I am a Spiritual Misfit

I Am A Spiritual Misfit

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of speaking at The Progressive Youth Ministry conference.

I went, genuinely excited not only to be sharing my research about what high school teens believe about Jesus, but also eager to try a new youth ministry conference.

For years, I'd struggled with never really fitting in at the youth ministry conferences I'd attended.

I am, after all, a woman, which makes me the minority in youth ministry. I'm also an introvert, which makes me an oddball as well. Moreover, my experience was typically that I was way too theologically liberal for the evangelically based youth ministry conferences I traditionally attended. My passion for social justice often made me feel out of place there.

Knowing this, I hoped I'd find my people at the progressive conference.

Instead, I found I didn't truly fit in there either.

As it turns out, there's theologically liberal and then there's progressive. The two are not the same.

So while I loved hearing new voices, gaining knowledge about issues that were completely foreign to me, and even hearing one of the best talks I've ever heard at a youth ministry conference, I still felt like a spiritual misfit.

At the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference, I found people who shared my passion for social justice. Yet, my twin passion for Jesus made me feel out of place.

As it turns out, my passion for both Jesus and social justice makes me too evangelical for the progressives but too progressive for the evangelicals.

The funny thing is, in my mind, not only is it possible for these twin passions to co-exist, but they are also intricately connected. My faith is rooted in Jesus. My love for Jesus compels me to be social-justice minded and to care for the “least of these”.

Jesus himself said the two greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Knowing this, I suppose there are worse things than being a spiritual misfit.

After all, I may never completely fit in with either the evangelicals or the progressives, but I think I fit in just fine with Jesus.

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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