Here at Nativity, we’re currently immersed in one of our sacred summer rituals: housecleaning and reorganization. Over the years, we have worked to reduce the amount of storage onsite and move seasonal and long term storage off site. Each summer, we unpack these areas, reassess their contents, and get rid of anything that is outdated, underused, or just no longer in great shape.
This summer, we are also developing an organizational chart for all of these spaces to ensure that we know exactly what we are storing and where.
When it comes to our offices, we are trying something really radical. We are introducing an “open office” concept. This is not exactly news in Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue, but it might be for a church. The basic idea is that no one has their own office (including the pastor). Instead, you choose to work in various, shared work stations, or claim various closed offices and conference spaces as available. The idea is greater efficiency and collaboration, while eliminating the silos and nests that a lot of private offices become.
To be honest, this idea has come under withering criticism as innefficient and unproductive, from many quaterters in recent times. I think a lot of the pushback all comes down to the fact that it’s different and people don’t like different. Even if it is a risk, it’s one we have to take: our staff has grown so much in recent years that our current space is completely disfunctional. Some people already don’t have their own space.
I am hoping, that, handled well, we can make this transition work well. In the process, we can definitely develop a cleaner, sleeker space, free from a lot of personal effects and clutter.
Perhaps the Church’s biggest problem (at least biggest as in taking up the most room) is clutter and junk. When I came to Nativity I was shocked at the amont of space that was devoted to storage, including areas that were intended for programing use. Most of the offices were so cluttered and stuffed with stuff that they were difficult to navigate. And every closet and cabinet was filled to overflowing….and here’s the thing: no one really knew what we were storing.
That’s what happens at church. Many if not most churches I visit, regardless of size or location, wealth or denomination, evidence struggles with this problem, as we do ourselves. And many look like they gave up the battle years ago. A very dedicated pastor I know invited us to visit his parish and advise him on rebuilding. Stepping inside his lobby I said “Father, just get rid of the junk.”
Dumpy, dysfunctional environments damage any organization’s health. But the hesitancy to remove junk affects churches in a far more unique way. It reaches the core of a more endemic problem in churchworld: our resistance to change. Never throwing anything out is parallel to refusing to kill obsolete programs, running that ugly fundraiser year after year, or keeping dysfunctional staff members. To move forward, we’ve got to make the hard choices and difficult decisions.
One strategy that we have found very effective is making specific people responsible for specific spaces. In our experience, when a member of staff or a volunteer minister has ownership over a certain space, that space is far less likely to become disorganized. Another is regularly scheduled housekeeping. And don’t be afraid to shake things up and move things around from time to time too.
We need to care about this if we’re really interested in evangelization.