Sunday, June 26, 2011

Holy Hoarding And Sacred Junk

I originally posted this yesterday with the title, "Church Store Rooms," but something went wrong with my post and, over the past 24 hours it began to disappear into the black hole of cyberspace.  Finally, the only thing left was the title which appeared above another post from about two weeks ago.  So I am reposting here with a new title.  Sorry about the confusion.

My sons-in-law cleaned out a maintenance storage shed today at our church.  It was a project that was much needed and long overdue.  As I watched that happen, several thoughts occurred to me.  

First, my mind went racing back about 25 years when I was the business administrator on the pastoral staff of a large church.   Dealing with a simple thing like “spring cleaning” is NEVER a simple thing in a church.  Every bit of that broken, outdated, and worthless junk is SACRED.  You can’t throw it away.  It belongs to some class, mission society, teacher, or long-dead member whose daughter is the chairman of the deaconess committee.  You must be a good steward of the resources God has provided.  So cram it into an attic, a closet, a cabinet, an unused classroom, or rent another storage container to keep and protect that crap.

Second, if it can’t be used now, there is probably someone somewhere who may be able to use it for something sometime.  It would be a shame (or probably a sin) to throw that perfectly good, worthless junk away.  It would be better to save it for the youth camp fund rummage sale or, if no one is willing to give a nickel for that old, broken down computer, you could always donate it to another church or, better yet, a missionary.  Missionaries always need good junk.  The youth group could raise funds for a short term missions project so they could all rent a truck and a bus to take a pile of crap to a mission church in Tijuana (never give them new stuff because it will spoil them).

Third, remember, everything you think is dumpster fodder is a precious treasure DONATED by someone and he is watching you.  Most of our donations came to us in the week following Christmas and just before the first day of January.  That’s when people make their year-end offerings of broken refrigerators, torn sofas, and wrecked cars, to God.   It’s a pretty cool deal.  They can overhype the value and take it as an income tax deduction, save the time and cost of disposing of it at the landfill, AND, there are the added benefits of feeling good about themselves and gaining brownie points with God for their generosity.

Fourth, as I watched my boys toss out that stuff, I caught myself thinking that some of that was worth keeping and, probably, some other well-meaning, seasoned saint might get his panties in a wad when he finds out.  After all, that was a perfectly good shovel; all it needed was a new handle. But then I quickly got over it.  The neat, clean, organized storage shed was well worth the tradeoff.  

Okay so I admit it, there is a generational gap thing going on here that explains why older people are inclined to save, store. and hoard.  My kids are too young to have observed this but I see it all the time in my dealings with the elderly.  Anyone who has lived during the 1920s through the 1940s, probably has a propensity to save stuff.  The depression was hard times and the war necessitated shortages and rationing.  Those were the days when stuff was expensive and labor was cheap.  So, for example, my grandfather saved used, bent nails.  He had the time to straighten and sort them rather than waste good money on new nails.  Today that doesn’t make sense because labor is very expensive and goods are relatively cheap.

But all of this is a digression from the topic of church storage.  Just because someone donated it is no reason to store it and just because you have it is no reason to keep it.  The reason someone gave you that mimeograph machine is because he now has a laser copier.  And the reason someone donated that flannelgraph is because she is now teaching with Powerpoint.  Come on folks, throw that crap away.  You will feel so much better when it’s gone. 

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