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First Cohort Completes Living the Questions Youth Theology Institute

First Cohort Completes Living the Questions Youth Theology Institute

First cohort for Living the Questions Youth Theology Institute at Bethel University focused on faith and justice. The second one starting this summer will focus on faith and science.

Campus looks a little different when Living the Questions cohort members are in residence. During morning discussions and workshops, one might overhear high school students putting down their phones in the grass in order to engage in discussions about justice, the media, or how theology informs the way they live.

Afternoons are about putting what they’ve learned into practice, and groups scatter across the Twin Cities for service-learning projects and job shadowing. The first cohort—made up of students going into grades 10, 11, and 12—began their Living the Questions journey last summer as part of an initiative aimed at engaging students in theological dialogue and giving them the tools to explore God’s calling in their lives. Funded by the Lilly Endowment and symbiotic with the overall mission of Bethel University, it exposes high school students to Bethel’s campus and intentionally builds partnerships with local churches by sparking mentoring relationships between students and in-church mentors.

Social work major Hilda Davis ’20 served as a counselor for the 2017 institute, and she says the experience was a meaningful one for the attendees and the Bethel community members who spent time with them.

“It's an opportunity for students to broaden their perspective and be exposed to things they don't encounter day to day—and if it's something they do encounter, it’s a chance to unpack that with people who are around their same age,” Davis says. “It was encouraging to see them taking ownership of their own faith journey and gaining a greater sense of social responsibility as a result of that.”

‘I think students should want to learn more about themselves, how they can have priorities and also be with God,” says Kenney Gatlin ’21, who attended before his senior year of high school. “You learn how to build connections with people who may have clashing opinions with you.”

Gatlin also mentioned how serving at places like Feed My Starving Children gave him an opportunity to connect with God and pray more often. “I’m seeing that I need Christ more in my life,” he says.  

“The faith component is huge, especially with this upcoming topic of faith and science,” Davis adds. “People usually think of these things as mutually exclusive, but now they have an opportunity to examine how they intersect. It will be a powerful experience.”

The second season of this 10-month leadership experience will be held July 8-14 on Bethel’s campus, followed by regular meetings between students and their assigned, adult mentors over the coming year. For their mentorship, students choose to focus on one of four tracks: spiritual formation, leadership, a science project, or campus visits. The 2018-2019 cost of $295 covers housing, food, and programming—and applications are still being accepted. Scholarships are available.