Hello! My name is Kelly Mongoven. I am 27 years old. And this is my CYMT story.
I grew up in Fort Myers, Fla., in a family with two younger brothers, Jacob and Josh. Growing up my family attended a United Church of Christ that later merged with a Friends church and became a nondenominational church. I graduated in 2009 from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and returned to Fort Myers to work as a social worker for four years while also serving as Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at my home church.
Before coming to CYMT, I was working as a full time social worker in a long term care facility. My job focused on counseling residents with end stage dementia. I worked hand-in-hand with hospice services coordinating care and communicating with families regarding the care of their loved one. Being a social worker is hard. Every day in my job I walked into someone’s worst day. It was the day that their mom forgot who they were or their husband had to be admitted for long-term care. Or it was the day that they had to say goodbye.
While working there full time, I served part time as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Church of the Cross. Later after the youth minister resigned, I took on the youth minister’s role as well. That was a lot. Working essentially three jobs is difficult. It is a recipe for disaster. But as I worked as a social worker I began to realize how much time I spent wanting to be with my kids. I spent my time as a social worker wanting to plan events or studies for my youth. Even though the job as a social worker was service-oriented, I realized that it was not the passion that the Lord had placed in my heart. At some point without realizing it I began to work as a social worker just to finance my desire to do ministry. This became overwhelmingly exhausting for me. After working myself into a complete burn out I realized that my life would be so much richer if I just answered the call and pursued the passion that I knew the Lord had placed on my heart. Youth Ministry.
That is when I came to CYMT. My best friend, Audra, and I went on a road trip in July 2012. After seeing the nation in a new and exciting way, I came home determined that my life had to change. It was then that I began looking online for a full time ministry job. As I looked at potential jobs CYMT came up as an option. It seemed too good to be true. I thought that it was worth the risk of losing the $50 application fee to a possible scam to have the chance for this program to be real. Almost two years later, that was the best $50 risk I have ever taken.
I am now the Director of Youth Ministries at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Birmingham, Ala. through CYMT. Christ the King is a startling difference from the church in which I grew up. My first day at the church I became overwhelmed with the formalities of worship. I had never experienced anything quite like it. I really knew nothing about the Lutheran Church before my placement. Being placed at a church so different from my background has been one of the best things about CYMT for me thus far. It is through learning other theological beliefs that I have begun to really form my own for the first time. It has been through being stretched beyond my comfort zone that I have grown in an amazing way. Plus, I believe that I offer a fresh and different perspective that can be helpful here at Christ the King.
I recently went on a mission trip with 36 adults and youth from the church to Tijuana, Mexico, through Amor Ministries. My church has a strong relationship with Amor and had been going on trips with them for four years prior. I have been on international trips for missions in the past but have never led a trip. The theme of the trip was “disrupted.” This was relevant for me as my life felt disrupted from the get-go of the trip. I had a lot of anxiety around traveling. How are we going to get everyone there? Do we know where we are going? Do we know what it will be like? All of the unknowns and the things you can’t prepare for make me most anxious.
Needless to say, driving in Los Angeles and Mexico made me a bit of a basket case. The trip over the border had my stomach in knots. Then on the first day I was attacked with thoughts of inadequacies. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to lead this group. Although it was a rocky start to the trip, God gave me a sense of peace the next morning at the job site. In the midst of feeling like I was not enough, the Lord worked through the gift of communion.
It was a sunny Sunday morning in Tijuana as we gathered together on what would be my team’s site for the next few days. As we stood there, I began to pray that in the midst of my questions, the Lord would give me the strength that I needed to lead. It was there that the 36 Americans and the one Mexican family gathered around one table to share in the meal that the Lord gave us to remember Him. Taking communion was such a special moment, standing on the site of the place that just a few days later would hold a home. It brought together the church. We were all equal around the table. As I watched my students take a step back to allow the family to go before and receive the bread and wine, I was filled with gratitude both to serve in Mexico, but more importantly back home in Birmingham. My feelings of inadequacies faded away. We had a great time of work, worship, and fellowship.
CYMT has taken me from being someone with passion for youth ministry running alone to someone with the necessary tools and a supportive team surrounding me to last through the marathon of life in ministry. CYMT has placed me in an environment to foster my growth both as a minister and more importantly as a believer in Jesus Christ. CYMT provides me with the theological background and real life experience to make me a great youth minister. My cohort provides a sense of community that has pushed me to be better. CYMT also provides me with the opportunity to not just learn about being a youth minister in a classroom, but by actually being a youth minister under the guidance of excellent on-site supervision, coaching, teachers, and with the help of my cohort.
I am exceedingly blessed to be able to do what I love, learn how to do it well, and be placed in an environment that helps facilitate my call. I will forever be thankful for the guidance and education provided through CYMT partnered with Christ the King.
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.