Rising From the Rubble of Institutions

What happens when everything we know falls apart? We redefine ourselves and seek a new path through life.

Justin Cox
7 min readAug 21, 2023

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Justin Cox wearing sunglasses, holding his hand toward the camera as if channeling the Force. In the background in the Millennium Falcon.
Photo courtesy of Justin Cox

In 2005, I began working in local church ministry. I was an assistant in a youth ministry at a large, downtown church with a 150+ year history that also happened to be the church where I grew up.

For over 15 years, I made a career out of building community inside the church. I began working with teenagers, then their families, and eventually, people of all ages. As the Minister to Children, Youth, and Families, my mission was to help people explore their faith — not spoon-feed them what I or the “church” believed. I loved my time there and am proud of what our team of volunteers built. I even got married and built a life. I was happy, secure, and felt connected to something bigger than myself.

As of this writing, however, I’m on the other side of a separation which sadly led to divorce, and I haven’t worked for a church in three years (or regularly attended one, either). When your former life crumbles around you, it’s natural to question your stability and faith. Difficult times force most of us to redefine ourselves, our lives, and the religious institutions we might have once held dear.

This article is about how I’m reinventing myself and building something new. But, first, some backstory.

Leaving the Church

Toward the end of my role in local church ministry, I spent a few years learning about and rallying people behind intergenerational ministry. My thesis was that the popular trend among churches to segregate children and youth from adults was primarily due to a decades-old practice of focusing on adults and babysitting children.

Instead, I believed that faith happens in intergenerational settings — adults can learn just as much from children as it is the other way around. I wrote a curriculum that followed this model, led groups, and taught volunteers to focus on including multiple generations in all activities.

One of my greatest joys working in church ministry was leading a group of high school students and nonagenarians. We met every week for a school year and talked about life. The…

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Justin Cox

I help writers and nonprofits grow. Editor of The Writing Cooperative. Contact at JustinCox.com