Dear CYMT Fellows,
I call on all of your wisdom as all people who have stood exactly where I am now – at the very last semester of one of the strangest, most transformative, most unlikely periods of your life.
You all, like me, at one point, signed up for an insane gamble: to trade three years of your life to people you hardly knew, who would decide where you lived, where you worked, and who your friends would be, with the promise that at the end, the strange sense of calling you feel in your gut will have evolved into professional maturity.
The gamble was even more risky for my cohort, the inaugural class of CYMT Texas. We stepped into the program knowing that our new seminary, our new coaches, our new regional staff, our new churches, were taking as much of a gamble on us as we were on them.
For the five of us graduating this May, it has been an incredible joy to watch it all play out. We all have found gifts, friendships, and graces we couldn’t have imagined. Our cohort – Zach Cheeseman, Katherine Reed, Caleigh Smith, Jose Suarez, and myself – is one of the most remarkable communities I have ever gotten the chance to be a part of, and as I talked to several of them this week, they said the same, expressing gratitude for “friendship that answers,” as Jose put it, or, in Katherine’s words, for “memories that mark just how important we are to each other.”
So, Fellows, help me out – what do I say now? Given the chance to reflect, remember, and say goodbye, where do I even begin?
What do I say to my cohort who I haven’t just sat in class with, but have sat in chapel with, have sat at weddings and funerals with, have sat and cried with? What do I say to those people who I stepped off the ledge with, and who are now all facing the same strange truth, that somehow the longest three years of our lives are already almost over? What do I say to my coach who listened to me complain over lunch every Thursday for three years? My theology professor who watched me cry in class? Our poor academic dean at Austin Seminary? What do I say to the Texas regional director, Teresa, who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself? To Deech, who put us all here together in the first place?
What do I say to those people who helped me become a person, a pastor, and a Christian I had no idea that I could be?
What can I say other than thank you. Thank you to all the people who took this gamble with us, and to all of you who took it before us. We, the first class of a whole new generation for CYMT, are grateful for all those who took a chance on us (and the great state of Texas) and are delighted to join your ranks as CYMT Fellows.
Kat Bair, CYMT Texas Class of 2019
Kat Bair serves as the Director of Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth and is a graduating senior in the first CYMT class in Texas. While working at First Church, she has helped develop curriculum used at over a dozen Methodist churches in Texas and beyond. Her previous experience includes working in Northern Thailand on the investigation, prosecution, and provision of aftercare for victims in cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children, and as researcher on democratic consolidation during the Arab Spring as part of her first graduate degree at Miami University in Ohio. Kat in a native of Brentwood, Tennessee, and now lives in Grapevine with her husband, Andrew, who is a video game developer.
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.
The Center for Youth Ministry Training joins the millions of people around the country and the world crying out for justice. We are praying for the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, for all impacted by racial injustice, and for all who are experiencing anger, fear, sorrow, and pain from these horrific incidents. We are concerned about how these killings and the deep divisions of our country are impacting all young people.
We also need to be invested in youth because mentoring is a cycle. Youth need to have someone pouring into them so they can pour into someone else. In our church, the youth help teach the children’s Sunday School class every few months. Because of this, the youth became friends with a 10-year old named Jeffrey. This past August, Jeffrey was diagnosed with a very rare form of leukemia. Our church rallied in ways I have never seen a church rally.