Holy Yearnings, Holy Listening, Holy Partnerships: A Peer-to-Peer Young Adult Ministry Initiative
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.
Hear From Our Young Adult Initiative Congregational Fellows!
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.
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 loved" here.
The newly established Garrett-Evangelical Innovation Hub has four objectives:
- to help congregations design and launch new ministries that will nourish the Christian faith of young adults,
- to offer a context for new learning, connection, and relationship building,
- to provide a space for young adults to put their faith into action in local and surrounding areas, and
- 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, Assistant Professor of Formation, Youth, and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical; Program Director
- 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 www.lillyendowment.org.