Terri Martinson Elton teaches at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. MN. She began at Luther Seminary as an adjunct instructor and working with contextual learning in 2004 before becoming the director of the Center for Children, Youth and Family Ministry in 2008 and the Associate Professor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry in 2010. In 2014, she shifted to teaching in the areas of congregational leadership and mission and is now the Professor of Leadership.

Her most recent project, Journeying in the Wilderness: Forming Faith in the 21st Century, addresses a primary challenge of the church today: cultivating Christian identity. Written for congregational leaders, it is a guide for rethinking faith formation and accompanying people in discovering a Christian way of life. Claiming that faith is contextual, it begins by describing our current environment and calling congregations to steward the future witness of the Christian faith. Elton believes faith is our dynamic relationship with God and faith formation is a lifelong journey of becoming who God claims us to be. With discussion questions and activities at the end of each chapter, she gives leaders a compass and practices for navigating today’s wilderness environment.

In 2020, as COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of ministry, Terri launched the PIVOT podcast with Louise Johnson and Scott Cormode. PIVOT invites church leaders to use the disruption of COVID-19 to reimagine how they think about church, ministry, and leadership. Season 1 addressed loss and lament, the death of George Floyd and racism, loving our neighbor, community, and promising innovations. Season 2 began at the one year mark of COVID-19. In this season Terri and Louise interview ministry leaders from around the country to learn how they were pivoting and what words of wisdom they had for other ministry leaders.

Elton is also co-author of Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World: Platforms, People, and Purpose with Rabbi Hayim Herring. Recognizing the way we organize impacts how we embody and carry out our mission, they begin by naming how organizations are shifting from 1.0 to 3.0 and how networks function differently than hierarchies. What follows is their findings from researching how Christian and Jewish congregations and nonprofits organize themselves in this age of networks.

Prior to her call to Luther Seminary, Elton served as an associate to the bishop in the Saint Paul Area Synod where her responsibilities included working with congregations, leadership development, First Call theological education and youth and family ministry.

Before her work in the synod, she served at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN. for 16 years. While at Prince of Peace she worked in various roles within children, youth and family ministries, as well as served as the director of Changing Church Forum, an outreach ministry of Prince of Peace.  She also authored To Know, To Live, To Grow, a confirmation curriculum, and co-authored What Really Matters, a book for congregational leaders, with the Rev. Mike Foss.

Elton holds a B.A. degree in communications from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. (1986). She earned both her M.A. (1998) and Ph.D. (2007) degrees in Congregational Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary.

Elton’s research and teaching interests include: congregational leadership, leading in the midst of change and conflict, helping ministry leaders craft a missional ecclesiology with an eye toward the First Third of Life, awakening a vibrant theology of baptism and vocation and reimagining faith and mission practices for children, youth, young adults and their families. She currently is completing a research project studying confirmation practices in five denominations. (For more see The Confirmation Project.)

Elton is a member, and President, of the Academy of Religious Leadership, as well as serving in various roles within the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. She has also been a member of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators and the American Society of Missiology, as well as served on the board for Real Resources.

Current CV.

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