Super Doug & Super Jen

When We Were On Fire

My husband and I have been blessed to be part of a long-standing small group. Together with this group, we've celebrated milestones and walked with each other through some of life's darkest moments. We've also reflected on our faith stories and in the process, grown in our relationships with God and each other.

In the safety of this small group, we've often reflected on the day's when we were on fire. For my husband and I, this time period coincided with our college years and my first year in ministry. It was marked by a relentless effort to do more for God because on or own, we were never good enough for God (or any other Christians we knew). This time period was also marked by the belief that God spoke to us – directly and often. As a result, we believed God directed our every choice and decision.

My husband now calls the person he was when he was on fire, Super Doug.

Despite the fact that both he and I would admit my upbringing in a mainline denomination tapered my fire, the truth is, during both the time we dated as well as our first year in marriage, I worked hard to fan my spiritual flame. If my husband was going to be Super Doug then, in an effort to be equally yoked with him, I wanted desperately to be Super Jen.

Unfortunately, our alter egos dominated my first year in ministry.

During that year, we truly thought Super Doug and Super Jen wore superhero capes that would allow us to save the world, or at least the teenagers in our mainline church from the fiery flames of hell.

Shortly after taking my first job in ministry, I remember telling a friend who was even more on fire for the Lord than we were about my job. She patted me on the back and assured me, “The Lutherans need Jesus too, honey.”

Unfortunately, what my superhero glasses prevented me from seeing at the time was that the Lutherans already had Jesus. What's more, they also had a practical theology far more well-developed than mine; One that compelled them to not only talk about Jesus, but to actively serve him in their daily lives.

At the time, this theology didn't mesh well with mine.

Worse still, my Super Jen persona also came with a great deal of arrogance. I truly believed that my faith (and all the ways I practiced it) was right.

The problem is, when you arrogantly believe you're right, by default, that means you believe others are wrong.

In my case, the people I thought were wrong were the very people who my job compelled me to serve.

As it turns out, no one likes being told their faith is wrong. So, before too long, angry parents tore my cape from me.

What I learned is that the people at this church weren't looking for a Savior (much to my chagrin, they already had one). Instead, they were looking for a spiritual guide for their youth, an adult role model who would shepherd teens on their spiritual journeys.

Thankfully, more than a decade later, I understand that.

Even so, these days, I like to think I'm still on fire.

The difference is arrogance no longer fuels my fire. Instead, my fire is fueled by a passion for community, Jesus, and other things I think maybe God is also on fire for like caring for refugees, the poor, and the oppressed.

These days, my fire compels me to do my part in making God's kingdom a reality here and now. Only these days, I leave my superhero cape at home, convinced that it's ordinary followers of Jesus who can make this kingdom a reality.  


This blog is part of Addie Zierman's synchroblog celebrating the release of her book, "When We Were on Fire." 


Natalie Trust

Great post, Jen. Found you over on Addie's blog. Perfect title. I had my "super" days too!

Posted by Natalie Trust, almost 10 years ago

Addie Zierman

I love this Jen. Yes, so much arrogance came with all of that. The "this is THE WAY to do faith mentality." Oh, I had it too. Loved this so much: "Unfortunately, what my superhero glasses prevented me from seeing at the time was that the Lutherans already had Jesus. What's more, they also had a practical theology far more well-developed than mine; One that compelled them to not only talk about Jesus, but to actively serve him in their daily lives." Yes. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

Posted by Addie Zierman, almost 10 years ago



When I saw that you participated in Addie’s synchroblog I thought I should invite you to participate in a monthly synchroblog that I am a part of.

It’s made up of a home-grown group of bloggers who like to write on topics of post-modern faith & life. This group is open to anyone who is interested in participating. We value respectful conversation and dialogue while honoring our differences. We share links & try to learn from each other.

Some of the people that originally participated in the synchroblog no longer blog and I am trying to reach out to people like you who are currently passionate about blogging in order to keep our monthly synchroblog relevant and vital.

If you are interested in joining us you can join the facebook group and receive monthly invitations to the synchroblog. Here is that link:

And you can find our website (which you can subscribe to if you want to receive an email when we post the monthly theme announcement/invitation) here:

(You can see all of the themes that we have covered in the past on our website in order to get an idea of what we do)

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Posted by Liz, almost 10 years ago

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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