Spring Cleaning: Unclutter Your Parish. Seriously.

It’s easy to think that all of the ways we need to respond to the call to evangelize are deeply spiritual. Movements that must be discerned carefully and prayerfully over a long period of time. Ideas that involve new appreciation of what might initially seem to be challenging, intimidating, or hard to understand theological truths.

But that’s not the case. As Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran explain in a chapter from Tools for Rebuilding, it can be as simple as recognizing, “Christmas Is Over, So Throw Out the Dead Poinsettias.” And then, of course, doing something about it and actually cleaning up your parish. Making the narthex look great, easy to navigate, the best foot forward for your guests and visitors. Transforming nurseries and children’s spaces into appealing places where parents can’t wait to bring their children.

Taking care of physical space and facilities goes beyond what regular parishioners and guests might see, however. In many parishes, due to years of hand-off of ministries, projects, and initiatives, clutter piles up in the back closets. In the basements. And who knows where else.

As one Methodist pastor explained:

In my current church, we spent my first year clearing out massive amounts of clutter. One day early in my tenure I walked into the nursery where the children are cared for during Sunday morning, and there was an aisle to walk through that led to a station with toys in the back of the room. The first thing I saw when I stepped into the room was a big sign that read “Do Not Come in Here without an adult!” I understood the sign because the area really was a danger zone. The “aisle” was actually a little path that cut through tall stacks of equipment, papers, toys, boxes, books, and papers. There was so much stuff crammed into the room that it was massively depressing.

As we began cleaning out the nursery, we found old vacation Bible school papers from four decades prior. While they were fascinating to see in a memorabilia sort of way, they weren’t doing any good stacked in boxes and cluttered piles in the nursery. As we began throwing this stuff away, there was a lot of pain around letting it go. The people worried that they might need that curriculum, since it was expensive to buy new VBS materials. They thought perhaps we needed to store it somewhere, just in case it might be needed.

They groaned, grieved, held tight, and fought as we all pried our fingers off the stuff of our history.

If you lead, work, volunteer, minister, or serve in a parish in any way, take some time this spring (or maybe plan to do it during any summer less-scheduled time) and unclutter.


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