Cleaning the Windows

Aug 3, 2021

“If the windows aren’t spotless, the car isn’t clean.” -My Mom

For a brief period of time approximately one afternoon when I was in grade school I had a car washing business. Here’s how it worked: I went door-to-door in my neighborhood and asked anyone who answered the door if he or she would pay me to wash the car in the driveway. To prepare for my first attempt at entrepreneurship, I washed my family’s two cars. My mother gave me this outstanding piece of advice:

“Make sure you clean the windows. Lots of people think they can tell if a car is clean by looking at the windows.”

If memory serves I washed exactly one neighborhood car for $10. But I made sure the windows were clean!

There are a lot of details to running a church, and almost all of them fall under the category of making sure the windows are clean. Why do I say that? Because missing any one small thing – a poor children’s check-in experience, anything that might be interpreted as a security lapse, or even starting the service five minutes late – can cause someone to conclude your church is disorganized. You can have the best preaching on the planet, killer worship music, and rock star greeters, but if your bathrooms are a mess, your first time guests are likely not returning.

There is no shortage of critics looking for an excuse – any excuse – to criticize your church. It doesn’t matter if you are a church plant (“they simply don’t have the resources to run children’s ministry well”) or a megachurch (“as big as they are, you would think they could check children in faster”). Details are a big deal, and we have to get them right.

Now, if your goal in ministry is to avoid criticism, you won’t get very far. That being said, I believe we should strive to be excellent because a lack of excellence is a potential stumbling block for believers or seekers alike. Think about it: Paul wanted to be all things to all people so that by all possible means he might win some. In modern American culture, excellence is almost the price of admission. When we fail to be excellent, it can be difficult for anyone in our culture to hear us.

Why is that? Because for better or worse, we are a people that upvotes excellence and swipes left on mediocrity. We strive for excellence in our jobs, our families, and our health. Pretty much every public environment we inhabit, from the Apple Store to Z Galerie (with Starbucks in between!) trains us to expect nothing less than superlative. Whether it’s reasonable or not, we expect all public institutions to be well run. And that includes our churches.

To be clear: excellence in operations looks different for different churches at different stages. It is not reasonable to expect church plants to run as smoothly as their megachurch brethren. Our ability to execute well increases as our resources do, and that is totally okay. Example: church plants have a social media “volunteer,” megachurches have “communication directors” who might lead “communication teams.” Seriously, it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

But there’s a place in the kingdom for apples and for oranges.  At every stage of your growth, the question you need to ask is, “Given the level of our resources and size today, are we operating as well as we possibly can?” Hopefully, you say “yes.” But if the answer to that question is “no,” consider making some improvements. Maybe a ministry needs to be paused, a volunteer needs to be challenged to step it up (or be uninvited!), or some money invested in new equipment or processes.

And if your facility has any windows, make sure they are always clean.

Ken will be hosting a webinar with our Bookkeeping Team in September – more info coming soon!

Ken used his entrepreneurial bent to minister bi-vocationally in a multicultural context for nearly two decades. A mid-life transition to full-time ministry gave him an even bigger vision for serving people and churches. He was the stewardship pastor at Christ Fellowship in Miami, Florida before joining Ramsey Solutions to work with the country’s largest churches. Ken fervently believes in the power of stewardship initiatives to build community and fast track spiritual growth and is currently finishing a sabbatical in Franklin, Tennessee.

Ken Schafer