L to R: Teresa Johnson (Dwight’s mom), Dwight Johnson, Arisie Marshall (Dwight’s cousin), Regina Marshall (Dwight’s aunt)
My name is Dwight Johnson and I am a second year graduate resident here at CYMT. I am originally from Amory, Miss., but call Jackson, Miss. home since I graduated from Millsaps College and I received my bachelor of arts in music/voice. I now reside in Nashville, Tenn. where I am the youth director at Preston Taylor Ministries.
There are three things you should know about me: 1) I love the Lord! I accepted Christ at an early age and I strive to follow him as he has always been faithful to me. 2) I love my family! I was raised by my mom and a huge “cloud of witnesses” who saw potential in me. It is from these people that I have learned what it truly means to value family. 3) I love music! My grandmother put me in children’s choir at church and it was there that I developed my love for music and eventually became a worship leader. Studying music in college forced me to look at it in very different ways, learning to critique and analyze, and my appreciation for it was intensified and deepened. I love to write, compose, and sing as much as I can.
While in college, I served as the youth and activities intern at Galloway UMC in Jackson. During my second year there, Emily Sanford (then the pastor to students) and I were having a conversation about my next steps after graduation. She talked to me about CYMT and insisted that I check out the website, pray, and discern about starting the application process. After about a week, I applied to the program, and here I am!
At Preston Taylor Ministries, I serve as both the junior high youth director and the youth director of Calvin House. As the junior high youth director, I oversee about 25 junior high students grades six through eight who meet on Mondays and Thursdays during the school year for homework help, snack supper, and enrichment activities. In this role, I also serve as the student and family’s liaison in the schools. I make school visits, track students’ attendance and grades, and schedule meetings with teachers to ensure that all learning goals are being met by both teachers and students.
As the Calvin House director, I am responsible for planning programming that give teens a safe place to hang out, make friends, and ultimately, grow in love for God and one another. As the director, I seek to encourage students to love one another in spite of differences and to look out for each another no matter the situation. Middle and high school students meet on Wednesday nights for dinner, games, worship, and family groups. I am also responsible for planning events such as guys/girls nights out, service projects, and out-of-town retreats.
God is at work in major ways here at PTM. In the two years I have been blessed to serve here, we have seen exponential growth in student enrollment and volunteer recruitment. Additionally, we are seeing improvements in reading, academic performance, and life skills. God is also hard at work in the lives of my students. One student in particular struggled severely with anger last year. He had continuous outbreaks in school which landed him in an alternative school. As he entered sixth grade this year and his first year in the junior high program, I have had opportunities to minister with him and have seen the Lord turn his attitude and anger around for the better. He has learned how to cope with his anger and has learned to verbalize what is causing his anger to arise. Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we have been blessed to walk with this young man and his family as he seeks to become all that God has called him to be.
CYMT has opened my eyes to aspects of ministry I never even dreamed to think about. CYMT challenges me to dig deeper than what lies on the surface to discover and think through ways God is calling youth ministry to the forefront of not just the church, but non-profits such as Preston Taylor. Through classes, conversation, and community, CYMT educates, empowers, and encourages graduate residents to create youth ministry models that do not simply bring students together to merely talk about Christ, but the model encourages conversation that transforms, by the power of the Holy Spirit. CYMT has taught me to create spaces for my students to struggle out loud, together, among each other, a style that not only ensures the success of a youth ministry, but also pushes teens who need the power of the cross working on their behalf to Christ, to his transformative power.
Dwight Johnson is a second year CYMT graduate resident and serves at Preston Taylor Ministries and Calvin House in Nashville, Tenn.
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.