When the way is clear

Today, I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday. The rules: Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

This week's prompt: Way.

Open Door

My congregation’s long-time senior pastor resigned unexpectedly in February, 2017. When he did, I remember thinking, “I wonder if I’ll stay once Faith hires another senior pastor?”

The question was prompted by my long-held belief that one of the reasons I’d stayed in my role as long as I had was because of my senior pastor’s leadership. Without that, I'm not sure I would have lasted as long as I did. Despite my worry, I didn’t immediately start searching youth ministry job boards. Instead, I stayed in my role, faithfully doing the work God called me to do.

But then, last September, I ran into a former colleague at a charity event. She asked how it was going at Faith before sharing that her congregation was in the same boat: A transition after the resignation of a long-time pastor couple who among other things, was responsible for their congregation’s youth ministry. She asked me if it’d be okay for her boss, Don - their senior pastor - to call me. I said yes, not really thinking much of it.

After all, as I’ve been privileged to do more writing, speaking, research, and consulting over the last several years, I’ve gotten that request fairly regularly. A pastor will reach out to me wanting to know more about what makes a successful youth ministry or often, about how and where to find a “good” youth pastor.

So, when Don reached out, I didn’t think twice about meeting with him. It was only after I sat down at Starbucks that I realized I was being interviewed for a job I wasn’t sure I wanted.

None the less, I listened, learned, asked, and answered questions. I left our meeting excited about Don as a leader and about the potential for ministry in his congregation.

But two weeks later, I felt absolutely no release from my call at Faith. So when Don invited me to move forward in their call process, I respectfully declined. When I did, Don asked if it would be okay to reach back out in six months if they were still looking for someone. I agreed, again not really thinking anything would come from it.

Fast forward to April.

I ran into my former colleague at another charity event. She asked how things were going at my congregation and I nearly burst into tears. She took one look at my face and said, “I’ll have Don call you on Monday.”

He did.

That conversation quickly led to another meeting, after which I got in the car and realized that for the first time in months (maybe even a year), I was smiling when thinking about ministry. I felt like Billy Crystal in the movie City Slickers, when he returns from his time on the horse ranch, points out his smile to his wife, and says, “Look what I found!”

At that meeting I found my smile and renewed energy for ministry in a way I hadn't expected to.

So when Don asked me to move forward in the call process, I readily agreed.

A meeting with their call committee left me even more energized and excited about the potential for ministry at Atonement.

Reference checks left Don equally excited about me.

Before long, I had a job offer in hand and the way seemed clear.

I hadn’t been looking for it. I hadn’t known I wanted it. Yet, it felt like God beckoning me, flinging a door wide open and saying, “Come this way! I have more for you! Taste and see!”

And so I'm going... Because when the way seems obvious, you go, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s not what you were expecting.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, 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 the forthcoming 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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