In ministry we think, "If you want a job done right, do it yourself." You may avoid messes, but you have just stepped into the "Trap of the Clean Stall".

Proverbs 14:4 reads, "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox."

In the ancient agrarian world, animals brought a massive advantage. To have an animal meant you could accomplish so much more. Today we refer to a car as having a certain amount of "horse power". In times past, an animal brought with it a certain amount of power. Power to increase the harvest and get the job done. Here, the writer of Proverbs is referring to "Ox Power". The power and advantage brought through the strength of an ox.

The writer of Proverbs says that it is really a trade off. On one hand you get a significant increase through the strength of an ox, yet with it you get, poop. Yes, good, ol' fashioned ox poop.

Goal: Huge Harvest

Let's compare the alternative. You have no oxen, but you have an amazingly clean manger stall.

More harvest with a poopy stall vs. a perfectly clean stall and a diminished harvest.

Our goal is not a clean stall. Our goal is a huge harvest. A natural side effect of a huge harvests are messes. What do you want? Do you crave a super clean stall over a bountiful harvest? Listen, a tidy stall in and of itself is a bad trade for a compromised harvest.

Let me shoot straight with you. I have a well-managed case of OCD. I crave order. If you serve in children's ministry, you probably do too. I hate disorder. Yet the calling of the harvest trumps our neurotic desire for order.

Do not fall into the trap of the clean stall.

You Can't Do It Alone

We must define our goal for the harvest over and over! Our goal is reaching the lost through equipping the fold. Our ultimate goal is not order for order sake. Our goal is the good news of Jesus going deep into the hearts and heads of kids, which brings messes. Get used to it. And get over it.


We can have order as we achieve a large harvest, but uncomfort with messes can short circuit great harvests.

Let's take this proverbial analogy a step further. You as a ministry leader are essentially the farmer. You can't and don't want to do it alone. You need help. Those willing to help you from a staff or a volunteer perspective can bring great strength and accomplish more for the harvest than you by yourself. And, yes, I am equating associates and volunteers to oxen.

The Harvest is Plentiful

Oxen and people are living beings. Both bring messes. Farming, like ministry, is just messy. Jesus said He came not for the healthy but for the sick. Sick people vomit physically and emotionally, have issues and need attention. That is our job. Years ago, someone sarcastically said, "Ministry would be great were it not for all these people!"

Listen, if you want order more than you want the harvest, you may find yourself doing it alone. Doing it alone equals to a field white for harvest with no one to get the job done. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. More workers means more messes. We as farmers must manage the messes and rise above the stall to see the harvest.

Do you want a harvest more than you want order? Absolutely. Therefore, we had better embrace the reality of a poopy stall.  Do not fall into the trap of the clean stall.