Joanna Cummings serves as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tenn. I was drawn to CYMT because I had been experiencing a deep desire to learn more about how I could serve God better in the ministry I felt God calling me to: working with young people. Along with this call, I knew I needed to be better equipped to dig into the hard questions of faith and life, to be trained to think theologically, and to take my understanding about God into the ministry of the church practically. I enjoy learning in a hands-on way and did not want to step away from serving in the church to go to seminary. I jumped at the chance to enter CYMT where I could continue to serve in the church while also engaging in seminary classes. This combination has helped me learn so much more than I may have if I had pursued seminary in a traditional manner.
I currently serve at Forest Hills United Methodist Church as the Director of Children’s Ministries. I come to children’s ministry with a youth ministry background and have found that background and the education I have received through my CYMT classes to be so beneficial to my ministry. I see my youth ministry background as a valuable lens to look through as I engage in children’s ministry in a fresh new way. It’s important to understand and to think about where our children are headed in their future, to be able to evaluate the tools and experiences that they need to have before entering our youth ministries, and to look at the foundation that is necessary for our young people and their spiritual lives.
One of my favorite things about CYMT is the emphasis placed on coaching. I have been partnered with Judy Norris, a great children’s minister with many years of experience under her belt. I truly believe that much of my growth as a children’s minister is because of her nurture, advice, and encouragement. Judy has met with me nearly every single week for the past three years and now knows my coffee order by heart. She has offered me the words that I needed to hear in times that I felt discouraged or overwhelmed. She has cheered me on and has even showed up at major events that she knows I have worked hard at like VBS and Children’s Sabbath Sunday. She is full of experience, stories, and creative ideas and is always a safe place to share about my ministry joys and struggles. Most of all, Judy cares about my soul and is always there to listen and encourage me to find a healthy balance in my life and ministry.
I am excited to graduate in May with a Master’s of Arts in?Religion to see what God has in store for me and the ministry that I am a part of at Forest Hills UMC. I will continue serving in children’s ministry and hope to begin the ordination process towards becoming a deacon in the United Methodist Church. I will miss so much of CYMT, and I have loved being in such a wonderful learning environment along with the friends I have met here and my terrific coach. All of these things combined give me great hope as I look towards the future and as I continue to grow in ministry and in life.
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.