I get so much junk mail. Now I know that's not an unbelievable statement to most of you. We all get a lot of junk mail. Every day there are ads in the mailbox for stores I never shop at. Then there's the usual credit card offers, car dealership pre-approval letters, and a whole host of other garbage.
But I get more.
Not at home.
In my mailbox at my office at church.
Every day I get piles upon piles of junk mail. I get an ad from a different religious T-shirt company at least every other day. Then at least once a week I get catalogues for sports equipment. Then there's the catalogues from the Christian publishing houses, all wanting to sell all of their latest books, curriculums, and religious accessories. Then there are ads for camps and retreat centers, youth ministry magazine subscription ads, and adventure and travel companies. The amount of mail I get is truly amazing.
This last month I saved up all the junk mail and ad mail I get at the church and weighed it. You probably won't believe me when I tell you that it all added up to about 32 pounds. 32 pounds of youth ministry related junk mail!
And then, it's also disturbing.
It's so disturbing because every single piece of mail in that 32 pound stack was selling their product with the claim that it could "fix" my ministry. Some claimed to "revolutionize" while others claimed their product was the one and only thing that could propel my ministry into the realm of uber success. Just imagine it...if I just bought this book, or if I just took my group to this camp, or if we just all wore these T-shirts, or if we just used this curriculum, then we'd skyrocket into a place where thousands of teenagers met Christ and completely and deeply devoted their lives to serving God, and they'd all become deeply committed followers of Jesus permanently! All because I bought their pile of hermetically sealed garbage!
I was sitting there thinking about how much garbage showed up in my inbox, a little perplexed by it. And then I started thinking about how many youth ministers I know who get the same amount of junk mail. And then I started thinking of how many trees were being killed in order to perpetuate these youth ministry pipedreams. And then I started thinking about how messed up our youth ministries actually get when we make the mistake of buying into the promises we've been sold.
The world would be a much better place if youth ministers and pastors all over the world stopped buying from these solicitations. It would force a non-paper advertising practice, for one, which would save a few thousand acres of forest each year. And if we started rejecting the empty promises altogether we might be forced into basing our ministries around our people, our communities, and the needs therein. And we just might begin to share the gospel in ways that are deep, meaningful, and authentic, rather than pre-packaged, mega-produced, and empty promises.