The Case Against the 22 Year Old Youth Worker

When I began my career as a professional youth worker, I was 22 years old and newly married. Both I, and my first church, viewed my age as an asset that would allow me to better relate to the youth I was ministering to.

Such a belief is neither...

Practicing Bad Theology

Tomorrow, my youth ministry will hold it’s largest fundraiser of the year, a Silent Auction, designed to raise money for our summer mission trip to Booneville, Arkansas.

In theory, it sounds like a great event – an event with the...

The Gleaner

My small group is currently reading the book, “Take This Bread” by Sara Miles. In this book, Miles describes her journey to begin a food pantry at her church in California. She also talks extensively about how she experiences communion...

The Extravaganza

I’ll admit it… Reluctantly.

When it comes to youth ministry, I’ve gotten a bit arrogant.

So last weekend, when I got to the “Extravaganza,” a conference put on by the ELCA’s Youth Ministry Network, and...

Trimming the Fat

Last week, I met with an adult leader who is stepping down from serving in my youth ministry.

I wholeheartedly believe that it should be difficult for an adult to start serving in youth ministry but easy for him to stop serving. For this reason, I...

To My Extroverted Classmate

Dear Extroverted Classmate -

Last week, I sat in class with you for three days and really enjoyed getting to know you, though I fear you left without really knowing me.

On our second day of class, Professor Gerali talked about how women use seven...

Relegating people to tasks

I’m a classic type A personality.

Most of the time this serves me quite well. Take, for example, the last two weeks when, in addition, to the holidays, travel, and working, I’ve also had an article and curriculum due, and I’ve...

Sharing Kids

Early in my youth ministry career, someone told me, “There’s a Savior and you’re not it.”

To me, this simple yet profound statement served as a reminder that while important, my role in a kid’s life is limited and...

Youth to Youth

Throughout Scripture, God uses imperfect losers in incredible ways, something that I think He still does today.

In fact, considering that I am in youth ministry and that God has somehow managed to use me despite all my weaknesses and...

Separate Identity

For years, my husband & I have joked about how at the National Youth Workers Conventions that we attend he needs to either crash the “Youth Pastor’s Wives” seminar or start a “Youth Pastor’s Husbands”...


Each time I’ve undergone a job search, one of the first compensation questions that I’ve asked is “How much vacation time do I get?”

For my husband & I, in these “pre-family” years, traveling has been a...

The Power of Relationships

Last week, I had lunch with a good friend of mine, Kitty.

Kitty is someone that has had a hugely important role in my life since about 1990, when she came to First UMC Park Ridge as our Associate Pastor. During her tenure at First UMC, part of...

Church Buildings

Adam McLane recently posted this interesting blog. In it, he essentially poses the question, would churches better reach their communities without church buildings?

Since reading this blog, I’ve been contemplating this idea.

For five years...

Quilt Sunday

Two weeks ago, our church celebrated Quilt Sunday, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite Sundays of the year.

On Quilt Sunday, every pew is draped with several quilts – each handmade as a labor of love by six little old ladies in our...

The Greatest Generation

The Greatest Generation is a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation of Americans who grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity...

Little children & church

I’ve often wondered why, if Jesus told his disciples in Mark 10:14 to “Let the little children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs,” that so many churches today don’t...


If you were to take a poll of youth workers in the United States and ask them, “Who is the most influential youth worker in America today?” I think the overwhelming response would be Doug Fields, the Pastor to Students at Saddleback in...

The excess that surrounds me

For a long time, I’ve joked with my husband, Doug, about how he lucked out marrying someone who really does not enjoy shopping.

That said, I confess I have a weakness: The clearance rack at Kohl’s and REI. I can’t enter either of...

Raising each other's kids

In the last 3 years or so, my husband and I have noticed a trend: We’ll befriend a couple who we really get along with, share interests, and genuinely enjoy being with. Before long, the other couple gets pregnant. Nine months later, the baby...

Outcome-based education

During the past month, I’ve been inching my way through Scot McKnight’s “The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible,” a book which I definitely recommend.

One of the things that Scot talks about in this book is...

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

Order Now

Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

Order Now

The Real Jesus

Order Now

The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

Order Now




Recent Posts