Forest Hills United Methodist Church is a model church for how the CYMT program has impacted their congregation. Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., became a partner church with CYMT in 2009 when the Youth and Children’s Ministry positions became open. CYMT assigned two graduate residents, Chris and Joanna Cummings, to Forest Hills for the Youth Ministries and Children’s Ministries respectively. Chris and Joanna are serving as the first married couple in the CYMT program. As their three years with CYMT is almost complete, we sat down with Forest Hills UMC pastor, Rev. Jim Hughes, to talk about CYMT’s impact on the church.
Chris and Joanna Cummings arrived at Forest Hills just a couple of weeks after Rev. Hughes was appointed, so they all began their work together at the same time. “Chris and Joanna have transformed the children’s and youth ministries in their two and a half years at FHUMC. The church has embraced them both, and trust them with our most precious resources – our young people. Their spirit is infectious and they understand the value of team ministry,” says Jim Hughes. Both the youth and children’s ministries have seen growth in numbers as well as depth of faith of their members. Not only are youth joining the programs at Forest Hills UMC, but their parents are joining the church as well.
Chris and Joanna will graduate in May from the CYMT program with their Master’s degrees, and we asked Jim how this would affect their positions at Forest Hills UMC. “The church intends on bringing Chris and Joanna into full-time relationships with the congregation. The stability of having the same leadership in place is critical for the health of our congregation,” he states. “And the way Chris and Joanna flow seamlessly between the children’s and youth ministries together is really unique.”
Rev. Hughes says the best example of CYMT working with the church has been the Cummingses’ CYMT coaches. “Judy Norris and Lesleigh Carmichael have been terrific coaches and liaisons. They have been extremely helpful to Joanna and Chris, and they have been available and very easy for me to work with. Their expertise gave them immediate credibility with us.”
Jim added some final thoughts on the CYMT program: “I love the philosophy behind this ministry. Youth and children’s ministry is very difficult and highly specialized. There is a reason that persons in these positions burn out so quickly in the local church. CYMT’s commitment to mentor, coach, and support these persons is important work. Knowing that there is a ‘team’ in place to assist you in your work brings strength. This support group helps graduate residents through the inevitable trouble spots and gives them confidence to persevere. Because of that support, CYMT-trained persons have a better chance of longer service to a congregation.”
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.