CYMT’s Innovation Laboratory for Youth Ministry
The Center for Youth Ministry Training’s Innovation Laboratory helps shape the future of Christian ministry by partnering with communities of faith to develop responsive, theologically informed, and transformative ministry in their contexts.
Nearly all of the models for modern ministry reduce youth ministry to a peer-based youth group. Despite the fact that the Mainline Church faces declining numbers, it continues to primarily turn to these traditional models. So how do we break out of the mold? We believe that by bringing design thinking into conversation with practical theology, we can test new models and approaches that organically fit into your unique context and meet the needs of the teens in your community. Since 2018, we’ve worked with nearly 200 adults and teenagers across the country to engage with young people in innovative ways.
What is the Innovation Laboratory?
The Innovation Lab was established in 2017 when the Center for Youth Ministry Training was awarded a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to create an initiative for the faith formation of young people. The Innovation Lab is designed to help youth pastors and teams from their congregation develop new, practical models for youth ministry that are theologically grounded, and which better intersect with the real lives of today’s adolescents. In 2019, CYMT was awarded a second grant by the Texas Methodist Foundation, allowing the Lab to expand into more cohorts within the Texas area.
Participation in the Lab includes a five-phase Theological Innovation Process, a coach from outside the congregation to guide the process, and funding.
Applications for our Innovation Lab cohorts are currently closed, however, we are always innovating! If you’d like to stay connected to the work we’re doing, sign up for our monthly newsletter here where we share resources and updates on how to engage in youth ministry innovation within all contexts. If you have a specific question related to the Innovation Lab, email Lab Director Meghan Hatcher at email@example.com.
Our main goals are simple:
Foster the creation of new models of youth ministry beyond the traditional youth group model that lead to transformation in young people’s lives.
Discover and name characteristics of a faith community that either promote or hinder innovative ability, and help the community move toward greater innovative potential.
Refine and broaden our approach to successfully leading faith communities through our Theological Innovation Process.
‘Understanding Your COVID-19 Context: Community Interviews’
Use this guide to hear about the needs of those in your community.
Theological Innovation Process
Research and design firms all over the world show evidence that innovation happens through a planned process. After looking at a number of these processes, we discovered that, to some extent, they parallel the consensus model of practical theology. We merged the best elements of these design thinking processes with the consensus model to create a robust and workable Theological Ideation Process for the purpose of ministry with young people. Our Theological Ideation Process has five steps:
Step 1 – Descriptive
What’s going on here? What is the problem you want to address? Immerse yourself in the environment and demographic you’ll be designing for. Observe, engage, and interact. Record data as you gather intel to identify possible problems or opportunities you might miss at first glance. This is a fire-hydrant stage of intake and intel.
Step 2 – Interpretive
Why is this happening? With all this intel, you’ll have all sorts of ideas about why things are happening. But you will work to uncover the real underlying reasons behind the issue at hand. Then, redefine the problem that you want to address.
Step 3 – Normative
What should be happening? Guided by theology, you will establish parameters for solutions to your problem even as you trust the Holy Spirit to expand your imagination.
Step 4 – Ideation and Prototyping
What could we do? Intentional brainstorming sessions will create a broad scope of ideas to solve your problem. You will then narrow down to a handful of ideas, and store the rest for later. You will begin to test out parts of your Big Idea in small ways, to gain further insight to its viability. Prototyping requires adaptability, and failing in small ways at this stage means you won’t fail big later on.
Step 5 – Pragmatic
What will we do? What is next? In light of your theological parameters and what you’ve learned from prototyping, you will implement your Big Idea full-scale.
Theological Innovation In The Pandemic
We were honored to be able to sit down with the Women in Youth Ministry podcast to talk about CYMT’s Innovation Lab and how we are partnering with faith communities to develop innovative and transformative ministries – especially during the times of a worldwide pandemic. In the episode, our Innovation Lab Director and one of our Lead Innovators share the resources available to you and how you can get involved in innovating, plus, a wealth of info on how youth ministers are continually navigating the pandemic. Click below to listen, and a big thank you to the WYM team for having us!
There are many exciting ways for you to get involved in the Innovation Laboratory that we can’t wait to share with you! For exclusive access to these updates and resources, please sign up for our newsletter here. If you have specific questions, email Innovation Lab Director Meghan Hatcher.