The transformative power of the church

Both last week and this week we'll be talking about transformational moments in ministry: Moments that have transformed our faith or changed the way we do ministry. Over the next few days, you'll hear from several women in ministry who serve in various capacities - some paid, some volunteer; some in youth ministry, some not – from various denominations around the world.

Today's post is written by Rachel Blom. I first started paying attention to Rachel a few years ago when it suddenly seemed as though her blog (which is wonderful) was everywhere. Since then, I've also had the pleasure of interviewing her for a Youth Worker Journal Roundtable. The fact that she lives in the south of Germany is also why we can say this series has featured women from around the world.

I grew up in a Baptist church and gave my heart to Jesus at a very early age. There was Sunday School when I was a kid, then teen group and other activities and all in all, I liked church. The people were nice and friendly, there was enough for us kids and teens to do and I learned about Jesus and stuff. Church was fine with me.

But I never loved the church.

In college, I started attending a Christian student group and it was wonderful. I grew in my faith, started developing my gifts, made awesome friends and met my husband. We attended church faithfully and were very active in our student group. I loved Jesus, I loved my friends and I loved my life.

But I didn’t love the church.

Then my husband got the opportunity to do an internship in the US and we spent 10 months in Maryland, where we attended a church based on the Willow Creek model. For the first time, we experienced how a church could have an impact on the community, how the church could change people’s lives. It challenged us, inspired us, and we went back to The Netherlands with a burning heart. We started appreciating the church.

But I still didn’t love the church.

A few years later we had moved to the other side of the country and had started doing youth ministry there. We were invited to attend a Willow Creek Leadership Summit (via satellite) and we accepted.

The first talk was the opening session by Bill Hybels and I will never forget his words. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to his vision for the church, how the church was God’s instrument to bring change into this world. His passion and love for the church was palpable and it broke my heart into a million pieces. Something clicked that day and it changed me forever.

I started loving the church.

That day, my vision for youth ministry changed forever. It wasn’t just about hanging out anymore, or about entertainment, or having fun. It was about changing the world one life at a time, about showing teens God’s plan for them.

The church isn’t easy to love, as you may have experienced yourself. The body of Christ doesn’t always take good care of its members and I’ve had times where I’ve been discouraged, disillusioned and more than tempted to walk away. But through it all, I’ve never lost that vision and love for who and what we are supposed to be.

A pure bride
God’s chosen people
The instrument for change
God’s presence on earth
Jesus’ witnesses

I love the church with all my heart and truly believe in her power to change the world.

That has impacted the way I do youth ministry more than anything else.

Other posts in this series:

The transformative power of conflict;

The transformative power of story;

The transformative power of women in vocational ministry;

The transformative power of carpet;

The transformative power of friends

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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