Performing Church Cleanup

Lately I’ve been enjoying the similarities between “things I need to do on my computer” and “things I need to do to my church.”  In fact, I sometimes believe my computer is a PARABLE ABOUT THE CHURCH.  Shoot, this is even a parable about ME!  (warning: a confession is coming)

After some recent SLUGGISH BEHAVIOR on my 2 year old laptop, I downloaded the latest free version of Windows Cleanup from Microsoft and BY GOSH IT WORKED. Got rid of all sorts of leftover files, orphaned programs, clutter, and things I wasn’t using anymore. It freed up and re-arranged my hard disk space so it would operate more efficiently. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a program for your church?   There’s your parable in brief

One of the biggest RESOURCE HOGS are programs that think they need to startup everytime you turn on your computer, or turn on your browser.  These programs scream for attention, –even if they are low priority.  Sometimes they are called “plug-ins” …and all they do is TAKE UP WORKING MEMORY, and SAP OPERATING POWER.  The Windows cleanup program and ‘uninstall’ feature work wonders on such programs.  Your church have any programs or program leaders like that?  More parable.

A lot of these resource hogs are “running in the background” -as they say in Windows. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete on your keyboard to bring up your Task Manager and you will see tabs for “Applications” and “Processes”  …all running and sucking power and attention away from your processor. Some are essential. Some are optional. And some just need to be stopped.  (They are like the “phantom power” problem we have at home with all our powercords.) 

Who’s doing Task Managing in the church? 
Where’s our “uninstall” button?

One of the biggest SLOW DOWNS on your computer is your “Windows Registry”.  This is a filing cabinet of bureaucratic protocols for nearly every program and configuration on your computer. And every time you start up your computer, Windows has to load the registry. Over time, your registry gets bloated with all sorts of meaningless and fanciful information, and this starts to slow Windows down.  More parable!  (Aside: Bloated registry kind of reminds me of the church’s annual report. “The did-little committee did a lot this year.” hahaha)

If you have ears, you get my drift.

For the slightly deaf:  The church has a lot of resource hogging, registry bloating, phantom power issues.  …me too.

Some “Cleanup” is required. 
But what kind of cleanup?
Based on a personal experience which I’m about to share, …even the KIND of cleanup needs to be considered.

Here’s the Confession:

Many years ago they did a “time study” of the staff at a church where I served as an Associate Pastor. It was done pro-bono by a professional management consultant (which should have raised a red flag right there! 🙂   They decided I was “working at 140% capacity.”  So what did they do? 

-Teach me how to be more efficient?   No.  
-Help me prioritize my work?   No. 
-Decide that some of what I was doing wasn’t really needed?   No. 
=Help me delegate some of my responsibilities to volunteers?    Hahaha.

No, instead they hired another minister and gave him some of my responsibilities. I was SO happy!  …and immediately proceeded to fill my new found “extra time” with new things related to the remainder of my job description.  In computer parlance, they uninstalled some programs so I could install new ones. “One devil for another.”

THE MISTAKE they (and I) made was that they looked at HOW MUCH I was doing,

———and not at all WHAT or HOW I was doing it,

……………….or IF I should be doing it at all.

Looking back…. one of the quickest and most profound changes they (I) should have implemented, was to simply say, “you will spend X amount of time every week outside the church office calling upon individuals and families.”  I did do calling, but only when time permitted, or when people were sick.  They wanted me to continue to focus on our rather successful programs.  Yet now I realize that their definition of “success” (and mine) was skewed. Even as successful as we were in that church (we grew by 30% during my time there and doubled our budget), I was still only really actively ministering to half the parishoners in my areas of responsibility, and it wasn’t as nearly relational and personal as I now believe it should have been.

Most ministers do not like calling on parishoners. It goes against our sense of privacy to “cold call” people, …walk into their homes and ask questions about their life. Rather, most ministers WAIT for parishoners to come to them. Or, we create programs, such as Bible studies, where the faithful few expect questions and want to share. The problem is that those programs don’t attract or provide pastoral contact to most of our parishoners.  Now that I’m back on the “pew side” of things (no longer actively serving as “the” minister in a church) I am reminded that most of us yearn for ministers -and other people we look up to, –to take us seriously, to inquire about our life and hopes and dreams and concerns. …To get beyond the chit-chat. 

Since those days, I’ve reinvented my personal beliefs about many things in the church.  And this blog has many of those ideas.

In youth ministry, for example,  –If I were starting over I’d make my youth ministry more relational and much less “programmatic.”  You can read about my experiments with a different kind of youth ministry at    You can also see my research into the “church attendance” issue and suggestions for children/youth at


Church Clean Up is a great idea…  Getting rid of Resource Hogs, Prioritizing, Reorganizing.

But perhaps its time to also change many of our Operating System & Assumptions about what we think we’re supposed to be DOING in the first place.

<>< Neil

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