Five Minute Friday: Grace


Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker‘s Five Minute Friday. The rules: Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. 

This week's prompt: Grace. 

When I interviewed for my current job, one of the interviewers asked me to share about my previous experience with the ELCA, the denomination in which I also spent my first year in ministry.

I responded by saying how much I appreciated the ELCA's emphasis on grace. This was especially true for me at the time, when I was immersed in a very legalistic congregational context, desperately longing to be back in a community where the gospel of grace would consistently win in the battle between the law and the gospel.

This is important to me because as a youth worker, I've had the privilege of experiencing both the power of grace and of giving grace to underserving students. In fact, I do the latter fairly easily.

I readily give students second, third, eighth, and twentieth chances. What's more, I relish the look on their face when they receive a chance they didn't earn. I love leaning into that teachable moment and reminding them that that's how God operates, too.

Yet, truth be told, though I've experienced the power of grace in my own life, I still struggle greatly with receiving it.

It's far easier for me to see my imperfections than it is for me to see my value. It's far easier for me to dwell on my failures than on my successes.

Take, for example, last week. I had a great week of ministry. We served at Feed My Starving Children and then raised money for transitional housing for homeless families at an overnight event. I watched as one of my student leaders led an incredible discussion and sat in awe of the ways I've seen God transform this girl in the last year. Yet, in the midst of this, I received an angry e-mail from a parent I inadvertently hurt. Regrettably, that e-mail eclipsed the dozens of ways God moved in our ministry last week.

If one of my students told me that, I'd remind them that God is bigger than the messes we make. I'd tell them that grace always wins and I'd explain that sometimes, the hardest person to show grace to is ourselves. Then I'd challenge them to do the hard thing and let the e-mail go and I'd hope that someday, I might also be able to do the same.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, 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 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.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

Now Available!

A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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