Take the next faithful step 

From student to chaplain: Dr. Brady Braatz’s journey

By Sarah A. Moser

Every semester, on the first day of Old Testament class, Dr. Brady Braatz (’01) loves telling his students that he got a C in that very class in the fall of 1997. And now he teaches it as the University Chaplain at MidAmerica Nazarene University.

Once students get over their surprise, Braatz uses that lesson to illustrate how university years are holistically transformational. Braatz himself is an example of the growth that happens when you faithfully follow God’s plans for your life.

“I tell my students, ‘This is not beyond your reach; we can do this together!” says Braatz. “I love celebrating with the student who’s on the grind, struggling to get a C+, reminding them that it’s not where you start but where you finish that counts. Life is about more than what’s going to show up on the transcript. Yes, try in college; it might be hard, but that’s good and you will discover new things about God in the process.”

Twenty years after his own graduation from MNU, Braatz celebrates the journey that led him here. Braatz says he is in this place because he followed God’s next faithful step—a concept he regularly preaches and teaches to his students.

A meandering path
Braatz followed his two older siblings to MNU from Apple Valley, MN. At the time, he says he knew a lot about God—but didn’t know God Himself very well. That changed at MNU, where Braatz saw faith lived out in people’s daily lives. Here, for the first time, he was attending class with people he saw at Campus Center and living with people he worshiped with at chapel, seeing faith in action all around him. 

“All my lives were colliding together, and it was during that time I knew I wanted to be a minister,” says Braatz. 

However, that desire God placed in his heart didn’t mean he enjoyed a straight path to ministry. He started as a nursing major, which is where he met Kreisa, his wife, who works as a labor and delivery nurse in Olathe. A kind head of the nursing department pulled him aside one day and said, “I think you’re going to be good at something; let me help you find out what it is.” 

“That was hard to hear, but it was a caring, compassionate move on her part,” says Braatz. 

He switched his major to business communications and graduated in 2001. Braatz accepted a job for a commercial insurance agency and headed to Minnesota for training. A mere 45 days in, Dennis Troyer, MNU Director of Nazarene Recruitment, called, asking him to consider a job as an admission counselor. “My response? Yep, I’ll be there in 10 minutes!” Braatz jokes. 

Back at MNU, Braatz’s desire to serve in ministry increased and he began attending seminary while working as an admissions counselor, resident educator, and assistant chaplain under Dr. Randy Beckum. “I knew in college I sensed a calling to be in the ministry in some way,” says Braatz. “If you had asked me what I want to do when I leave college, I would have said I want to BE Randy Beckum. I saw the way he embodied Christ, loved his family, treated those who disagreed with him, and lived the Christian faith.”

Braatz eventually moved into the role of Director of Spiritual Life, leading small groups, retreats, domestic mission trips, and more. When Dr. Beckum left in 2015, as Braatz was finishing up his doctorate, MNU invited him to serve as the interim chaplain. That gig turned into a full-time position and Braatz is now starting his seventh year as the University Chaplain.

“In some ways, if you had told me I would wind up here, as the chaplain, I wouldn’t have known if I could pull it off; but, in the same breath, it’s exactly what I wanted,” Braatz says.

God lights your path

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

In Braatz’s cozy chapel office sits a red lantern. This lantern is the object of one of his most poignant lessons for students who are seeking a clear path forward. 

“Students want to know, what does the Lord want me to do with my life?” says Braatz. “God is really specific with some people, but when I think of the early calling of disciples, they just started wandering after Jesus. They didn’t know the destination. Jesus says to come, follow, take the next faithful step together.”

Braatz uses the lantern to explain to students that they want a flashlight that shines down a clear path, to see all of life’s potential pitfalls and a straight way forward. But, he says, God’s will is more like a lantern. 

“God shines His light in a three-foot radius; He generally doesn’t light up the entire path,” says Braatz. “As you take a step in faith, you will see a little bit further. Life is a meandering journey, not a straight path. I know my life hasn’t been a straight path. I’m all for people pinning down the trajectory God is leading them toward, but God is more interested in pinning down their devotion in joining Him in His mission of loving the world.”



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