Marie Kondo, otherwise known as Konmari, is a Japanese organizing consultant and author. Her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” has swept up viewers, along with a pile of clutter. Marie encourages her clients to ask if an item “sparks joy”, and if not they get rid of it. Thrift Shops across Canada are actually reporting a tidal wave of donations, almost more than they can deal with!
Churches often accumulate decades of clutter. Old Sunday School tables, broken chairs, dirty youth couches, clunker pianos with missing keys and unused KJV Bibles and hymnals. Why are we keeping this stuff? Usually, its because no one feels they have permission to get rid of anything, for fear of retribution from a ministry leader.
My church in Cambridge, Ontario once considered purchasing a closed United Church building. We toured the old building, and what I noticed most (other than the musty smell) was the layering of paper signs on the walls. Signs with rules and multiple exclamation marks, like “chairs must be stacked when leaving this room!!!!”, or “lights must be turned off!!!!!!”, along with emergency exit rules in 10 point font that no one would ever be able to read in an emergency, or territorial declarations, like “this kitchen is for the seniors ministry only”. There were literally signs on top of signs. Sadly, the unfriendly signs were maybe just a hint of why the church had gone out of business.
Clutter creates its own culture, without intention. A cluttered building says a few things to the occupant. 1) No one seems to be in charge. 2) We don’t actually talk to each other, and 3) We value junk over people. This may sound harsh, but it is true. Add into the equation that to build new space would cost between $140 and $400 per square foot*, depending on where you are in Canada (that is about the size of a floor tile), and you realize that keeping that old beat up, unused Sunday School table year after year has a huge cost.
Here are some steps to help your church or organization do an extreme makeover this spring, and have fun in the process.
- Engage leadership. To start throwing away things, you need to have your leadership onboard.
- Engage ministry leaders. Take the approach of “what do we keep”, instead of “what can we get rid of”.
- Go through each room with the stakeholders and tag what goes with coloured sticky notes.
- Plan a Saturday clean-up date. Have a dumpster ordered! Make it fun and supply lunch.
- Take every paper sign off the walls, especially “rule” signs. If the sign is absolutely necessary (like an emergency exit plan), replace them with new, coordinated signs, preferably professionally made by your local signage company.
- Consider removing old pianos. At $150 per tuning, they’re probably not worth keeping. You can find a better sounding digital piano for $500 on Kijiji that never needs maintenance.
- Either repair broken chairs or discard them. New chairs are relatively cheap and will give your facility a real boost.
- Get the custodian involved and clean up after things are gone.
- Plan to donate some materials to your local thrift store. Ask them what they will take before you deliver.
- Stand back and see how large and fresh your facility has become!
If your team is really motivated, consider a fresh coat of paint!
We applaud The Journey Newmarket, a CRC replant in Ontario, who just completed an “extreme church makeover” of their lower level, with plans to do the upper level soon. The transformation was incredible, with fresh white walls and punchy blue doors. We’ll add some before and after photos here soon. Check out their fresh new website at thejourneynewmarket.com, the work of our team at TheSharpEdge Group.
This spring, lets tidy up churches across Canada! Mare Kondo would be proud. More importantly, your culture will take a boost, people will better enjoy your space, and Jesus will be glorified in your community.
*source: Canada Cost Guide