Randy Knighten is in his third year of the CYMT graduate residency program. He came to CYMT at the age of 35, married with two young sons. Being a more than a decade older than the typical graduate resident, Randy brings unique gifts and life experiences of teaching peacemaking and conflict resolution skills, pastoral care, and advocating for “the least of these” to both the CYMT cohort and his church.
Randy was born in Baker, La., just outside of Baton Rouge. He grew up in the historic Leland College Community of Baker where he spent a lot of time playing sports, eating crawfish, and going to church. Randy met Dietrich Kirk and learned about CYMT four years ago, not long after moving to Nashville for a job with Harvest Hands, an outreach ministry of Brentwood UMC.
When Randy joined CYMT, he was was placed at Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church (APMUMC) located in the Donelson community of Nashville, Tenn. Randy says of his placement, “It has been transformational for me and I believe for the congregation as well.” In Randy’s role at the church he provides pastoral support for his youth along with planning and organizing traditional youth ministry activities. He is also very intentional about helping youth to hear the call of Christ to serve alongside the poor and advocate for those who are marginalized in our society. Another very important aspect of ministry for Randy is peacemaking so he looks for opportunities to share those skills with youth whenever possible. This started when Randy took his learning on peacemaking from a class in college and applied it to his youth ministry. “I was so impacted by that class that I wanted to look at ways to teach our youth and church about peacemaking and conflict resolution. So last summer I used the Sunday school hour to teach them conflict resolution skills. I am currently looking at ways to work with youth in developing a youth peacemaking ministry in our church. I also hope to one day see churches support peer mediation programs in our public schools. Most schools do not have mediation programs because of a lack of funding. Understanding how to peacefully resolve conflict can have an amazing impact on a young person’s life.”
Additionally, Randy shared that CYMT, as well as himself, have impacted APMUMC by helping to create a sustainable transformational youth ministry in the Donelson community. Randy says, “I believe also this is being done not completely by me or CYMT but by the youth of our congregation. We have youth at APMUMC who are more passionate about ‘hands on ministry’ than anything else we do.” This summer the youth ministry created a program called Summer of Service where they intentionally looked for opportunities to serve the senior members in their church as well as those in need throughout their community. The youth painted fences, cleaned weeds out of playgrounds, cleaned out closets, cleaned shelves and bookcases, and helped to distribute food. These moments had a great impact on those who were being served and also got youth excited about other ministry opportunities.
Randy’s coach Lesleigh Carmichael shared these words about him as a graduate resident: “As a coach it is always a privilege to walk along side our residents and as I enter this last year of coaching Randy, I am especially grateful for the wisdom I have gained in walking with him thus far. I have watched Randy manage many hats the last two years and he has worn them all with a spirit of grace, integrity, and passion. There are many things I respect and admire about Randy, but one of the things that stands out is his heart for reconciliation ministry and his passion to equip both youth and adults with tools to better understand what it means to live together and serve together as children of God. And the best part is that one of the greatest tools Randy uses in his ministry is the example he sets to those he serves. Randy is an instrument of God’s who truly lives, serves, and interacts with people in a way that embodies his philosophy of ministry and service which, unfortunately, is not as common in ministry as it should be.”
CYMT is grateful for Randy and what he brings to the program and cohort. “I believe that more than anything I bring my life and experiences to CYMT. I feel that if we are not afraid to be who we have become through our experiences then, in someway, we can help others along the journey. We must be willing to see our gifts, abilities, and our stories as valuable to the body of Christ. We all bring something of significance to the table. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:12, ‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.’ In Christ, our unity in the midst of diversity is a great blessing!”
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.