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 should not surpass that of their parents or their Savior.

More often than not, I do OK at remembering and living this out. But occassionally, I fail miserably at it.

When I fail, it’s usually because I’m struggling with ministry envy. Specifically, this envy typically occurs when one of the kids in my youth ministry, when one of MY kids, tells me something about another youth ministry they’ve attended.

Just this week, I received a Facebook message from one of the kids in my youth ministry who is currently in the midst of a period of rapid spiritual growth, telling me about another youth ministry that she attended last week. She ended the message by saying that this youth ministry was “very different than ours, but different in a good way” and that she thought we should try some of the things they’re doing in their ministry in ours.

In that moment, as I read that message, I forgot that “There’s a Savior & I’m not it.”

And so my ministry envy reared it’s ugly head. As it did, I began to question why this girl thought that this other youth ministry was worth modeling ours after; I questioned why this youth pastor seemed to have connected so well with my kid in one week, when I’ve spent the last year and a half investing in her; And I began to wonder if this girl’s rapid spiritual growth was because of this other youth pastor rather than because of me.

As I reflected on this, I realized that all of my feelings and insecurities pointed to the fact that sometimes, as much as I try to behave and believe otherwise, I really do want to be the Savior for my kids.

Unfortunately, that’s not healthy – for me, or for them.

And I know this. Very much. In fact, I even believe that as a whole, youth ministries need to be less isolationist; Less possessive of “our” kids; And more willing to partner with other churches in order to work together to do what’s best for our youth spiritually.

I even wrote an article about this a few years ago.

Yet, in truth, I have a hard time working with other churches to live this out. In truth, I have a hard time sharing my kids with others.

And this needs to change – for them and for me.

So today I end this blog with a renewed commitment to partner with other churches to do what’s in the best interest of my kids, even if it means sharing them; Even if it means accepting the fact that others may play a tremendously important role in their spiritual growth; And even if it means that “There’s a Savior and I’m not it.”

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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Jen's Books

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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

Based on National Research

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