Be a Part of SUYTI 2021
We are now accepting nominations and applications for the 2021 cohort!
- Completed application form
- Letter of reference from your pastor or youth leader
- Be a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior in high school
- Be interested in exploring how your faith intersects with who you are and what you’re called to do in the world
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, apply as soon as possible.
Nominate A Student
Apply for SUYTI 2021
Check out the Youth Theology Institute Experience!
Shenandoah University’s Youth Theology Institute is an intensive two-week program designed to help rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors become better leaders through deep and thought-provoking experiences. During the course of the two weeks, daily rhythms of academic study and religious reflection will be balanced with immersive experiences. Students will be exposed to different faith traditions, service opportunities and a mixture of rural, wilderness and urban contexts at Shenandoah’s Winchester campus, its Shenandoah River Campus at Cool Spring and the Wesley Theological Seminary campus in Washington, D.C.
The Youth Theology Institute is also a 3-credit undergraduate course taught by engaging religion faculty and focused on exploring Christian vocation in the 21st century. Upon their successful completion of the program, students receive credit for the course at Shenandoah University.
Most importantly, the Youth Theology Institute will help students discern their vocations in the midst of our ever-changing world. Contact the Director of the Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute Ian Urriola at (540) 665-5453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn More About Shenandoah University’s Youth Theology Institute
“Our youth are craving authentic expressions of community-places where they can remove masks and let down their guards and just be themselves. SUYTI provides all that and more. When a student comes to SUYTI, they are educated, inspired and equipped with resources to return to their communities with a rich understanding of who and what they are, who and what they are called to be and do and how to realize their visions for justice for all of God’s creation.”
-Ian Carlos Urriola, Director of SUYTI
“If I was to describe my experience at the youth theology institute in one sentence I think I would have to be “Life is a wonderful adventure” or “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind” meaning we were all there for each other and watched out of one another through everything.”
—Joshua Langley, Wellstown United Methodist Church
“I learned how I functioned in a christian group setting. I learned what I need to do in order to have a meaningful relationship with God. I learned about my breaking points and the things that lift me up, and so much more. This has been life changing.”
-2017 Student Cohort Participant
“Our intention ultimately, is to create and cultivate an immersive experience for high schoolers, where they can create and deepen, or reinforce or become, more aware of the intersections of their beliefs system and the way they live their life, and the way they improve the future.”
-Rev. Colleen Hallagan Preuninger, Former Director of SUYTI
Making the Program Possible
The Lilly Endowment
A grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. created a new opportunity for spiritual study at Shenandoah University, in the form of a Youth Theology Institute being established through a unique partnership. Shenandoah University Dean of Spiritual Life and Institute for Church Professions Director Rev. Justin Allen, D.Min., explains what the institute for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors means and how it will help them better understand their faith.
We explore the stories behind the stories
Framed by God’s expansive vision for the created order from Genesis to Revelation, our institute will challenge you to explore everything you know (or think you know) about yourself, God, your calling, and the world we live in! Our first week will be guided by the creation accounts in Genesis, as we live, study, play, and explore the Shenandoah Valley and stay at Shenandoah University while we think about what wholeness and justice might look like for the natural world. The second week we will be guided by John’s glorious vision of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation, as we live, study, play, and explore the city and people of Washington, DC and stay at Wesley Theological Seminary and think about what wholeness and justice might look like for the fullness of the human family, especially those who are marginalized in our society. Over the weekend we will camp out on the Shenandoah River and spend time exploring the beauty of creation. During the Youth Theology Institute, you will have academic instruction every day by world class faculty from, dive into interfaith and service learning experiences, participate in small groups led by Shenandoah University and Wesley Theological Seminary students, bring back a justice project to complete in your local faith community, and have an unbelievable amount of fun. Our hope is that at the end of it all you will be equipped with the passion and tools to go back into your local faith community and be the leader God created you to be. AND on top of it all, when you’re finished you will have earned a 3 credit undergraduate course at Shenandoah University in the area of Christian Vocation in the 21st Century that you can carry with you as you consider where God is calling you after high school. We are so excited you are interested in entering into this journey with us!
Shenandoah University (SU) has been church-affiliated since it was founded in 1875 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since that church’s formation in 1968. SU is situated just over an hour’s drive from Washington, DC in the midst of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. That location provides the best of two worlds – access to both the bustling city and the rural countryside. We feel ready to take the next step toward implementing a youth theology institute that cherishes the wilderness of Genesis 2 and the holy city of Revelation 21.
The purpose of the SU Youth Theology Institute is to educate and inspire young Christian leaders through dialogical, immersive, and experimental learning in intentional community, both in urban and rural settings, to empower these leaders to discern their vocation in the midst of a changing world.
The overarching structure of the SUYTI schedule will be a balance of daily rhythms with immersive experiences thereby addressing the second goal of immersing students in experiences that create opportunities for engagement with multiple perspectives. Through two weeks of the institute, students will be exposed to different faith traditions, service opportunities, and a mixture of rural, wilderness and urban contexts. The first week will be focused on the rural, with immersive experiences in a synagogue, a Trappist monastery, local service-learning opportunities, and an overnight hiking and camping trip at SU’s Cool Spring campus. For the second week, students will relocate to Washington, D.C. and stay at WTS. There they will do site visits to the National Islamic Mosque, an Eastern religious community, and the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church. In addition, they will be exposed to service-learning opportunities in an urban setting.
The daily schedule for the SUYTI follows a rhythm that encourages students’ development, discernment, and exposure to themselves, the world around them, and God. This daily schedule directly relates to the third goal of the youth theology institute: “students will develop, grow, and learn as leaders through experimentation, vocational discernment, and self-reflection.” This rhythm follows the pattern of:
- looking up (through worship experience)
- looking in (understanding themselves through reflection)
- looking out (through immersive experiences)
- looking in (more self-reflection)
- looking up (worship experience).
This rhythm creates both a monastic pattern that fosters growth, community, and self-discovery and a more common postmodern approach to spiritual growth for youth where authority is wrapped up in personal experience (Phyllis Tickle). Students will be able to practice both the monastic approach (look up, look in, look out) and the postmodern, experiential approach (look out, look in, look up).
SUYTI constitutes an intensive 3-credit undergraduate course focused on exploring Christian vocation in the 21st century. The learning outcomes for this course are that students will:
- examine the moral and ethical dimensions of contemporary challenges facing their communities,
- explore in-depth sacred scriptures and theological traditions as resources for reflecting on contemporary challenges, and
- develop resources for helping their communities understand Christian vocation in response to challenges their communities face.
Underlying the course design are the assumptions that biblical texts and theological traditions should be studied as a reflective praxis of social justice, that Christian vocation is a collective mission with many individual roles, and that youth can make a valuable contribution to their communities’ understanding of Christian vocation through biblical and theological reflection.
Students will become more aware of multiple faith traditions, different contemporary justice issues faced in urban and rural contexts, and the societal factors that lead to justice and injustice in those contexts.
Students will develop increased critical thinking skills, including the ability to analyze, reflect on, and understand different perspectives on theology and society.
Students will develop greater leadership skills and self-awareness.
Faculty and staff engaged in the SUYTI will gain experience and understanding of educating young adults in a non-traditional model that blends monastic experience, intentional community, classroom time, and immersive experiences. Their learning, which can be applied in future activities, will include flexibility and adaptability, as well as an understanding of how mentoring environments can change and challenge the teacher as well as the student.
The university will deepen its relationship with the United Methodist conferences and expand its resources for effectively engaging youth in theological reflection.