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The "Weeds" That Clutter Your Life And Youth Ministry (And What To Do About Them)

The "Weeds" That Clutter Your Life And Youth Ministry (And What To Do About Them)

We have a small back yard. Really small. Virtually no back yard, really. But we do have a narrow strip of side yard. It is fenced. And private. But it had been completely neglected by previous owners and by me. It was a jungle (quite literally). But I realized if I could carve out the time, I could turn it into usable space our family could enjoy.

And so my wife took the burden of pulling solo parenting for an entire weekend, and I dove in like a mad man. I cut down head-high privet and weeds. I pulled out five or six overflowing wheelbarrows full of old gravel. I raked and graded. And then, I laid down paver base and a nice stone pathway. I planted several beds of landscaping plants. I put down mulch. I fixed the old gate.

And suddenly, we have a space our family can use. My son loves it. We spend almost every morning there. He plays with cars while my wife and/or I drink coffee. My daughter did some of her homework there last night. What was an unused, unsightly, weed-choked eyesore is now a space our family can do life in.

There is a spiritual parallel here that is not lost on me. It begs two questions:

Are there weed-choked areas in your spiritual life that prevent you from “doing life” with God?

Is there clutter and chaos in your youth ministry, clogging up “space” you could be using to lead students to engage more with God?

I’ve been guilty at times in my life of neglecting certain aspects of my faith. Part of my personal spiritual journey—as a husband, father, and youth worker—has been a fight with consistency. Over the years, I’ve had seasons where I’ve been more disciplined and devoted, and seasons where it’s a struggle even to pray. I’ve had times when I felt I was dialed in spiritually my parenting, but not where I should be as a spouse. And vice versa. And I think we all have seasons where we feel we are more effective as a youth worker, and seasons where we feel like we swing and miss.

Often, my inconsistency is due to areas of my life where I’ve allowed the weeds to grow high. I’ve left parts of my spiritual life untended and neglected. And those areas become closed off after a while. It’s only through the power of the Spirit that I’ve been able to experience the redemption of these areas. Unlike my yard, I can’t roll up my sleeves and work hard enough to redeem those areas. It’s work only God can do. Our role is to surrender it.

Similarly, we can allow our youth ministries to be so clogged and cluttered with “weeds” that we don’t provide God with enough space to work. The weeds of our ministry can come in many shapes and sizes.

  • Events can be weeds if our calendar is too full, regardless of how “spiritual” the events are in nature.

  • People can be weeds if our youth ministry emphasizes personalities over Gospel-centeredness.
    There’s a place for fun (we do youth ministry, after all). But if it’s not in the right proportion, entertainment can be a weed that chokes out ministry.

  • “Cultural creep” can be a huge issue that clutters up our ministries. Cultural creep is when in our well-meaning but misguided attempts to be relevant, our youth ministries don’t look any different than the world outside the walls of our gathering spaces.

There are certainly more ways that we allow “weeds” to clutter up our ministries. But these seem like the most common ones to me.

The good thing about these weeds is that, in most cases, we can do something about it. We can look at our ministries with clear eyes and ask where our focus is. We can look for distractions. We can look for the clutter. And we can do something about it.
There are places in our lives and in our ministries that God is waiting to reclaim and redeem.

Stop neglecting them. Turn them over to God and watch as He reworks the forgotten and the crowded places of our lives and ministries.
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