New Stories to Tell

Recently, I heard a well-known Christian speaker give a sermon called, “What happens when the dream dies?”

The funny thing is I heard this speaker give the exact same sermon five years ago.

At that time, I remember sitting in the convention hall nodding my head in agreement. What this man said resonated with me and so, too, did his theology. This time around, however, I could no longer nod my head in agreement. Instead, I found myself questioning much of what he was saying, along with his interpretation of Scripture and his picture of God. More than that, though, as I listened to this man give his talk again, I found myself grieving for the fact that even though his life had changed drastically over the course of five years, his faith story appeared stuck. 

This was deeply troubling to me, perhaps because it runs counter to my own experience. Over the past five years, I know I've changed. I have a different job and I live in a different house in a different community than I did five years ago. Through experiences at church and in the refugee community, deep conversations with my husband and friends, as well as travel and mission trips, my faith has grown and so, too, has my picture of God.

Truthfully, I believe this is the way faith is supposed to be. As we allow Scripture, experiences, and our community to shape us, faith changes and deepens. While certain key events in our lives will likely continue to shape our understanding of God for years, as we change, so will our stories of faith.

This is something that I desperately hope to instill in the students with whom I am privileged to work. Through my ever changing story of faith, I hope they will realize that God is alive and active. And as their own stories of faith change, I hope my students will see that as a sign of growth; As evidence that God is constantly molding, changing, and redeeming us, all the while giving us new stories to tell that showcase his goodness and grace in our lives.

My deepest prayer is that God will change me.

That's also my deepest prayer for my students: That God will change them.

That's why I hope that five years from now, neither I, nor any of my students, nor anyone at my church will still be telling the same story of faith we are today. Instead, I hope that we will each have a new story to tell - one that shows how God is continuing to transform us and in so doing, bears witness to the fact that truly, He is alive.

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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