Today we want to feature Brady Bobbink. Brady has been in ministry for over 50 years. We celebrate his most recent honorary doctorate for his life’s work in college ministry as we strive to learn from the wisdom he’s acquired over his years of ministry and time in Chi Alpha.
Brady’s Journey in Ministry
After deciding to follow Jesus in 1972, Brady and a few others started a college ministry at Western Washington University. This group eventually became a Chi Alpha group known as Campus Christian Fellowship.
During his time in college, Brady ran a janitorial business where he acquired multiple skills he would later use in ministry, including operational management and leading others. He majored in education, which he feels prepared him well for sustaining a learning mindset during his years in ministry–and to this day.
After becoming a director of a ministry after only two years of walking with Jesus (yet never having been in a ministry himself), Brady and his team found themselves exploring two key questions:
- How do we create outcomes that we did not get?
- How can we give something away that we never received directly?
This team did not know much about how to run a ministry–they just knew Jesus transformed their lives and they had to do something about it.
Brady began to read. And read. And read. “Leaders are readers,” he states, “read as if you are eating a chicken. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” In addition to reading books on scripture and theology, Brady went on to acquire his bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University, his pursue high educational classes in theology and divinity at Fuller Seminary and Regent University, and his honorary Doctrate in Ministry at Northwest University.
Brady directed the ministry at Western Washington University until 2019, when he retired the position to current director Geoff Mumley. Although he stepped back a bit, Brady continues to serve the ministry through teaching Bible study labs and courses on theological development, critical pastoral concerns, arenas of success and failure, and more. He also invests in individuals within the ministry by meeting with Campus Missionary in Training (CMIT) interns and staff members frequently. When not serving Chi Alpha, Brady enjoys teaching at local colleges, leading premarital programs, and caring for XA staff.
Sustainability in Ministry
From the beginning of his leadership in Chi Alpha, Brady recognized the need to create sustainable ministry rhythms. He states in an interview, “Jesus created–and is creating–a sustainable ministry method. He invited others to ‘come, come be with me, come learn with me. Then, go out and do the same.’” Brady points out that Jesus starts with a “come” and ends with a “go.” Jesus made disciples who made disciples who made disciples.
He elaborates: “Sustainability in a world of transitioning university students is tough. You don’t have a lot of time. But we are not just here to reconcile students to Christ on campuses, we are trying to reconcile people to go out into the university, the marketplace, and the world. We are reconciling lifelong disciples who make lifelong disciples.”
Brady also highlights the importance of community in the discipleship process. “We have to show students how to disciple together and gradually,” he states, “and we need to show them what it means to become mature. It’s important to vision cast with students that they, too, will be disciples on their own one day. But before that, we have to teach the basics of faith. Some people never get the basics.”
Brady believes that as ministers, we must create the right kind of pace and rhythms for students and staff. We must set a tone of ongoing learning, sustainability, and growth.
Staff Care and Healthy Leaders
When asked what advice Brady would give to another director or leader who wants to grow in the area of staff care, he responds:
“Directors have to first realize that they are extremely influential and have the duty to take on the unique role of creating a culture of a group of leaders. They create cultural assumptions and cultural values. There must be a clear and uniform understanding that this is a part of a director’s role.”
He continues, “Interns who end up on staff are deeply impacted by their first director. Do we even recognize this? By nature we are an activist movement. We have some ministries who spend too much focu internally, or some ministries who spend too much focus externally. He describes how we must discern this within our own groups and recognize the impact staff care has on potential staff members, their ability to make disciples, and their longevity in ministry.
Aside from establishing a weekly Sabbath schedule, when Brady was a director in Chi Alpha, he met with each staff member individually weekly for their first year or two on staff. He described the process of creating a learning environment and growth process for each staff member by helping steer their focus.
Brady retells the story of the tortoise and the hare when advising on staff care and staff longevity. “The tortus is the plodder and the hare is an activist, based on their own energy and drive. Plodding is essential for a long race. It is not just how you start, it is how you grow in it and it determines how long you stay.” As Brady meets with staff individually, he says they begin to pick up the ministry’s theology, culture, and values.
“People leave because of good reasons, but also they leave because of the failure of leadership explaining what the ministry is about, why we do things. We must help them not just do their activism and their job, but help them develop in being a better Jesus follower,” he describes.
According to Brady, the first five years in ministry typically make or break it for a missionary. He describes how in Chi Alpha and in the Kingdom we often hear and receive a calling–yet being called to do something does not necessarily tell how long it is going to be and how healthy one will be in the midst. He thinks that the CMIT is a huge piece in the puzzle of staff longevity and staff care, but also that it is important to establish a leadership culture of team care and constant growth in Jesus. This often requires determining who has the gift of helping others grow, learn, and experiment.
“We will never know if someone is a good external communicator in a group setting if they are never given the chance to externally communicate in a group,” Brady points out. “Part of staff care is to create a culture of experimentation and older staff members giving up control in certain areas to allow a younger staff member to experiment in finding their giftings.”
Receiving an Honorary Doctorate
This May, Brady attended the commencement ceremony of Northwest University accompanied by many previous colleagues, friends and family to receive an honorary doctorate for his work in campus ministry.
When describing what this honor has been like for him, Brady says he is overwhelmed.
“If you have any brains at all, you can look back and say ‘Wow, look at what God has done,’” Brady states. “I feel a really deep sense of appreciation and a deep sense of ‘Wow Jesus, look at what you have done with this hippie you saved in college.’ The honor has come to me, yet I am well aware the outcomes would not have borne fruit if not from the gifts, drive, and obedience of those around me. To me, Northwest University is not praising a man for what he has accomplished, but rather thanking God for what He has done in a mere human.”
Brady reminds us all of Paul’s opinion of a title:
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (WEB, Philippines 3:4-9).