An Interview with CYMT Resident, Courtney Blacksten

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Courtney serves on the Youth Ministry staff at First Presbyterian Church
in Nashville, Tennessee and is in her second year at CYMT.

What drew you to the CYMT program?
CYMT’s focus on education and practice was very alluring. Upon graduating from college with a degree in Youth Ministry, I had a great deal of knowledge about Biblical studies and Youth Ministry but lacked the confidence gained from experience to actually begin a vocation in the field. I wanted to continue my education, but I also wanted to get my feet in the water, and CYMT provided such an opportunity.

And wanting to work in Youth Ministry?
I felt the call to youth ministry while in high school and that call only got stronger during college. I firmly believe that youth are not the church of tomorrow; youth are a major part of our church today and our hope for tomorrow. I have a passion for youth and their growth in the Christian faith and place in the church.

What do you hope to get out of or learn from this experience?
From participating in the CYMT program, I hope to become a certified youth minister, obtain a Master of the Arts in Youth Ministry, and most of all to gain the confidence to go out into the world to serve as full-time youth minister who seeks to make disciple of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Tell me about your assigned church and your ministry there.
I am 1 of 8 persons on the youth staff team at the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville. My placement is quite different than that of my peers in that they are starting their youth ministry programs and I have been placed at a church with a well-established youth ministry program. The 400+ youth group of First Presbyterian can be overwhelming at times but I am quickly learning how youth ministry can be done at such a big church. The task of Sunday school is one of my biggest responsibilities from getting teachers lined up for grade-level Sundays to planning the many limbs (writing the script, band rehearsal, getting tech cues to tech team, etc.) of our “Go Big” Sundays. I also lead a small group and last December coached the 9th grade girl’s church basketball team (even though I’m only 5 feet tall and had never played basketball a day in my life)! My favorite part of my ministry at First Presbyterian is getting to meet the youth on their turf and spend time getting to know their life stories.

What has been your biggest obstacle since starting the CYMT program?
Finding the balance between work and school and still having time for a Sabbath has been my biggest obstacle since starting the CYMT program. My biggest obstacle with the church has been getting to know the youth. There are so many of them and when I only see them once, maybe twice a week it is very difficult to establish a relationship or make a connection.

What has been the most exciting thing that has happened to you since starting the CYMT program?
Since starting the CYMT program the most exciting thing that has happened has been the relationships I have formed with the youth in my church. I beginning to make the transition from “the new staff member” to someone the youth feel comfortable talking to. After weeks of reaching out to the youth, I got a phone call from a youth asking if we could meet for coffee. It was the first time I have felt that I was making an impact on the youth and a very exciting moment.

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