This summer we’re interviewing our authors to learn more about their summer.
Catching up with Jen Bradbury had a special wrinkle to it. Besides being the author of The Jesus Gap, Jen is a full-time Director of Youth Ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glenn Ellyn, Illinois and she just became a new mom in Late May.
Adam: So, what’s summer look like in your ministry?
Jen: Summer looks very different than the rest of the year. Our programming year is intentionally September through May so that we can give our leaders and families a break from regular, weekly programming during the summer. This means that during the summer, we change things up. Our focus is on our summer mission trip but we also typically hold a short, two or three week experiential Bible study for whoever is still around. Additionally, I spend a lot of time training and equipping next year’s student leaders through a series of meetings, readings, and an end-of-the-summer retreat.
Adam: What are you up to that isn’t work? Are you going to be able to sneak in a vacation?
Jen: Well – I just had a baby (Hope) so this summer, a lot of what I’m up to isn’t church work. In fact, I’m on maternity leave for the first eight weeks of summer. Towards the end of that, we’ll take a short trip to Michigan just to prove to ourselves that it’s possible to travel with a baby. I’m also working on another book for the Youth Cartel – a devotional about Jesus based on the research from The Jesus Gap.
Adam: Obviously, we’re super excited about that devotional and can’t wait to get it out there. Let’s dream a little, let’s pretend that you had all the time in the world and money weren’t an issue. What’s your dream summer vacation?
Jen: Camping and backpacking in the mountains. My husband and I went to Alaska several years ago. I’d love to return there and spend some extended time in Denali National Park.
Adam: Shifting gears back to youth ministry, share a favorite summer youth ministry story.
Jen: One of my favorites is actually from when I was in high school. My church took an annual canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.
On one trip, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Weeks before, our pastor – who was supposed to go on the trip – got transferred to another congregation. The girlfriend of our other adult leader filled in for her. About half-way through the trip, our trip leader found a huge, hairy spider and proceeded to chase his girlfriend around the campsite with it. Unfortunately, she tripped over a log and fell, severely fracturing both her tibia and fibia. Since this was in the days before cell phones, we had no way of getting help. (The Boundary Waters is a legitimate wilderness area!) Left with no other choice, our trip leader left us alone the next day and paddled back to our starting point for help. While he was gone, a bear invaded our campsite. Eventually, a seaplane arrived to airlift our injured leader out and our trip leader returned. At that point, though, we were a full day behind, so we were forced to canoe through the night in order to reach our final destination on time. Now, some 20 years later, my friends and I still affectionately refer to that trip as The Canoe Trip From Hell.
Adam: Hmmm… maybe that’d be a good student devotional someday? That’d be a great title, “The Canoe Trip From Hell.”
So, what’s your least favorite part about summer in youth ministry?
Jen: While I love the fact that we don’t have regular weekly summer programming because of the break it gives our leaders, the reality of this is that there are some teens we don’t see ALL summer. They’re missed!
If you’re looking for a book to take on your summer vacation, allow me to recommend The Jesus Gap. In her book, Jen shares what she learned in a national study within the her denomination. The Jesus Gap discovers the gap between what we’re teaching our students about Jesus and what they are actually learning.
Use coupon code SUMMERGAP to save 33% on The Jesus Gap now through July 1st.