Clear the Clutter for Christ:  12 Steps to Honor what God Provides

Published in Insight - Spring 2016
By Barbara Hemphill

Research shows that 80% of what we keep in our homes, we never use. Furthermore, the more we keep, the less we use – either because we do not remember we have it, or we cannot find it. The same can be said for our church home.  Church offices, storage closets, and classrooms are often filled with unused items left by previous staff, teachers, and volunteers.  

Clutter is postponed decisions.  The challenge in the church as it relates to eliminating clutter is identifying the decision makers.  In truth, many leaders are not naturally organized people.  Rightfully so, they focus on the big picture, and since in most churches, they do not have the administrative help they truly need, paper piles, and supplies accumulate on desks, in drawers, and in filing cabinets.   

To ensure that your church is an intentional setting which reflects a God of order, hold an annual “Clear the Clutter for Christ” event once a year.  For most churches, Saturday morning is the best time.  Here is a 12-point checklist to ensure your day is a success: 

1) Announce the day well in advance with a specific starting and ending time, and invite anyone interested to participate. 
2) Explain that the purpose of the day will be to eliminate items that do not contribute to the mission and programs of the church. Encourage those who have a stake in what is stored where to participate.  Participation by clergy will add greatly to the success of the event.
3) Arrange for coffee and light breakfast to begin the day.  (Lunch to close the event is optional.) 
4) Make sure to have plenty of trash bins available.  If appropriate in your community, set up recycling and shredding locations.  (Optional: If you do have use of a shredding service, invite church members to bring their personal shredding.)
5) If your church membership includes a professional organizing consultant, or someone naturally inclined toward clutter clearing, invite them to give a short presentation offering suggestions.  
6) Identify one or two people whose job is simply to walk from place to place encouraging, answering questions, or identifying issues that need to be addressed. 
7) If you want to add some fun to the day, give prizes (e.g., $10 gift cards) to the person who finds “the oldest unnecessary thing,” “the most unusual thing,” “the funniest thing,” “the most valuable thing,” etc. 
8) Explain that the question of the day is to pick up each item and ask, “Does this help us promote the mission or the programs in our church?” However, the philosophy for the day is, “If in doubt, keep it.”  Provide paper and pencil for participants to identify items they think are unnecessary, but need confirmation from someone else.
9) Set up tables to hold items identified as unnecessary to the work of the church – preferably in a place where they can stay for two-three weeks, so church members have an opportunity to peruse what is there.  (One church member was thrilled to find the lid to the casserole dish that had been missing for three years!) 
10) During breakfast explain how the day will work. Invite people to work in pairs/groups.  As the old saying goes, ‘Many hands make light work.” 
11) Thirty minutes before the designated end of the event, invite people to collect forms with issues they identified, share stories, and pass out prizes.  
12) Immediately following the event, invite congregation members to look over the items on the table and take whatever they can use.  Any items left over can be donated to a local charity.  (One church donates the items to the Boy Scout troop in their church for the annual yard sale.) 

Our church had two small rooms filled with unused furniture.  Within forty-eight hours, the rooms were in use as Sunday school rooms, and the furniture was put into the annual Harvest Day building fundraiser sale.  

While we may think of clutter as a modern problem, we read in Samuel 10:22b (KJV)  And the Lord answered, behold he hath hid himself among the stuff.  Our God is a God of order.  Should we not be a church in order?  

Barbara Hemphill is the founder of Productive Environment Institute, author of Less Clutter More Life, and a member of Mount Zion United Methodist Church is Garner, NC.  For information about her speaking services, go to