Campus ministry buildings are much like youth rooms in local churches. They tend to collect the unwanted, well intended gifts, from those who support the ministry. When I began at Wesley Campus Ministry at WMU the building was full. I wasn’t sure of what it contained I just know it was full and felt cluttered. Standing at the doorway of one such cluttered room one of my then board members gave me wise advice saying, “give each room a purpose and it will be used accordingly”. And so began the decluttering process of the building.
That first fall semester we donated twice to a local second hand store that supports a local ministry and Goodwill. We also began filling up our dumpster weekly. How many dumpsters does it take to clean out a 40 year old building? Seven. Seven dumpsters full of outdated letterhead from two previous directors, old broken down furniture, and a variety of unusual finds including the complete set to the musical Grease. (Don’t worry, we recycled much of what we threw out). We also found some memorabilia like old sweatshirts from the 1990s and display boards going back to the 1960s.
I can now see that the cleaning out of the physical space was symbolic for the cleaning out of some habits that were not so helpful. As we cleaned out each room we gave it a purpose. One space became a study space and student meeting room. Another became a prayer room outfitted for small groups and individual prayer. As we purposed the physical space we began to let go of some of the unhealthy habits that were keeping us from growing out of a small comfortable group and into a ministry with a purpose.
Some on the student ministry team claimed spaces as “their office” even if that meant a closet or out of the way room. Creating an “office” meant they were being about the ministry they were committed to doing in and out of the building. They had a purpose.
Decluttering our physical space allowed us the create purpose for each space. Decluttering our unhelpful habits allowed us to create purpose for our ministry. With a purpose we now knew what we were offering to others. We knew what our physical space would be used for and how our time would be spent doing ministry.
I also found that this is a great metaphor for our relationship with God. I find that my mind is typically full of all sorts of chatter about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I sit down to pray and my heart is full of requests for God instead of open to the Spirit’s leading. I wonder how many dumpsters it would take to clear out the inner chatter and distractions.
In my eighth year I am wondering if it is once again time to “declutter”. Although we physically clean out every summer (because somehow, just like those youth rooms in local churches, we find random items that have mysteriously showed up by some well-intentioned giver) we also need to clean out the unhelpful habits that we keep dragging back into our ministry–habits that do not fulfill our purpose and are not about the ministry on our campus. I think maybe it’s time to let go of previous behaviors in my own spiritual life and start clean with God.
So, here we go, walking through each room, decluttering and naming its purpose. Here we go, naming and claiming our ministry for the upcoming year. Now, on to the mind, heart and spirit.
- How does your ministry’s space help fulfill your ministry’s vision and purpose?
- How does clutter–whether physical or metaphorical detract from that vision and purpose?
- How do you name and claim your ministry for the upcoming year?