New Beginnings

Today marks the start of my 8th year in youth ministry, and the start of my 2nd year at Faith. What a journey it has been!

Last year, when I began my ministry at Faith, I was cocky and pretty sure of myself and my approach to youth ministry. So sure, in fact, that despite telling myself that I would “start slow”, I really didn’t. Granted, I didn’t go as fast as I could have, but I also never really stopped to contextualize my philosophy of ministry to this particular setting.

As a result, the last year has been a rocky road.

Yet, today as I gear up for the start of another programming year, I find myself cautiously optimistic about the year ahead and about my relationships with these kids, which I think have been strengthened by the battles we’ve already weathered together.

Our “core” program, FLY Nights, will look very different this year than last, and very different from my youth ministry at my previous church, from what I imagined my ministry would be here, and even from what my ideal “vision” for ministry is.

Perhaps, though, that’s not a bad thing.

What I’ve discovered in this process is that my definition of ministry is much bigger than it was a year ago, and I’ve found that the God I worship is also much bigger than I imagined him to be a year ago.

Because of that, as I prepare for our 1st FLY Night of the year, I’m finding that I’m daring to hope and dream about ministry again.

In the words of Paul, “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

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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