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.

One of the most important administrative steps of any youth leader is the development of a yearly planner. Taking some time each spring/summer to plan out the next school year’s calendar (August – May) holds countless benefits for you, your students, your volunteers, and your church leadership.

Consider the value of strategically laying out a well-planned Ministry/School Year Calendar:

  • Communicates you value students’ busy lives.
  • Allows you to effectively communicate details with parents.
  • Helps you budget more accurately.
  • Provides opportunity to begin promoting events earlier.
  • Forces your hand to strategize various ministry events.
  • Reinforces your leadership ability to superiors.
  • Promotes better work/personal life balance (family appointments, out-of-town schedules, etc).

And yet, developing a Yearly Calendar is neglected by far too many youth leaders and pastors. For some, they don’t recognize the benefits because they’ve never experienced them. But for others, the process just seems too difficult… planning events 8-9 months in advance appears too daunting of a challenge. Be encouraged, many of your colleagues around the country are proving the challenge is not too difficult. And with the right system, you can accomplish it too.

I’ve used the exact same process every spring for the past 15 years to produce a calendar for the next school year. And I’ve found that the whole project can be accomplished in 5 completely achievable steps.

  1. Create an editable calendar document displaying each month of the upcoming school year with clearly labeled holidays. I recommend using a landscape-view displaying 2 months on each page. This allows room for a readable font, but still hangs nicely in your office without taking too much space. I also recommend using the Tables function in a simple word processor to create the template. This allows opportunity to insert text and a variety of shading opportunities. To get you started, here’s the template I’ve used for years (.doc / .pages). 
  2. Track down your local school’s district calendar typically located on their website. Import the important dates onto your calendar marking school vacation days with a consistent shade of gray (again, creating your calendar as a table in Word or Pages makes this shading simple). Be sure to label the first day of school, last day of school, vacation days, and testing weeks if applicable.
  3. Import your regular-occurring ministry calendar programs. Your ministry likely has a weekly/monthly schedule of events (think Sunday Mornings, Small Groups, Wednesday nights, Monthly Trainings, etc.). Begin populating your yearly planner by inserting them on your calendar template. Simply create the title, then copy (Ctrl-C) and paste (Ctrl-V) on to each appropriate day.
  4. Schedule/record any overnight trips for your youth ministry. Some of these overnight events occur on a yearly recurring basis. For example, my ministry goes on a weekend retreat every January and a week-long high school trip in July. Scheduling those on the calendar are easy – they occur every year at the same time. For the overnight trips that don’t recur yearly but you still plan to accomplish, your calendar template will help you select the most strategic week/weekend for each trip.
  5. Schedule the rest of your events for the ministry year. Your final step involves scheduling and recording everything else: outreach events, special parties, unique Sundays, and whole church festivities (just to name a few). This will, of course, be the most difficult of the five steps and will take the most amount of time and foresight. But take heart, with the first four steps completed, you’ll be surprised how quickly this last step flows. Once you can glance at the entire yearly planner in front of you, you’ll find the rest of your events almost schedule themselves.

Once completed, your calendar will quickly become one of the most important documents in your office as it helps provide clarity to your disciple-making strategy and decision-making process. But don’t leave it hanging on your bulletin board. Make sure it finds its way into the hands of your students, parents, and volunteers. You’ll be glad you did… and so will they.

Joshua Becker is a veteran youth pastor who has served churches in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Arizona. He blogs regularly at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning fewer possessions. You may also enjoy following him on Twitter.



This spring, I ran my first marathon. Going in, the endeavor was about realizing a dream and proving to myself that I could do it. However, along the way, I experienced countless other benefits. I got into shape (just in time for summer), I made new friends, I enjoyed hours of quiet reflection on my life, and I learned some valuable lessons about life and ministry. In short, it became a truly life-changing experience.

Of all the life-changing lessons I learned, perhaps the most significant was the importance of competing less and encouraging more. Marathon runners are notorious for offering encouragement to one another. They understand an important race principle: there is room at the finish line for all of us. It isn’t all about winning or losing, it’s about the experience and being in it together. As a result, the entire 26.2 mile race was filled with encouragement from bystanders and competitors completely committed to helping the other racers finish strong.

Those of us in youth ministry can learn a lot from marathon runners. Admittedly, I have spent many of my years in ministry competing against fellow youth ministers rather than encouraging them in the journey. It was more important for me to have trendier worship, better events, cooler excursions, more strategic programs, and most importantly, bigger numbers. Looking back, I owe them all an apology. I wish I had competed less and encouraged more.

I have come to realize that the mindset of competition is based on a faulty premise. It assumes that there a finite size pie — that one more student in your youth ministry equals one less student in mine. But quite frankly, this thinking is incorrect. The size of the pie is not finite.

In reality, the pie keeps expanding and growing. In fact, more students in the youth ministry down the road can actually mean a better chance of more students in my ministry! Think of it this way: 100 sold-out Christ-followers on a high school campus are going to have a far greater impact than 20. They are going to reach a proportionally higher number of students. The pie will grow faster with more and more students involved in both ministries. A healthy, vibrant youth ministry down the road can actually mean more students in their ministry and more students in mine. This is a life-changing revelation! Simply put, there is room in the kingdom for all of us. Imagine how fast the kingdom would grow if we as youth leaders learned to encourage more and compete less.

To put this into practice in your area, try some of these practical, mind-set changing ideas to encourage other youth ministries:

  • Pray for other ministries as a regular part of your youth ministry programs.
  • Refuse to speak negatively of other youth ministries (publicly or privately).
  • Send youth to other ministries if it’s a better fit due to size, philosophy, or theology.
  • Offer encouragement and prayer to area youth leaders.
  • Promote other youth ministry’s events to your students.
  • Ask local youth parachurch organizations how you can come alongside them to help.
  • Share your golden ideas with other leaders — especially if they can pull it off better.
  • Attend your local youth ministerium and promote a “teammate mentality.”

The kingdom of God has always been big enough for all of us. I just wish it hadn’t taken a 4