Center for Youth Ministry Training announces Theology Together 2.0 upon receiving a $1 million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to expand the original initiative. CYMT has hired a new director of the program and partnered with City Service Mission, an organization focused on effective short term urban missions.
In 2013, Dr. Andrew Zirshcky and Rev. Dietrich Kirk developed the Theology Together project. Theology Together was devised to be a theology program that values all youth as theologians. Through the generous help of the Lilly Endowment, CYMT was granted $240,000 to develop this initiative. Theology Together began with a three-year pilot program named Collide. Collide brought church youth groups and leaders together for seven-day summer immersion experiences each June or July. The program placed youth in immersion experiences that:
Theology Together sought to change the climate of congregational youth ministry. The program provided avenues for theological dialogue, vocational discernment, and reflective action for both youth ministers and youth.
At Collide, youth were engaged in theological discussion and reflective action with their youth leaders. Therefore, through Collide, not only did youth expand their theological knowledge and conceptions, but youth leaders trained in the art of engaging young people in theological dialogue.
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. Theology Together 2.0 will further the objectives of the original initiative.
CYMT aims to continue to engage adults and youth in theological reflection. Changing the very nature of how they do youth ministry.
Through Collide, CYMT inspired new insights for youth ministry. However, sometimes it was difficult to enact and maintain change based on these insights. Through Theology Together 2.0, CYMT aims to foster systemic change in congregations with additional resourcing and tools. Moving Theology Together from an event-based experience to a part of the ministerial fabric of local congregations.
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.
Additionally, CYMT aims to assemble a design team to innovate and prototype other ways to train youth ministers and engage youth in CYMT’s Wow Theological Reflection Process.
Finally, CYMT aims to discover additional ways to share our learnings with the broader youth ministry community.
One of the ways CYMT will expand our Theology Together work is with an exciting new partnership with City Service Mission (CSM). For over 30 years, CSM’s mission has been to provide an effective urban ministry experience that transforms lives, influences churches and communities, and honors Christ by sending Christian teens to urban centers on short term mission trips.
“CYMT modeled much of our original Theology Together program after the work of CSM. We feel God’s hand upon this partnership as we enhance each other’s work,” says Dietrich “Deech” Kirk, CYMT Executive Director. “CYMT’s partnership with CSM will exponentially expand CYMT’s capacity to engage youth in deep theological reflection.”
CYMT’s Collide program reached 200 youth and adults. Through CYMT’s partnership with CSM, we will be able to engage 2400 youth and adults next summer with the goal of growing to 4,500 youth by the summer of 2024. CYMT will develop the curriculum used by CSM for its summer mission experiences. Additionally, CYMT and CSM will train youth ministers in the metropolitan areas CSM serves.
“Coronavirus affected CSM greatly, as it did with much of the world, and yet the needs and the call of God to serve those around us has never changed. We are excited to move forward in this strong partnership with CYMT. Together we believe that both ministries will grow, as we equip churches, support communities, transform lives, and honor Christ,” says Kevin McKinney, CSM Senior Director of Operations.
Dwight Johnson has joined CYMT to lead this project as our Theology Together Director.
Dwight Johnson will be joining CYMT from Preston Taylor Ministries, where he was Youth Director for eight years. He will be bringing to CYMT, and specifically Theology Together, his experiences in creating safe places for students to dialogue with each other about theology and self and to look out for each other. Dwight is a graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary and the CYMT Graduate Residency program.
Additionally, Dwight’s experiences that will benefit CYMT moving forward include:
Bringing an urban ministry perspective that we have not had on CYMT staff before.
Ministry with youth in a community development model.
Experience in both African American and Caucasian congregations.
“God brought me to CYMT over eight years ago as a student in the Graduate Residency. So, CYMT has already been a great presence in my life. In hearing about this opportunity and what CYMT wants to accomplish through Theology Together 2.0, I became excited to take on the role. I’m eager to think about youth ministry differently than I have been over the last 10 years working with students directly,” says Dwight Johnson. “Working in neighborhood, non-profit youth ministry revealed to me a great need for a new, thoughtfully merged space for youth to think and talk about their faith differently while helping to lead the pursuit of social justice and racial equity at CYMT.”
“Dwight Johnson is a gifted communicator and theologian. His urban ministry experience will provide immediate alignment with the CSM partnership,” says Dietrich “Deech” Kirk, CYMT Executive Director. “Additionally, we have invited Dwight to speak boldly as we seek racial equity and to pursue social justice throughout our ministry.”
The Center for Youth Ministry Training is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that equips youth ministers and communities of faith to develop innovative, effective, and theologically informed ministries so youth may experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
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.