Matlock On Competition

Youth Specialties
August 9th, 2011


On Competition

It’s a great day at the park. The sun is out, the grass is green, families are spending time together and the children have the ball and are playing. At least that’s one image of what could be, but if I mentioned that this is an organized children’s sporting event the scene dramatically changes. Images of peace, harmony and children laughing are replaced with parents yelling at their kids, coaches expressing frustration, and the children feeling stress rather than joy. How did something so wonderful become so ugly? One word: competition.

Whether it’s the church down the street or from within the walls of our own denomination, competition can be a Kingdom killer for the work of God.

Ingrained in our flesh is the need to take sides, be competitive, divide what is whole and often work against the efforts that lead toward unity.

In scripture the theme presents itself time and again, we see the early church taking sides regarding who baptized them and the work of the flesh as creating divisions and factions (1 Cor 1:11-13, Gal 5:20). A competitive spirit has been around a long time, and it’s still alive today.

When I first began in youth ministry I was a bit-player in one of the largest, if not the largest, touring youth conferences. At that time there wasn’t an Acquire The Fire, Student Life, or Dare 2 Share.  But, within a few years the student ministry conference space became very crowded with some excellent players. It wasn’t long before our event, which had enjoyed being the “Big Dog” in that space, was impacted.

As our attendance dropped, the leaders of our conference became overly concerned with what all of these other groups were doing, and quickly the environment changed from being pro-active to reactive. And it wasn’t long before that ministry ceased to be effective.

Although I was young, fairly idealistic and naive, that experience helped me develop a theology of competition that has guided me well over the years of ministry.

Simply stated it is this:

God does not call us to competition but rather to obedience and collaboration. If we are concerned about “the competition” maybe we need to first examine whether we are in obedience to God’s plans and God’s plans often include working with others who are part of his Body.


The hard, faithful work of other ministries should inspire me and raise my standards of ministry stewardship and excellence, but when I worry about the competition, I need to take an inward journey to discover why I am not living in the mission God has placed before me and the possibilities of Kingdom growth that might be experienced with others.

I’ve spent the last few months finishing up a 3 year strategic plan for YS trying to figure out how to serve the church with all the important needs that exist. Some of these ideas are so bold they are doomed to fail if God is not part of them and YS doesn’t elicit the collaboration of other ministries.

I want to call youth workers and ministry organizations to rise above our competitive culture and support one another in love. Let’s rejoice at the part God has given each of us to play in his Kingdom work. As youth workers, let’s model for teenagers how to work together for the common good, seeking not only the Kingdom but the righteousness of Jesus as well.

Join me in reflecting on the following question today: What are the competitors in my life that are distracting me from the obedience of the mission God is laying before my life?

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.