They have shared resources and equipment, from study materials to strobe lights.
They have shared prayer requests, from ministry concerns to homes needing to be sold.
And they have shared a vision to reach young people with God’s love, whatever denominational clothing it might wear when it manifests.
They are about 60 members of the Columbus Area Youth Ministry Alliance, better known as CAYMA, which will mark 12 years of work this year.
“One goal is to get kids plugged in to churches,” said alliance coordinator Tim Hoeflinger.
Former Columbus youth minister Will Bohall first saw that need when he served with the local South Central Indiana Youth For Christ ministry in the late 1990s. He met a lot of young people who were either unchurched or with no regular church home. He said he felt that a mix of ministry leaders could help them find a good spiritual fit.
“If we would see 40 kids come forward at altar calls,” Bohall said, “it was clear there was a need to be able to send them somewhere (for discipling). I knew I couldn’t just bring them all to my church.”
So he helped start CAYMA in the summer of 2000 with people such as George Denholm, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church director of discipleship, and Casey Speer, who at the time was child evangelism fellowship leader.
The group attracted nearly 200 teens — including 30 with no church home — for its initial event, a lock-in at Foundation for Youth. The numbers back then surprised even organizers, since the next day featured a major high school band contest, a cross-country meet, soccer matches, tennis and more.
But the nonprofit organization also serves as a support system for area youth ministers, from full-time to volunteer. Sometimes that’s as simple as informal fellowship and encouragement around a meal at the group’s monthly noon Tuesday meetings in various churches.
D.J. Butcher, First Christian Church preteen and middle school minister, likes the connection he has built with others through the alliance.
“One thing that I love and appreciate about being a part of CAYMA is that it really is a brotherhood/sisterhood,” Butcher said. “We aren’t a bunch of youth groups that are in competition with each other. In fact, it’s the other way around.”
Peter Eicher, youth pastor at Columbus’ Westside Community Church, agreed. He borrowed props and equipment from other churches just last week for a youth program.
“CAYMA feels a lot to me like I am one member on a big team that is working together to reach the students in our community,” Eicher said.
Part of its mission statement simply reads: “We work for the day when all youth find a place within the body of Christ where they feel his love and the support of his family of believers so that they may find their calling in his service.”
To do that, CAYMA always has emphasized the unity of Christians. A recent speaker-and-worship-service gathering hosted by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church drew 178 teens from a range of churches, from Catholic to nondenominational. A local teen praise band opened the event.
“I really felt like we were all one,” said Sean Galligar, a Columbus East High School student and St. Peter’s Lutheran member.
“It’s just like God,” Bohall said, “to work through all these people for his glory. That’s really what all this is about.”
Eric Steinke, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church’s director of youth ministries, said he hopes to see the alliance spread its reach into areas such as helping the local Beacon Promotions market Christian pop-rock concerts or addressing a range of teen challenges.
“If there’s a community need,” Steinke said, “I’d love to see us meet it.”
That’s already happening.
CAYMA is assisting with the revival of a local, weekly, after-school youth program called Blast. It disappeared several years when funding was cut. CAYMA members will make sure Blast has sufficient volunteers to operate.
“We’ve found that when we pool all our resources, you can do some extraordinary things,” Hoeflinger said.
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