Young adults gather for Friday discussion at Theology On Tap
By Molly Moser
Religion and politics are the two things we’re taught not to discuss at the dinner table – except at Theology On Tap, a Friday night roundtable at Guttenberg’s Stadium Bar and Grill where anything is up for discussion. Led by Kyle Jaeger, St. John’s Director of Youth and Family Ministries, Theology On Tap meets at 5:30 p.m. every Friday.
Jaeger, 23, has been holding the open forum weekly since October, when he decided to open up the topic of religion for young adults over dinner and drinks. Jaeger studied religion and communication at Wartburg University, where he attended a series of similar discussions led by professors.
The ecumenical gathering consists of several regular attendees as well as those who drop by occasionally. “For the most part, it’s about having relationships,” he said when describing the informal gathering of interested young people. “Many times we do end up talking about religion, but it’s always organic.”
Jaeger grew up in Grinnell and was confirmed in the Lutheran church, but began attending a Methodist church the following year, when he became involved in their youth program. “I was an active part of the youth group there from then on,” he said.
Following his senior year of high school, Jaeger served at three church camps throughout the area. Dayton Oaks, a Baptist camp in Iowa, Good Earth Village, a Lutheran camp in Minnesota, and Sugar Creek, a Lutheran camp in Wisconsin, helped shape his studies at Wartburg. Jaeger’s major included an emphasis in camping ministry, which included accounting, church camp management, and learning skills to work with children.
The religious backgrounds of those who have gathered at Theology On Tap are as varied as Jaeger’s own. Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Baptists have shared drinks at Jaeger’s table, where the topics are just as diverse. Jaeger admits he doesn’t come with a plan, as he prefers to let conversation flow naturally. Just in case, though, he’s equipped with conversation starters on ritual and tradition, service, and devotion.
After a full-time position at the Sugar Creek church camp, Jaeger relocated to Guttenberg to begin work with St. John’s youth and parents. He’s looking forward to the church’s next big event, Vacation Bible School, and is looking for volunteers from sixth graders to adults.
“I wanted to stay in the northeast Iowa/southwest Wisconsin area,” Jaeger told The Press. His interests in the outdoors include hunting and fishing, and he plays trumpet in the Guttenberg German Band. Jaeger also belongs to a brew club in Elkader. His easygoing manner and open-minded approach to the Friday night discussions make for an entertaining, free-flowing, non-judgmental environment for those who attend to safely discuss their beliefs – or just their weekend plans.
“I'm very grateful God put it in Kyle's heart to start this, because we all need community,” said Valerie Schmitt, a regular participant in the discussions. “Sometimes we get so caught up in the ritual of things that we miss what Jesus was really about: Relationship.” She went on, “Theology On Tap is about relationships - getting together, getting to know one another, sharing life. And everyone is welcome!”