Archive for 2014

Parents: Partners or Enemies?

The phone rang.

Upon seeing it was the parent of one of my teens, I immediately took a mental inventory of what I might have done to anger or upset this mom.

You see, my experience has taught me that when a parent calls, I've almost always done...

The not so amazing "Amazing Grace"

Amazing Grace

Last night, my husband and I saw the new musical, Amazing Grace, in it's pre-Broadway Chicago run. As you might guess from the show's title, it's a musical about John Newton, the man who wrote the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace, after turning from a...

A 4-week experiment

This year in my youth ministry, I wanted to try utilizing student-led small groups.

Notice the operative word there: TRY.

In theory, I believe that student-led small groups are a good idea.

Yet, in reality, I feared they would prove disastrous.


Kitty: My Faith Heroine

I first met Kitty when I was still in grade school. As the associate pastor at my church, Kitty was stuck running our youth group, a job she didn't like - at least not at first.

Over time, however, we trained her (or maybe she trained us; I'm not...

The small pool of female youth workers

A male youth worker recently bemoaned the fact that he could think of only two female youth workers to invite to speak at an upcoming event. He told me how he believed it was important to have a female youth worker on stage for all the female...

Show them health, not perfection

Recently, my high school teens and I discussed God's gender.

During this discussion, small groups made a list of God's characteristics and classified them as masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. As we did this, my husband and I, who were...

Don't Assume Jesus is Understood

Jesus Gap

This year, my adult leaders and I are reading and discussing Sticky Faith together. At our first meeting, we wrestled with the chapter on the Sticky Gospel. As part of this, I asked leaders to share their reaction to how teens defined what it...

Review: A Woman in Youth Ministry by Gina Abbas

A Woman In Youth Ministry

As a woman in youth ministry, I face some unique challenges.

I wish that wasn't true, but it is.

Most of the time, these unique challenges no longer bother me. I'm confident in my call. I wholeheartedly believe that I'm fully using each and...

A Place to Belong

I'm a strong believer that belonging precedes belief. This means that if we want teens to take ownership of their faith, we have to first help them belong.

To be clear, belonging doesn't happen accidentally. Helping teens belong takes time,...

The Complaint Letter

Lead 800

We were on the way back from a junior high retreat when it happened. 

We began complaining about everything we disliked about our church. 

Of course, our view was unique. 

We were, after all, only in 6th - 8th grade; I was an...

How much should we invest in those who don't come?

My first year in ministry, I was haunted by a girl I never met.

Her name was Laura and she never attended anything.

She didn't come to our weekly youth ministry gatherings.

She didn't come to our special events – regardless of whether they were ...

The Mother Of All Injustices

Over the weekend, I watched an episode of one of my favorite TV shows, The West Wing. In it, two Native Americans show up at the White House and refuse to leave until they get an answer on an application their tribe submitted… fifteen years ago.


Ask About the Worst

A few weeks ago, I sat down next to an eighth grade boy. Wanting to engage him in conversation, I asked, “How's school?”

I got a typical junior high boy answer: “Good.”

So I asked him a follow-up question. “What's been good about it?”

To which...

Two for One

Throughout my career in youth ministry, people have occasionally asked me if my husband would be willing to do something.

I used to answer these questions on his behalf, (always saying "yes"), sometimes without first even checking with him.


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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