16 years ago

Today, I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday. The rules: Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

This week's prompt: Anniversary.

Faith Homewood

I started college at a time when the future seemed bright, when I expected to be able to write my own ticket on a starting offer as an electrical engineer.

Then 9-11 happened.

It was a bright Tuesday morning at the start of my senior year. When I walked out of an engineering class, I saw a group of professors clustered around a TV. Even though that struck me as odd, I kept walking until I ran into my fiancé and a friend of ours who informed us, “Our country has been attacked.” Too scared to go to class, we wandered over to the Student Union, where someone had already erected large TVs for us to monitor the day’s events.

It was a scary and awful day in a thousand ways.

It was also supposed to have been the start of our engineering career fair.  Instead, the government shut down the US airspace and the career fair never happened.  

Like all my classmates, though, I applied for countless engineering jobs. 

When nothing came of it, a friend and mentor eventually questioned, “You know God is calling you to something more, right, Jen? Here. Take a look at these youth ministry job sites and see what happens.”

In an instant, I flashed back on my life and thought of all that had led to this moment. I loved my high school youth group. Throughout college, I served in our church’s junior high ministry. There, people consistently affirmed my giftedness. I even spent a summer running a Kids Club for a high school mission trip organization. I was exhausted, filthy, and definitely in over my head. Yet, I felt so incredibly alive. I remember thinking, “If I could just do this for the rest of my life, I’d be happy.”

So... I took my mentor's advice and started applying for youth ministry jobs. Within a couple weeks, I had two different job offers. I took one of them, which ended in complete and utter disaster. Yet, somehow, I left it knowing that youth ministry was indeed my calling.

It’s funny.

Some of my Christian friends tell their “call” stories as God gently inviting them into ministry. I feel more like God pushed me down a dark flight of basement steps that, left to my own accord, I never would have been brave enough to traverse.

But thanks to that push, I did.

Now, on this, the 16th anniversary of my first day in paid youth ministry, I’m more confident than ever that I’m living out my calling, doing exactly what God has created me to do.

And thankfully, after that initial push down those scary basement steps, I'm also confident I've landed in an undeniable partnership with the God who changes lives.

Including our own.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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