TryTank Experimental Lab evolves into TryTank Research Institute to spearhead innovative theological research

TryTank Research Institute
Posted Mar 5, 2024

The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, executive director of TryTank Research Institute.

Los Angeles, CA, March 5, 2024 – TryTank Experimental Lab has changed its name to TryTank Research Institute to reflect its focus on advancing theological research to meet the evolving needs of the church in the modern world.

Launched in 2019 as a joint venture between Virginia Theological Seminary and The General Theological Seminary, TryTank has been a trailblazer in providing data-driven insights and innovative strategies to address ecclesiastical challenges.

Its transformation into TryTank marks a significant evolution from its experimental roots to a focus on in-depth, scientific research and application in religious contexts, especially within The Episcopal Church. It will have a particular focus on engaging young adult families – a demographic largely unexplored in religious studies.

At the heart of TryTank’s mission is the goal to provide actionable insights that equip church leaders and congregations with adaptive strategies, ensuring the relevance and revitalization of church communities for future generations. Unlike traditional research centers, TryTank has the capability to move seamlessly from data to real-world applications within a single project framework.

The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, executive director of TryTank Research Institute, said: “TryTank aims to be a beacon for scientific research and evaluation in The Episcopal Church but also extending its influence beyond denominational lines. The focus on young adult families is pivotal, especially in an era where new parents increasingly identify as “nones” and are raised without a specific faith affiliation. TryTank’s research seeks to understand their unique needs and adapt church models to this new societal context.”

Since its founding as an action research lab, TryTank has been committed to addressing the current needs of the church and society by integrating innovative solutions and fostering spiritual growth and leadership within the church.

One notable program is the Phoenix Project, an innovative approach to reinvigorate ministry for young adults, based on six months of ethnographic research. It transforms traditional religious engagement by focusing on key principles identified as vital to young people’s faith. This project emphasizes a dynamic, community-driven approach, moving beyond conventional church settings and utilizing spaces such as nature and city venues. It incorporates digital outreach, peer chaplaincy, and mentorship programs, aiming to create a vibrant, inclusive faith community that resonates with the values and needs of young adults today.

Additionally, TryTank launched the Dial-A-Priest service, which was particularly significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. This service offered 24/7 access to a clergyperson for prayer and support, especially in critical moments such as before surgeries or intubations, and for administering last rites. It was accessible to healthcare professionals and families in hospitals and nursing homes across the country during shutdowns.

Building on the ethos of TryTank Experimental Lab, the research institute is dedicated to conducting robust sociological research and applying its findings through practical experimentation. The institute stands poised to equip church leaders with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the changing religious landscape effectively, continuing the legacy of innovation and transformative change in the church.