Spring Cleaning at Church: Part 1

There’s an old joke that I’ve heard way too many times growing up in the Lutheran church, but it illustrates my point so I’m going to use it again – Q: How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb? A: What do you mean change?!  I’m sure that joke can be used for just about every denomination out there, but I know from experience that it’s especially true of Lutherans.

That’s why I was actually surprised to see that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has just gone through a process of refreshing their brand – most noticeably in changing the colors of their cross logo. They cite a number of factors in the decision to update the branding including that the last time they changed it was over 30 years ago and that the former burgundy color was looking a bit dated.

The change set Facebook atwitter, both with favorable and the obligatory negative reactions, but regardless, people noticed. Their timing for changing the logo was good too, as Spring is a time of renewal, refreshing and, for a lot of us, spring cleaning.

So as we approach spring in our churches, we might be tempted to start some spring cleaning. Where do you start? Should we all change our logos? Probably not. But I want to look at some places that might need some attention through a five-part series.

Part 1: Start with the physical stuff

The very first place I would start is the church itself. My first paid job working in the church was as a custodian. This was at the church I grew up in and had belonged to as long as I could remember. Yet, I still remember the first time I cleaned the church. I was suddenly aware of all the stuff that I had learned to look past: the stacks of outdated newsletters and fliers strewn around the entrances; the perpetual clutter around the stairwells; empty boxes and “stuff” all around. Now, it sounds like the place was a dump – which it wasn’t. But there was a bunch of clutter that shouldn’t be there which most of us had become blind to. I spent an afternoon moving stuff around and getting things put neatly into place and the response the following Sunday was, “Something’s different, and I like it.” Most people didn’t notice what had changed, they just knew it felt better.

Take a look around your building – whether it’s an office, sanctuary, auditorium or like us, a theater – and try to look with a fresh set of eyes. Aside from the obvious cleaning issues, look at:

  • First things first: Make a plan to get the place fixed up. Maintenance is something that can get away from us if we’re not on top of it. Take a clipboard, paper and pen and perhaps a camera and take a good long walk around and through your building(s). What do you need to do to keep your place in a state of “newness”? Fresh paint – even if it’s the same color as before – can breathe new life into a room. Make a list of projects and repairs needed and find people to help out. If it’s a bunch of small stuff, have a weekend work day. Feed your volunteers lunch and turn them loose on the projects you have. If there are larger or more serious projects, get a plan together to get it taken care of. Our buildings my be God’s house, but it’s our responsibility to care for them.
  • What needs to be straightened up? I’m sure many people who know me will chalk this up to OCD on my part, but in the church where I was a custodian one of the first things I straightened up was the coat racks. During a previous renovation, they had installed these nice wall-mounted oak coat racks inside the different church entrances. They had each come with 30 or so nice matching hangers but apparently someone had cleaned out their closets and now there were tons of hangers on each rack – including several styles and colors of plastic and wire hangers. I’m sure they person thought they were being helpful, but it just made them look disheveled. Removing the mismatched hangers made them look so much nicer.
  • Are there too many fliers and handouts around? These things aren’t bad on their own, but having 6 months worth of stuff and a flier for every ministry you could think of sitting around is. Limit your printed materials. (I’ve shared some how-to ideas before)
  • Consider the furnishings of your buildings. I’m not talking about replacing your seats or altar, but look around your lobby or offices. Are there outdated things, stuff in need of repairs or just looking like leftovers from a garage sale? Put together a plan to update or replace them. Remember how important first impressions are to new guests! It doesn’t have to look expensive, but it does need to look cared for. 
  • Think about rearranging things. Back to the joke at the beginning, just because something has always been in a certain spot doesn’t mean it should always be there. Consider things like where the location of the welcome center or coffee station, where guests can get information or sign up for events and even the things decorating your space. But don’t forget people like considering where your greeters are stationed, your worship team’s arrangement in the space and where the pastor can be found following worship. You might find that there’s not much room to tweak these things, but don’t just assume that where they  already are is the best place. Take a good look and be certain that they’re in the best space.
Share your thoughts: What other physical things would/do you look at?

Up next: Update your style.

About Matthew Starner

Matthew Starner is pastor of Journey of Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they help people take their next step on their journey with Jesus.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Spring Cleaning at Church Part 3: Digital Cleaning

  2. Pingback: Spring Cleaning at Church Part 4: Clean up your music

  3. Pingback: Spring Cleaning at Church Part 5: Equipment

  4. Pingback: Spring Cleaning at Church Part 5: Equipment - beyond the noise

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