Over Memorial Day Weekend, 2008, I became a minimalist.

My journey into minimalism was not entered into as a fad, experiment, or temporary life adjustment. Nor was it just for the purpose of moving, getting out of debt, traveling the world, or quitting my job. My decision to intentionally live with less was born out of my desire to line up my life’s pursuit with my heart’s deepest desires. It was about creating space for faith, family, and friends. It was a decision I knew would influence the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Over the past five years, we have removed 60-70% of our personal possessions, we have moved into a smaller home, we have removed ourselves from the hollow race of American consumerism, and we have completely changed our habits of consumption. As a result, we have found more time for the things that are most important. In short, we have been finally able to start living the life we always wanted to live.

This journey towards minimalism has been far more life-changing than I anticipated. The possessions in our lives define who we are on a far deeper level than we know. And as a result, the process of removing them teaches us valuable truths about ourselves.

But the most important life lessons I’ve learned can be summed up like this:

1. Possessions weigh down our lives more than we realize. They are heavy and cumbersome. They slow us down. They demand our time, energy, attention, and focus. They need to be purchased, transported, organized, cleaned, sorted, fixed, and managed. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values. Ultimately, they cause us to lose our life rather than find it. Life is indeed better with less.

2. Our lives are just too valuable to waste chasing possessions. Society has told us our greatest dreams should consist of “doing well in school, getting a high-paying job, and buying a really nice house with lots of cool things.” That is a shame because we can dream bigger dreams. We can dream better dreams. Our lives can be far more valuable than the things we own. Our lives are meant to be built on the things that really matter: love, faith, hope, charity, relationships, influence, significance, spirituality…. not the physical things that will always perish, spoil, or fade.

3. Living with less provides the freedom to pursue our greatest passions. The removal of excessive possessions and the intentional decision to live with less offers countless benefits. In exchange for removing the clutter, we are rewarded with newfound finances, time, energy, freedom, and mental capacity. Our lives are lived with less stress, less anxiety, and less burden. Our finite resources become more available to us… and we are freed to pursue our greatest passions—whatever they may be.

4. The external decision to own less has a positive impact on our journey inward. Owning (and buying) less has allowed my heart to change and adopt values I have always admired in others. Through the process, I have learned contentment, generosity, gratitude, self-control, honesty, and appreciation. These attributes were difficult to discover during the pursuit of more… but the intentional pursuit of less has allowed room in my heart for them to surface.

5. Jesus had it right all along. When I removed the accumulation and pursuit of possessions from my life, Christ’s teachings on money and possessions began to take a new hold on my life. I began to realize his teachings to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” and to “not hoard up treasures here on earth” are not instructions designed to make my life miserable while on earth. They weren’t given as some means of forced sacrifice on our lives. They are an invitation—an invitation to live a more abundant, meaningful life—just like everything else Jesus taught. This abundant life is available to anyone who begins to believe that Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about… even when he encouraged us to give away our possessions and pursue something greater instead.

Joshua Becker has served in Student Ministry for 14 years. He blogs at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning less. And his new book, Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness, is written to inspire teenagers and young adults to discover the simple truth behind Christ’s plain teaching on money and possessions.

I recently have seen a bubble of growth in the student ministry I lead.  But it’s not the kind of growth I hope for – it’s been church hoppers.  By church hoppers, I mean Christian kids that attend another youth group and are now attending ours too.  It’s not that I don’t like these students or anything like that, it’s just that I’d like our student ministry to grow with unchurched kids.  I don’t want our student ministry to become known as the church that is happy to “have the numbers” because we’ve taken students from other churches.  I want to us to be known as a youth group that calls students to reach their unchurched friends and commit to Jesus’ bride.

So how should a youth pastor respond?

Recognize You’re On the Same Team - every youth pastor is on the same team.  We’re all trying to tell students who Jesus is and how to follow Him.  Champion other youth groups in your city so you don’t get caught up with thinking that your ministry is the best and only one worth their time.  You’re not as cool as you think.

Find Out Why - this is huge.  Knowing why a student has come will help you know how to best address them.  If they’re in the process of leaving the church for a good reason, then welcome them.  If they’re family has decided to go to your church because it’s less of a commute then get them involved!  But if the reason isn’t a God-honoring reason then…

Utilize the Teaching Moment - students tend to be looking for the “next cool thing” and this might be your student ministry.  Or they might like your band but like the other church’s teacher.  Or they might think that they need to be involved in “Christian activities” all throughout the week because that’s what Jesus wants.  If these are the reasons then you have an opportunity to call them to commit to Jesus’ bride…just one.  Tell them to pick one church (I’d recommend the church they came from) and be fully committed to it.

I’ve noticed that students attending more than one church tend to not serve or give…they just consume.  And they can’t become fully developed Christ followers unless they start serving and becoming a part of a single church family.  Calling students to a commitment is best for the student and the body of Christ as a whole.  So let’s all be on the same team and call our Christian students to a commitment to the local church.  If we address it now, our students will bring a healthy, servant-minded attitude to the church they attend after they leave your student ministry.

Gary Hale is the Student Ministries Director at High Pointe Church in Puyallup, WA. Check out his blog he created for youth workers in church plants - Student Ministry in a Box.