The transformative power of asking for help

Both last week and this week we'll be talking about transformational moments in ministry: Moments that have transformed our faith or changed the way we do ministry. Over the next few days, you'll hear from several women in ministry who serve in various capacities - some paid, some volunteer; some in youth ministry, some not – from various denominations around the world.

Today's post is written by April Diaz. I first heard April speak years ago at a women in ministry event at Youth Specialties' NYWC. I've been a fan of hers ever since. She's the Human Development Director at Newsong and a gifted writer. Her work has appeared in (among other things) Deep Justice Journeys. She also blogs regularly about her road to motherhood.

I was invited to write about a transformational moment that I’ve had in the past 16 years of pastoral ministry. Honestly, I’m having a hard time thinking of the “right” one, or the “best” one, or the most “helpful” one. I think if we are in ministry we better be experiencing transformational moments all the time. Otherwise, we should probably quit our jobs and take up dog walking professionally (though I’m certain walking dogs would provide a host of transformational opportunities).

What we do in the church is all about transformation. Change is what we most hope for in our lives, our people, our churches. Yet that change is often elusive and difficult to name, especially in the moment. Transformation is often better recognized in hindsight. Maybe that’s why I’m having a difficult time naming my “transformational moment”.

However, there’s one moment that screams to be shared.

It was about a year and a half ago and I was having a 15-minute meeting with my boss, the lead pastor of our church. From nowhere he asked how I was doing. (Caveat: he’s actually a very compassionate and soulful leader, but I wasn’t expecting to have a heart-to-heart in that brief meeting.) From nowhere, without really thinking I blurted out, “I think I need to go back to therapy. Will Newsong pay for me to go to counseling for a few months?”

Without hesitation or surprise at my confession he agreed. In fact, he took it to another level and offered, “Ask if he (the therapist I suggested) will give you a discount. And how are you and Brian doing? Why don’t you do a few sessions for your marriage, just as a tune up?”

Um…OKAY!

For months I had been feeling the need to have a wise, trusted, and objective third party speak into my life. Within the past year, I had become an adoptive mom to two kids and then found myself pregnant (those are altogether different stories of transformation!). My job had radically shifted with a significant increase of responsibility. Several staff transitions had rocked my soul, confidence and emotional well-being. Leading change while simultaneously cultivating refuge for our community and learning how to mother had left me off-kilter, unfamiliar in my own body. I needed help.

So I asked. My spiritual director (who’s in addition to my therapist!) said that “ask and you will receive” is a marker of spiritual maturity. I’ve never really considered asking for help as a strength or sign of maturity. In fact, I think our culture promotes the opposite.

But I do know that asking for help – honestly, regularly, and unedited – is when I am at my best. I’m asking for help a lot again these days. I’m back in therapy (again). I’m lining up meetings with trusted friends, mentors, and leaders to speak into my life and leadership. And I’m feeling stronger, more capable, more dependent, more alive.

It changed me to look into the eyes of my lead pastor and essentially say, “I do not have this. I need help. I’m not okay. I am not at my best.”

Today, may you ask for help. May you find yourself blurting out what you need even if you don’t know exactly what that means. And may you find yourself received by another who loves you and believes in you and will have your back.

Other posts in this series:

The transformative power of conflict;

The transformative power of story;

The transformative power of women in vocational ministry;

The transformative power of carpet;

The transformative power of friends;

The transformative power of the church

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.

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

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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

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