Who is Chet Kennedy? I’ve been asking myself that question lately.
God has done some serious work in my heart, my life, my career … and all I can say is that I am so grateful that the God of the universe still works in us little people.
In 2015 I walked away from 20 years of youth ministry, a failure in my own eyes. Circumstances in my life had turned me into a single father, raising 3 teenagers alone. Those were hard years, paying bills and trying to make sense of my life. We still attended the church that I had been pastoring at. My kids were still attending the youth group I ran. I had stepped out of ministry and spent a few years working in the automotive industry.
During my time out of ministry I got myself into some counselling, signed myself up for some spiritual direction coaching, and met regularly with a group of men who poured truth into me over many breakfasts. Those different experiences all showed me the areas of my life where I could acknowledge my own failures; but they also showed me the many areas where I had been strong … Strong for myself, strong for my kids, and strong in my own faith in Jesus.
For my kids, I am so very grateful that the youth leaders I had built into over 15 years at the church were now building into my kids. Our youth ministry was designed around a small groups model and their small group leaders took it upon themselves to meet with my kids. Even though life had fallen apart for us, those leaders helped us put life back together. Now, years later, my kids are grown up and continue to serve as leaders at that same church.
When I think back to those dark days I often refer to myself as Chet 1.0. I was angry, bitter, depressed, overweight, in debt, living in frustration and shame, and blaming everyone for my own pain. God used all of those circumstances to show me myself: who I was, who I had become, and how my own decisions had led me to this place. He also used those circumstances to show me who He was, and how He wasn’t willing to let me stay there.
The journey of life change was difficult for me. It was painful, embarrassing, and frustrating to acknowledge my failures … but that process built me into the person I am today. The counselling helped me to see myself from a new perspective, to build new areas of gratitude and hope. The spiritual direction helped me to see the areas of my life where, even though I have been a pastor for 20 years, I had still not given God authority. That process caused me to go back to journalling, which ultimately led to a book, Broken Mortals, which I published in March 2019.
In 2018 I stepped back into ministry and began working for Camp Chamisall as Executive Director. I worked there remotely for a year, living in Edmonton so that my youngest son could graduate from high school. In October of 2019 I moved down to Calgary which was an incredibly painful time for me. I left my kids, my church, and my friends in Edmonton and I wasn’t sure what God had for me here in Calgary. By November of that year I could feel all the old familiar emotions beginning to rear their ugly heads.
I Knew What I Had To Do
The rule that I had set for my kids and our household is that we needed to attend church, be a part of a small group, and find somewhere to serve. I realized that although I was in churches every weekend as a part of my role at Camp Chamisall, I would need to find a church to attend for myself.
In December of 2019 I chose FAC. I met with Pastor Jon Caldwell and asked if I could also serve in the youth ministry. In January of 2020 I walked into the youth ministry for the first time and knew that I was home. I began working with the leaders, and I could feel all my ministry skills beginning to flex again. I see 2020 as the year that Chet 2.0 was born. I chose that month to begin to focus on gratitude, a lesson I learned through counselling. I continued to practice many of the other habits I had cultivated over the years. I began reading voraciously and reviewing books on my Instagram account. I began walking and cooking my own meals. I began using my iPhone photography as a way of documenting the beauty and the wonder all around me. I continued a daily devotional practice that had kept me close to Jesus for years in spite of my pain. Those habits created a new heart and a new mind in me. Chet 2.0 was born.
I would be eternally grateful if that was all God had planned for me … but He wasn’t done yet. Somewhere in the midst of the pandemic I met Melissa Pond, who has been a youth leader here at FAC for over 10 years. It was a long crazy journey, which I will probably save for another blog post but, in the summer of 2020 we started dating. Those of you who know our story are aware of the twists and turns, the God moments, and the work we’ve done to acknowledge our baggage and move forward. In November of 2020 we got engaged and in March 2021 we were married. I can’t believe how amazing my life is now. I’m honestly in shock at God’s providence for me.
Wait … There’s More …
Sometime in February of 2021 Kyle Trigg and I were meeting about Student Ministries and talking through the new Student Ministries role. I was going to try to help him find the right person for the job. As he was describing it, I realized that the person FAC needed might be me. I had done this role before; youth ministry has been the focus of my entire life. I had the skills, I had the knowledge, and I love the team you already have here. That night Melissa and I sat down and discussed it. Melissa has an incredible skill of asking great questions and after a long discussion I came to the conclusion that I should apply. We determined that it was our job to walk through open doors until God should choose to close them. So, I applied … and week after week, interview after interview, we still had green lights and open doors. Which brings us to now … I have accepted the role of Student Ministries Pastor here at FAC.
I will be working on bringing structure and leadership community, and bridging to our young adults, student ministry, and grade 5/6 programming. There will be some heavy lifting but with the help of Pastor Jon and the incredible leaders that are already volunteering I know we can do it.
If you’re interested in more of my journey or wondering how to move beyond who you currently are and into who God has designed you to be, I would be happy to chat. I share my journey because I am certain that God can use my pain to help others with theirs.
I am confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6)
We’re excited to welcome Chet Kennedy to our FAC Student Ministries staff team! Learn more about what’s happening in Student Ministries at FAC!