December 1, 2021
The Ministry Collaboratory @ Princeton (the Collaboratory) disseminates findings and creates resources emerging from Princeton Theological Seminary’s recently completed young adult innovation hub, The Zoe Project (2017-2021). Various strategies for young adult/congregational collaboration will be tested in 90 congregations clustered in 30 different communities. The Collaboratory will walk with these congregations in a collaborative process of ministry innovation with young adult partners. Meanwhile, we will also partner with various learning organizations to create strategic empathy and innovation tools to facilitate young adult/congregational collaboration around Spirit-led community change. Research gleaned from this project will observe ways in which congregations and young adults effectively work together to bless their communities. Also identified will be strategies and forms of support that seem most helpful to congregations and most empowering to young adults in forming relationships as they find creative ways to work together toward a goal both parties can point to as meaningful and perhaps even “sacred.”
Using focus groups and other qualitative research methods, the Collaboratory will probe two findings from our first project with particular care: 1) a possible link between innovation and a churches’ likelihood to be in relationship with young adults, and 2) the phenomenon of young adult “domains” — spaces outside of churches that young adults often experience as “pseudo-sacred” contexts. In fact, these domains offer young adults many benefits that churches hope to deliver to this demographic but struggle to do so. Since many young adults are, in the words of Dr. Jeff Keuss, “church adjacent” (familiar with and not hostile to — but not involved with — Christian congregations), churches’ familiarity with spaces in their communities where young adults find meaning, purpose, belonging and identity could help congregations name, support, and celebrate vocational gifts that young adults activate through these domains. For this reason, each community cluster of congregations will develop a “pop up ministry” with young adults that collaborates with a local young adult domain. Three interventions — coaching, learning tools, and a combination of both — will be compared for their effectiveness in moving congregations toward innovative collaboration with young adults in their communities.
The Collaboratory will concretize some of the findings amassed from The Zoe Project. For example, all young adults involved in Collaboratory-sponsored activities will receive a stipend, addressing the reality of young adult financial strain. The Collaboratory will develop a suite of learning tools to help young adults and congregations empathize, collaborate, and innovate together more effectively. In addition to utilizing these tools with the 90 churches collaborating with young adults in their communities, twelve denominational leaders (and young adult representatives) will be invited to a “Learning Tool Camp” in order to learn these strategies to share them with their denominational constituencies. Finally, the Collaboratory will identify and prototype potential avenues toward sustainability in order to continue the Collaboratory’s work after the designated grant period.
The Collaboratory is managed by Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture and faculty liaison to the Institute for Youth Ministry, with support from Abigail Rusert, director of program design and the Institute for Youth Ministry. The Institute for Youth Ministry will house the ongoing work of the Collaboratory. This four-year initiative is funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.'s Young Adult Initiative.
“My passion is doing what I can to empower and liberate people who are hurting. PTS has made me a better person and pastor because it’s given me the tools to better serve the oppressed and marginalized.”