This week when I was at camp, a press release was made about what I’m calling a shift in my life. I’m not leaving youth ministry. I’m not moving from our town or our church. But I am leaving some things. I’m leaving the safety of the traditional youth ministry boat so to speak.

For so long I have found joy and comfort working in youth ministry, the place where I discovered the most beautiful love I have ever seen–the love of Jesus. I dove into it with every ounce of my energy that I possessed and it has become a part of me–just like breakfast is a part of me–no one is going to convince me otherwise.

In the summer of 2007, God opened a door for me to come Highland Park (Lakeland, FL) to work with middle schoolers. I honestly didn’t know how that would go because I was used to leading mainly high school students. What I didn’t know was that God was forming my heart to fall in love. Middle school ministry is where is the bees knees (my jam, what’s up, my tribe). Just like camps are the sweet spot of our youth ministry calendar. Middle school is the sweet spot developmentally where students are most malleable and ready and willing to go all in with God. And they’re so much fun. They make me laugh. They surprise me with the craziest stuff and the most moving realizations. I just like them. Always will.

It was also at Highland Park where I found leaders who not only safe for me, but also who spurred me on to love and good deeds. I’ve never been in a place like this before. (There wasn’t a “rainbow puking unicorn” type of leadership that I don’t need, instead it has been a great mix of positivity and constructive criticism, so healthy and necessary.) Our church is a praying church and open to adventure–I love that about us–about our leaders. And I could hold on forever to this perfect situation. Unmoving. Unwilling. Not needing to trust God with much because it seriously has been so good.

Last fall I started journaling again. Blogging sort of took it’s place years ago but I had forgotten how healthy and necessary journaling is for my prayer life. It’s meant for no one to read. It’s the fire in my soul. It’s everything we need to say and see and reveal to God and God to me. God can handle our misspellings, our angst, our questions, our over the top emotional spread of joy and fear. Feeling free to share again I started writing some things.

Do I see myself doing youth ministry like I’m doing it now?

I’m not sure. I can’t imagine anything else. I’ve tried.

What would I do/ be/ go after if this life I have weren’t an option, if I had unlimited resources what would I go after?

I started making a list.

I would be a travel journalist–telling peoples stories and capturing their lives in photos.

I would be the fiercest little DJ that ever was–telling stories with music and bringing the party.

I would be a pop violinist–I’d pull my dusty violin out and do the hard work of re-learning the instrument that I grew to love in the 7th grade.

I would lead a revolution.

I would wear a t-shirt every day and a dress every night.

I would spend my creativity creating experiences where people connect with God through art, music, spoken word, comedy, movement, sacrifice.

I’d call myself a writer and I would write. (what a novel idea)

I would speak on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, those our experience injustice daily.

I would give my life to something bigger than me–I’d give it Jesus and let him tell me what’s next. (Instead of planning it out and then asking for his advice)

As I read this list, I realized that everything I described is and can be realized through youth ministry. Except for that last one. I realized that I have hunkered down in my own plans and haven’t given Jesus many options. At a breaking point I cried out, God, I’m yours…again.

I told a good friend. I feel like I should give my job back to the local church. I want to work for the church someday and I want them to not have to pay me.  She said, that’s an awesome goal Brooklyn.

I said, “maybe someday”. Thinking maybe never. Pipe dream.

Then God began to move in conversations and situations. The thoughts in my journal turned from me to God. A wide open space. I started saying “no” to nearly every request that I received to speak or travel or “do” outside of our church. My schedule started opening up in January and February and I started experiencing something crazy. Sleep. Rest. Life. Space to pray. One day out of the blue when my pastor was in my office I pitched a question to him.

“What would it be like if I gave my job–my position–my salary back to you, but stayed here?”

I was serious.

Would it be possible to hire someone to do what I do, stay involved, mentor or cheer on the new person, and open up my life to whatever God wants to do in me and through me? Would people still like me? Could I still be considered a pastor if I’m not paid to be one?

So we began to pray and talk about what that could look like. It really was crazy to think about because I didn’t have a plan–just a hope that whatever God called me to when I was 16 years old would be there for me still outside of the church life I have lived for the last 14 years. (If you didn’t know, my husband an incredible blogger and pastor–not just saying that because I’m married to him–he’s great at it. If you want to read his perspective on my shift and our call to ministry you can read the short post here. He is my biggest champion in life and ministry. So glad he’s mine.)

During this time of sorting through my mental piles of what if’s and why not’s, I received a phone call from friends. Leaders in our denomination who had an idea to create a role in the global church structure for someone to be the advocate for justice. They wanted someone to champion learning, justice, peace, restoration in our youth ministries around the world. And they wanted me. My heart leapt. But then it immediately sunk.

“I can’t move to Kansas City. I’m allergic to cold weather (not really) I can’t make this change, no one will take me seriously. What about all of the things I’ve built up all of these years, what will happen to all of that. How will we pay for our house and needs?” It’s not my proudest moment, but I really wanted an easy out because saying yes seemed so incredibly scary at the time.

Despite my humanity, God answered with a possibility that was outside of my imagination, outside of my reach, outside of my control–by giving me an opportunity to stay rooted in our church, our youth ministry, our family here in Florida while starting this new adventure as the Global Justice Advocate for the Church of the Nazarene.

When the press release went live this week, I was neck deep in summer camp. I was sleeping on a futon and our room smelled of sour pumpkin nuggets. How on earth do rooms get that way??

Anyway, as I read the news, it was shocking for a minute. “Wait, what on earth did I just do?” Then later as we were singing “set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain that I can’t control, I want more of you God” I locked in on it–I had prayed that prayer already and it was time to get deeper into that prayer–God was giving me the opportunity to fan it into flame–but not alone. God has given me the beautiful body of Christ in our students, in my husband and kids, in our community, in organizations that I’ve had the blessing of being a part of. God was giving me a chance to be brave, to trust, to lean in more than I ever have. To get out of the boat and have a greater need to keep my eyes focused on the One and only who rescued me and rescues me still.

Jesus.

So I’m stepping out and I’m reminded that one step is all it takes.

Jesus.

Thank you for providing an awesome new partner in crime, Oliva Endicott. She rocks. Even though at first it was hard for me to really like the idea of her coming here because this is “my ministry” I really wanted this. I wanted to bring someone on board who could do what I do and kill it at another level! And I get to do that! I get to be here while this is happening. I don’t have to move away and watch from a distance. I get to be a part.

For me. It’s having my cake and eating it too.

There’s a song that I’ve had on repeat (a few actually) but one that says how I’m feeling. I know it’s cheesy to bust out some song lyrics but I’m okay with cheese. And onesies. And being myself.

The lyrics go like this,

“Stepping Out” (Group 1 Crew)

I feel called to something more,

Beyond what I have known.
I keep shutting out that voice
That cries deep within my soul.
I have more to give, but I have been afraid.
And then I hear You say, “It’s still not too late…”I’m stepping out to take a chance.
And if I fly or if I fall it’s in Your hands.
You’re the maker of my dreams,
And You’ll make a way with me.
So I’m stepping out, I’m stepping out…
To take a chance
I’m alive, I want to live…
And I am not content to keep holding
Back all that I am, the way that I have been.
I am Yours to use.
And when I am afraid, You come close to say, “1 step it all it takes… “.I believe in the grace You’ve shown me.
I believe in the words You say.
I believe there’s an untold story,
That You’re telling through me.
I’m stepping out to take a chance.
And if I fly or if I fall it’s in Your hands.
You’re the maker of my dreams,
And You’ll make a way with me.
So I’m stepping out, I’m stepping out…I realize that this is a long post. And it goes against copy writing rules and that people my stop reading my run on sentences. But I need to say this.That it’s ok to choose a different path. Life doesn’t have a pattern. It has potential. And God wants you to quit walking around the canyon. God wants you to get in the thing and experience it for yourself. I’m ready to do that.
I owe so much to so many for helping me take one brave step after another. I hope
to thank you with my life lived for Jesus. I hope to thank you by giving you things that
will help you lead your students to the love and peace of Jesus in their hearts, in their
families, and in their will to walk justly while loving mercy in the humblest of ways.
As I’ve made this decision I’ve learned some things about myself.
I love mentoring other people. I love high school students who love middle school students.
I love college freshman (maybe the others too but I really like freshman right now).
I’m learning so much about myself as I wipe the slate clean.
And even though it was cry-like-a-baby-rough to hire who would come next after me.
It was also thrilling. Because I get to partner with her and we get to lead each other.
August 1. The day Olivia joins the HP Youth ministry team. August 1 My role shifts, youth ministry at large and youth ministry at home. Mentally, this has been the biggest shift of my life. Moving beyond talking about trust to trusting
is huge for me.
And it wouldn’t be possible without the amazing organizations who have given
me a chance to write, teach, train, come alongside, imagine with, learn from, be a part of over the last decade.
Nazarene Universities (Yes, all of them, including my alma mater MVNU)
Youth Specialties.
Christ In Youth.
The Salvation Army.
Outreach. Barefoot Ministries.
The House Studio.
Zondervan.
Simply Youth Ministry.
Group Publishing.
Group Magazine.
YouthWorker Journal.
The Youth Cartel.
Spring Hill Camps.
BigStuf Camps.
The Church of the Nazarene.
Nazarene Youth International.
Nazarene Compassion Ministries.
World Vision.
The 30 Hour Famine.
The International Justice Mission.
Fuller (Sticky Faith).
Birds of Hope.
The Lakelander Magazine.
And this very special home of ours, Highland Park Church.
These aren’t all, but most. I’m grateful.
I wouldn’t have made it without different people speaking life and truth into my situations.
Ah, so many amazing friends who have taught me how to be one.
Being together with other people who love doing ministry and who are willing to work together for the good of God’s Kingdom.
That, to me, is greater than any degree. Even though degrees are good too. Real good. 🙂
My best friends are in every one of these organizations, churches, movements and they are truly my brothers and sisters. I love them. They know who they are.
And finally there’s Orange. I met this more-than-a-color group last year after camp.
It didn’t take long to realize that this was the piece that was missing in my ministry.
My passion for reconciling families back to each other and to faith formation collided with this amazing group
who collaboratively lead and value creativity and thought leadership. They champion families and church ministries working together for kids. I love it. And I’m excited about working on some cool stuff with them in the days to come.
At the end of the day. I’m starting a job that doesn’t have a track record.
I’m stepping out to take a chance.
But I know that I’m ready for it.
I’m looking forward to leading a small group. I’m looking forward to having a day off every week.
I’m looking forward to doing whatever it takes to connect youth pastors, students, ministries around the world with the compassionate and active love of Christ.
And I’m looking forward to mentoring others.
I used to be afraid of mentoring. Afraid that if I stirred the pot too much that I’d mess their life up.
Well, I’m not worried about that anymore. I’d rather stir the pot and push my friends to places of trust and all-in leadership. I’d rather risk messing up their life over them wasting it.
I could have wasted these days in ministry–focusing on myself, on my needs, on what is best for me. But some really great people wouldn’t let me do that. They helped me grow. And I want to do that for other people.
Thanks for reading and for praying for me. I would love to know how I can pray for you. And if you’re facing a big decision, I just want you to know, you can do this, you can do brave things–there are a lot of solutions that we can’t see yet, not until we step outside of our fear and doubt and into the openings where trust gives us strength.
I’m all in.
(P.S. Thanks Larry (NCM) and Gary  (NYI) for believing in something you can’t see yet. And for your faith, that I could help lead the way–together with God’s help.)

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