Member Spotlight: Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist

Jaclyn Lewis  ·  Mar 01, 2017

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Joshua Becker discovered how true it is that “less is more.”

“I was cleaning the garage, my wife, Kim, was cleaning the bathrooms, and my then 5-year-old son, Salem, was playing alone in the backyard,” Joshua says. “I struck up a conversation with my neighbor who commented, ‘Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff.’

“The juxtaposition was striking,” he says. “My possessions piled up in the driveway, my son in the backyard, my day slipping away. I immediately recognized something needed to change. My belongings were not adding value to my life. Instead, they were subtracting from it.”

That was Memorial Day in 2008, when Joshua was a youth pastor in suburban Vermont. He was so convicted by the material excess that he ran upstairs to tell his wife about it. Kim agreed it was time to dramatically decrease how much they owned.

Now Joshua’s passion and full-time work is to inspire others to live more by owning less. He shares the message of “minimalism”—the idea that being intentional with what we own gives us more time, more money, more energy, less stress, and more opportunity for generosity and gratitude.

“What people are looking for they can find by deciding to own less stuff rather than chasing possessions,” Joshua says.

As he and his wife began minimizing their possessions, Joshua began documenting their experience on a blog he called Becoming Minimalist.

“I’ve always been familiar with Jesus’s teachings on possessions and money, such as giving to the poor. I saw it as great sacrifice to give away all my things until I started doing it and started minimizing extra coats, televisions, coffee mugs, and began actually giving them away to local charities,” Joshua says.

“I realized that everything Jesus said was not a great call to sacrifice joy on earth. Instead, it was the exact prescription to find joy and freedom. He knew very well our lives are too valuable to waste, chasing and maintaining things we don’t need.”

Over the next three years, Becoming Minimalist readership grew, books were published, and, to Joshua’s surprise, God moved Joshua out of pastoral ministry and into writing and speaking full time about minimalism.

While certainly different from preaching on Sunday morning, God showed Joshua that encouraging people to take their focus off their things is another way of reaching people for the Kingdom.

“If I can simply help people stop pursuing happiness in possessions, I don’t know where they’re going to turn next, but eventually some of them are going to run into Jesus when they begin finding a new meaning for their life,” Joshua says.

Everything he writes about is scriptural, though not always overtly Christian, and people are drawn—like the Athenians were in Acts 17—to these Biblical themes of meaning, fulfillment, love, and serving others.

He once received a blog comment from a woman who was impressed by how “interesting, meaningful, and thoughtful” his posts were, and how they made her think. “When I looked at the commenter’s personal website, the entire page was devoted to witchcraft. Yet, she was so moved by owning less.”

On any given day, Joshua might be writing in the early morning, getting his kids—Salem, 14, and Alexa, 10—ready for school, maintaining a collaborative newsletter on minimalism, or travelling to speaking engagements across the country.

Joshua and Kim also raise money and awareness for The Hope Effect, an orphan care ministry they founded with all the extra resources they saved by becoming a minimalist family, including extra money from their most recent book, The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own.

“In many third world countries, kids are merely kept within four walls, not nurtured the way we would nurture our own child,” Joshua says. “We’ve known for decades that this environment is harmful for kids.”

The Hope Effect model teams up with local like-minded people to build campuses of 4 to 5 homes. Two adult caregivers live as parents in each home to a group of orphaned children.

These homes will function like families. Home parents commit to raising the children from birth to age 18, and then to continue to offer lifelong parental support to adult children. The Hope Effect even plans for homes to grow like real families by adding no more than two children to one home at a time.

The first Hope Effect home is being finished in Siguatepeque, Honduras, on the campus of La Providencia, with parents moving in later this year. A second project has begun in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico.

You can start your own fundraising campaign for the Hope Effect campus in Mexico by visiting HopeEffect.com. All donations go directly to caring for orphans. Administrative costs are raised separately.

As busy as work and ministry keep the Becker family, Joshua uses the principles of minimalism to keep his focus on what’s most important in daily life, just like his dad did for him.

“My father worked hard at whatever he was doing,” Joshua says. “So when my dad went to work, he worked hard. He also worked hard at church, always fully committed. When he was at home, he worked hard at being with us kids. He wasn’t off watching TV or reading the news. He was playing with us, helping us with homework, playing sports.”

“When I’m doing Becoming Minimalist, I want my kids to see me working hard. But when I’m with them, I want them to see us serving our church and working hard as parents.”