rev. Dr. Karen Mosby, Pre-Doctoral Fellow
  • Dr. Ken Ehrman, Director of Field Education at Garrett-Evangelical
  • Nancy Sayer, Pastoral Care and Counseling Director of the Samaritan Center for Congregations
  • Dr. Tobin Belzer, Research Associate at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at