That's so presh!

Just weeks before Doug and I were married, we served at a Christian camp together as counselors. While there, we were admonished by one of our fellow counselors for acting “too much like a couple”.

In so many ways, this admonishment...

The Bad Kid

While in Arkansas two weeks ago for a summer mission trip, I met a 13 year old boy named Richie, someone the local principal had deemed “white trash”. In addition to knowing the label he’d been given, before ever meeting Richie,...

The Master Storyteller

I spent last week helping with Vacation Bible School. Like many churches across the country, ours uses Group’s “easy” VBS. Through it, I ventured on a “High Seas Expedition” with some 90 kids from our community, leading them during the Bible...

Trapping God in a Box

I’m an avid reader and now that school is out for the summer, I’ve been enjoying lots of fiction, some ministry books, non-fiction Christian books, and some magazines. In reading, I stumbled upon an article that said “72 percent...

Art and the Black Box Church

We’re living in the era of the black box church. These churches are typically found in vacant storefronts or empty warehouses. The idea behind them is that it’s wiser for today’s churches to invest money into a versatile space...

Chasing Moments

My husband, Doug, and I took advantage of the long Memorial Day Weekend to go hiking in Yosemite National Park in California. Of the four trails we hiked, our favorite was Sentinel Dome.

To get to Sentinel Dome, you have to travel along Glacier...

The Power of Community

Recent research from the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR) has revealed that connecting teens to their faith communities helps them to develop a lasting & consequential faith.

As I’m currently conducting a thorough assessment...

Change the World

I’ll admit it. One of my weaknesses in life is reality TV. Most of it’s awful, brain-numbing material, yet, there’s something about it that I find highly entertaining. So I watch it, show after show, year after year. Such is the...

A Sacred Moment Amidst a Missed Opportunity

When I entered youth ministry, I naively thought that if I effectively ministered to the youth in my care than I would have done my job well. Yet, the longer I’ve been in youth ministry, the more convinced I’ve become that for better...

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...

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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