When the fires rage

I'm currently putting out fires in what feels like every area of ministry.

I'm exhausted and feeling defeated. Yesterday, I awoke and immediately just wanted to go back to bed. I had no desire to work. Lacking motivation, I zoned out to a few TV shows before eventually deciding to complete some mindless administrative tasks, hoping that by the time my evening programming began, I'd feel better about life and ministry.

In truth, I didn't.

So I thought about canceling my one-on-one meeting with a student leader. I even justified it to myself, reminding myself that to continue fighting these fires, I'd need all the energy I could muster.

But then I reflected upon my previous day of ministry. That morning I put out one fire, attempted to gain control of another, and watched as a brush fire exploded into something larger, something I had not anticipated.

Wedged in between these things was an unexpected 15-minute conversation with a student that was, in a word, holy. That one-on-one conversation restored me, giving me the energy to stand back up and continue on.

So last night, even though I wanted nothing more than to crash on the couch and watch the Olympics, I went to dinner with my student. We had a great, challenging conversation.

Afterward, six students and I ran ESL Kids Club. We laughed. We loved the child in our care. We shared stories of our day and in the process, we grew in our relationships with each other and God.

Once again, my time with my students restored me. It reminded me of all the ways God is present and active in my ministry; Of how he is using this ministry to profoundly impact not just the students and the families directly involved in it, but our local community as well.

When fires rage around us, it's so tempting to devote all our time and energy to fighting them. The problem with this, however, is that raging fires obscure our vision; They block us from seeing how and where God is moving in our ministries. When that happens, discouragement, defeat, and burnout set in.

Last night reminded me that it's precisely when fires rage that we need to take time to be with kids – to pour into and invest in the students we serve, trusting that when we do, not only will God show up but we'll gain a new perspective that will give us the strength to carry on.

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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