Our History

1999 – A Collective Call to Equip

In December 1999, Dietrich “Deech” Kirk was attending seminary and had a conversation with a friend who was frustrated about how to “do” youth ministry after leaving seminary. No one had trained him in the day-to-day components of local church youth ministry. During class that day, Deech wrote a vision for a youth ministry institute providing specialized theological education and practical training for youth ministers. 

In Orlando, Steve Schneeberger was observing the high burnout rate in youth ministers and recognized the lack of training they had received. The Holy Spirit stirred Steve Schneeberger and inspired a similar vision to create a program to train and equip youth ministers. 

Over the next five years, Deech and Steve separately continued to think and pray about his vision. Meanwhile, at First Presbyterian Church Nashville, Mark DeVries and his senior pastor had a similar discussion about the need for better youth ministry training. In 2004, Mark and Deech connected and discovered that God had given them similar visions for a program to educate and train youth ministers. 

Members of Brentwood UMC and FPC Nashville explored avenues for starting a youth ministry training program and provided seed money. On Feb. 27, 2006, the Center for Youth Ministry Training was officially born! Later that year, Deech and Steve met and discovered their “strangely” similar visions.  

CYMT and YMI became “sister organizations,” encouraging each other, sharing their learning, and occasionally holding events together.  

CYMT (2006-2023)

Rev. Lesleigh Carmichael joined Deech to build CYMT’s practical training and coaching programs. In 2009, CYMT partnered with Memphis Theological Seminary to create an innovative, hybrid Master of Arts in Youth Ministry program, serving leaders and churches in much of the Southeast region.

In May 2015, the CYMT Board and leadership of Bethany UMC in Austin, Texas, partnered to launch a CYMT campus in Texas. In 2016, the first Texas Regional residents began their training in partnership with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. 

MLI (2013-2023)

In 2008, Steve Scheeberger introduced Matt Vaughan and Deech at the Youth Specialities Convention, a national youth workers conference. Five years later, Matt partnered with the YMI to implement a youth ministry training framework in the Midwest. Ministry Leadership Initiative (MLI) incorporated in 2018 and expanded to also provide children’s ministry training. MLI’s mission was to develop authentic, intentional, and highly proficient leadership, sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ with young people.

CYMT Programs Expand

Over the years, the Lilly Endowment Inc. generously invested in multiple CYMT initiatives that equip leaders, churches, and non-profits for ministry with young people in today’s world. Each initiative is imbued with practical theology. Theology Together (2014, 2020) equips parents, caregivers, and leaders by developing resources and curriculum to engage young people in theological reflection that leads to active faith. Our Innovation Lab (2017, 2021) helps congregations and community non-profits reimagine ministry using our Theological Innovation Process. Faith Forming Family (2022) is developing Theology Together resources for parents and families and a training program for those called to serve in non-profit community-based ministries. 

Woven Together in 2024

By divine providence and inspiration, CYMT, MLI, and YMI’s missions align beautifully. In 2024, CYMT, YMI, and MLI are weaving their shared missions together to expand our collective capacity to equip those called to ministry with young people. Building on the strengths of each organization, CYMT will equip leaders and communities of faith to develop innovative, effective, and theologically informed ministries in more contexts than ever so that more young people know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

CYMT Values – Together, CYMT hopes to embody these core values:


The CYMT community has a responsibility to each other, our partner ministries, and our residents to ensure mutual respect, proper communication, and support for one another in all our actions and decisions.


Following where God leads, CYMT embodies the love of Christ in all our relationships as we equip others for sharing the Good News.


CYMT is committed to openness and humility in all of our ministry partnerships and community.


CYMT knows that diversity — in race, theology, and experiences — shapes communities of faith and creates unique contexts for ministry. Because CYMT recognizes the need to grow and adapt to serve these unique contexts, CYMT is committed to diversity in leadership, culturally competent support, and educational opportunities that reflect the diversity of the people and communities we serve.


CYMT cares for the emotional and spiritual health of our community.

Statement of faith: we believe in—

One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

In Jesus Christ, God incarnate, whose death and resurrection make possible the reconciliation of God and humanity.

The Holy Spirit dwelling in every believer and in the church.

The Bible to be the inspired, authoritative Word of God.

Affirming the church is the most faithful expression of the body of Christ on earth and unity of all believers in Christ.

In the priesthood of believers, that all disciples of Jesus Christ are called to share in his ministry here on earth.

In ministry for and with youth, the church of today and tomorrow.

CYMT does not make doctrinal statements beyond our statement of faith instead choosing to openly balance the theological variances of mainline Protestant Christians by living out the widely-accepted Reformation statement, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

Theological Scope

CYMT partners with ministries and individuals representing the theological views and diversity of mainline Protestant Christianity. We partner with mainline Protestant denominations including the United Methodist Church, Global Methodist Church, Presbyterian (PCUSA & PCA), Cumberland Presbyterian, Lutheran (ECLA), Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, American Baptist, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Our partner seminary is Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


Graduate Residents Graduate Resident Alumni Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary & Nashville Extension Site
partner ministries
youth impacted

God continues to expand the ministry and mission of CYMT. We have broadened our work to include campus ministers and camp staff. Our geographical footprint has expanded to 14 states. Most importantly, the number of young people we connect with continues to grow.

We are extremely proud of the passion our graduate residents are offering to their youth with their attention, guidance, and presence. That feeling of connection – big or small – is often what ignites a spark and creates the space for young people to deepen their relationship with Jesus.

The impact of your investment is more young people hearing the good news, connecting with their faith, and experiencing transformational love and grace through those God has called to serve them.