CYMT Academic Director, Andrew Zirschky, started his new position July 1, 2010, and lead his first retreat with our students on August 2, 2010. He took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his new role.
Can you tell us why you think CYMT is important in the youth ministry world?
CYMT is on the forefront of rethinking youth ministry education and is modeling a new approach for equipping youth ministers for faithful and effective service. There are only a handful of organizations that are pursuing new avenues for training and educating youth workers, and even fewer maintain an effective balance between educating youth leaders in both the theory and practice of youth ministry. Extensive research into what constitutes expertise in any field or discipline is revealing that people who are experts â€” whether in botany or ministry â€” have three things in common: First, thousands of hours of practice in their chosen field. Second, a large fund of practical skills and abilities, in other words, they know how to do things. Third, they also have a theoretical framework which helps them understand why they approach their work the way they do. If any of these three pieces are missing, then expertise is compromised. What is rather unique about CYMT is our commitment to equipping our student interns in each of these three areas through work in a church, individualized coaching, and academic study. Some traditional youth ministry programs emphasize the learning of theory, others focus on practical skills, and still others emphasize internships and working in a
church. CYMT has a radical commitment to balancing these three foundations of expertise. While our student interns will not emerge from two years in CYMT as experts, they will be placed on a path toward sustainable and effective ministry in which they can continue to develop toward expertise.
How do you think your role will grow this ministry?
First, the position of academic director allows CYMT to properly balance coaching, church internship, and the academic study of youth ministry. There are things that are better learned in a church, or through coaching, than in a classroom. At the same time, there are things which are better learned in a classroom environment. Part of my role as academic director is to make sure that the theory and theology that undergirds the expert practice of youth ministry is connected together with the coaching and internship that our students experience. Second, as academic director I hope to grow the already established ability of CYMT to build partnerships and collaborative relationships with academic institutions such as Memphis Theological Seminary, Duke Divinity School, and Princeton Theological Seminary. These relationships will continue to allow us to provide students with valuable experience, valuable learning, and valuable degrees.
What new things do you hope for CYMT?
I hope to see CYMT become the leader in innovative and effective theological training for youth pastors. Youth ministry needs innovative ways of training youth leaders for both longevity and faithful Christian ministry, and I think CYMT is uniquely positioned for that. It has been said that youth ministry is the R&D (research and development) arm of the church, and if you look at just the past forty years it’s easy to see that where youth ministry goes, so goes the church. But while we’ve been innovative in ministry to teenagers, one of the places where youth ministry hasn’t been terribly innovative is in the training of youth pastors. CYMT is on the forefront of changing that, and I hope to see the CYMT model replicated at locations around the United States and even globally.
Tell us why you are excited to be here.
The thing that most excites me about CYMT isn’t what we’re doing, but who we’re
doing it with. Both the team of folks that Deech has assembled, and the students
we work with, give me both excitement and hope for the future of youth ministry.
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.