One of the great characteristics of a leader is to be a learner. At CYMT, we are always learning. We celebrated our eighth birthday as a ministry on April 1, which caused me to reflect on how far we have come and what we have learned. Here are a few things that come to mind:
We instinctively knew this when we founded CYMT in 2006, but now eight years later we can say it with certainty. Churches need help establishing strong youth ministries. They need advice, support and encouragement. Churches need help finding a called, gifted youth minister. Youth ministers need help, because working in the church is hard. They need training, coaching, support, and encouragement. Churches and youth ministers are starting to line up at the door to get the help they need.
If you are a member of a church, you know just how messy church can be. We the church are a beautiful mess. We consider it a privilege (most days) to get down and dirty and help support churches who are doing the hard work to move a youth ministry forward. Churches are imperfect and full of imperfect people. The graduate residents who enter our program are broken, imperfect people. We learned early on that one of our most important jobs was helping others identify and deal with their “stuff.” We all have “stuff.” In addition to coaching young youth ministers on the practices of youth ministry, we inevitably end up helping them with their personal messes, which is not always easy but always a privilege.
From the beginning our goal has been to combine practical and theological training. The practical aspects of ministry receive a great deal of attention in our program. Not surprisingly, we continue to learn that practice is essential to learning and development in ministry. Over the past eight years, we have continued to implement new ways to help youth ministers practice the skills of ministry. We will continue to do so. As we evaluate our ministry, we are always thinking about how we can help them practice ministry well.
Classroom, coaching, cohort, and church make of the four elements of our ministry. Our instincts were right from the beginning. These four elements are essential for the holistic ministry development of our graduate residents. We have learned that each one of these elements is just as important as the other. The classroom provides knowledge, exploration, and understanding. The church provides a laboratory where youth ministers can experiment and learn the practical skills of ministry. A coach provides direction, accountability, support, and encouragement. The cohort provides peers who travel the journey with each other. All of these elements work together to form someone for the ministry. We have learned that it is a powerful combination that is making a significant difference in their lives.
CYMT continues to grow and to learn. We know that for the areas where we fall short, faithful partnership is the key. We want to have faithful relationships with our partner churches and youth ministers that allow for growth for everyone under God’s grace. We are always learning and we are especially grateful for those of you who have been willing to teach us along the way.
We will begin evaluating what we learned this year in May. Thanks be to God for grace along the journey!
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.