My guess is that when you go to a fast food restaurant, you look for a clean or mostly clean table at which to eat. I avoid tables that are piled with stuff from a previous customer that wasn’t considerate enough to put his trash away. I appreciate when the staff comes out to wipe down tables so they are clean for the next customer.
That is true for churches, too. Churches should be clean and free of clutter. We don’t need last week’s bulletins scattered everywhere, or every flat surface piled with flyers and postcards about upcoming events. We don’t need Bibles and study guides in stacks on ledges, tables, and chairs in classrooms. I’ve seen rooms with tables and chairs tossed around as if no one cared about the room and what it looked like. I’ve seen members walk right past trash on the floor; actually, they looked at it and probably thought that was someone else’s responsibility to clean up. I could go on and on, but you’ve likely seen the same thing in your own church or in one you’ve visited.
Bottom line: if a place of business were as sloppy and messy as many churches are, you wouldn’t give them your business. Why then are churches so sloppy?
Is it that no one really sees it? Yes, there are some people who see messes and some who just don’t. I’m one of the first group. I see messes, and they bother me a lot. Here’s a way to know what group you’re in: look in your car. If you have empty drink cups, wrappers, and other trash on the seat or floor, you’re in the group that can’t see messes. If that’s the case, you ought to find someone with a really clean car and get them to point out to you the messes in your church. They’ll show you what you “can’t see.”
People think someone else is responsible for that. Some members actually believe that they pay staff to do those menial chores and that they should not have to stoop to pick up trash or straighten bookshelves or ask why there are old books and Sunday School quarterlies which make the church look bad. Keeping the church clean and straight should be everyone’s responsibility; not just the custodian’s job.
Do some people not even care? Unfortunately, yes. It’s not a large number of people, but some just don’t really care or appreciate how a church looks. That kind of problem requires a bigger solution than just becoming aware of how sloppy the church looks; those folks need to experience a change of heart so they’ll value their church and its property.
Next time you’re in church, look around with really open eyes. Check out your surroundings very intentionally. If it were a restaurant, would you eat there, or go to the next restaurant down the road? Guests and members appreciate cleanliness and orderliness, and you do too. Make it a point to help your fellow members understand how little things such as picking up old bulletins, straightening tables and chairs, not having piles of materials everywhere, and other things like that can have a positive effect on people–members and guests alike.