Cleaning the Church

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Today our turn on the cleaning schedule rolled around once again. My wife and I both have colds, but not wanting to leave the team leader in the lurch I went in and emptied all the garbage throughout the building. Since there was a family of four and a single sister also on the team, many hands made light work and after about an hour we were done and I came home. (It helps that I only live a five-minute drive away from our church building.)

I’ve seen a lot of folks on the Bloggernacle kvetch about this kind of assignment. The specific complaints that I recall seem to fall into the following categories:

  • Not being affirmatively asked, but simply having one’s name put on a rotating cleaning schedule, usually as printed in the ward bulletin.
  • The loss of a job for a member of the ward who may otherwise be out of work and could use a custodial position.
  • After all the other work we do at home and church, being pressed into this menial labor, when presumably our (very wealthy) church could afford to cover this task in some other way.

Personally, though, I don’t mind this assignment. In fact, I rather enjoy it.

First, I’m not offended by a rotating cleaning schedule. If I have a conflict on a given Saturday, which to be honest is fairly rare, I can always opt out. For such a repetitive task requiring at least three to four bodies each and every week, it seems to me an opt out system is way more efficient than an opt in system would be. I would hate to be in the position of having to affirmatively call three to four people each and every week; that would get old in a hurry.

Second, while I understand the thought that the Church has lots of money and should be able to pay for this kind of work to be done professionally, I can also appreciate the Church trying to be conservative in its allocation of resources. When you consider how many buildings the Church has to maintain, we’re talking about an astronomical expense church-wide. Lots of (non-LDS) churches rely on volunteer labor among the parishioners to take care of routine cleaning.

Third, this is something I’m used to from my youth. When I was growing up we had neither a standard plan building nor a custodian. I grew up in a branch in Sycamore, Illinois, and we met in a building that had originally been a Congregational Church, a beautiful old edifice made of stone with stained glass windows (and certainly no gym). This was back in the olden days when if you wanted a building you had to cover a certain percentage of the cost locally. As a result, the families in that little branch felt a real sense of ownership over that building, and it was up to us to maintain it. And we did, with everyone chipping in their time and labor.

Fourth, I happen to be the managing partner of a law firm in Chicago. People in my position do not generally spend a Saturday morning cleaning toilets in a public building. So I like the fact that doing this service helps to keep me humbled and grounded. Somebodys got to clean those toilets; why not me? There’s nothing special about me that should exempt me from the common need to maintain our church building in good order.

What are your thoughts on this topic of cleaning our church buildings? Any stories or experiences you have along these lines are also on-topic for this post.

 

 

Comments

  1. I don’t mind the work so much but those blue vacuums pictured above are the worst. Our building has two, and it’s like they compete with each other to see which can deliver the least amount of suction. Dropping the contents of the bag on floor gets extra points.

  2. There is something deeply wrong with people who complain about occasional assignments to clean the church. Sure, talk to people so the schedule works out, but it’s the closest most of us will get to actual service in a given week.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, Peter. Our building has a small room of cleaning supplies, a drain (that looks like a small shower), and a couple of vacuums. But you’re right, it seems as though at any given time one (if not both) of the vacuums isn’t working correctly and providing very limited suction.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    KWM, yeah, I like the fact that this is very concrete and well defined service. If you’re trying to do missionary work, when is it ever really enough? But for cleaning there is a schedule of tasks on a worksheet we fill out, and when we’re done we’re really done. I wish all of our church assignments came with that kind of definition and finality.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I applaud your attitude. My husband and I have both, at different times, been responsible for seeing that the building is cleaned every week. You feelings on the subject are refreshing indeed. There is nothing about any of us that should exempt us from this obligation, unless it be age or disability, however the people we could most depend on to show up often suffered from both. One night we had 2 artificial knees, one artificial hip, a fused spine requiring the use of a walking stick, and a very bad back. We hobbled our way through and got the job done, laughing in the doing. Our son once lived in a rich ward and the wealthy ones would send their maids to do the work when they were assigned. Oh, well, at least the building was cleaned……..

  6. N. W. Clerk says:

    I agree about the blue vacuums. Cleaning the chapel is a lot easier if you bring a cordless handheld vacuum from home to get the food fragments off the pews.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Elizabeth, I appreciate your insights from the trenches. And N.W/, I had a similar thought that a cordless handheld would be ideal for cheerios in the pews duty!

  8. I don’t mind cleaning the church especially when there’s a crowd to do it. I think we respect that which we clean, and I feel that this is the only cleaning opportunity some of my YM receive. I take pictures of broken or damaged items and send them to the building coordinator.

  9. My parents are busy on Saturdays and pay professionals to come in on their assigned week.

  10. “but it’s the closest most of us will get to actual service in a given week.”

    This is actually a reason I’m not a huge fan of ward members cleaning the building.

    Is the fact that vacuuming floors is the closest most of us get to service in a week (in a quarter, really) really something to celebrate or hang on our hat on?

    If we’re going to require service of members, wouldn’t it be much more wonderful to require every member to put in a couple of hours to some kind of community organization each quarter? Doing the kind of stuff that can’t be easily outsourced to people who’d appreciate the paid work? Stuff that requires making a human connection? The kind of stuff that Jesus talked about? (Facilities cleaning somehow didn’t make it into his sermons.)

    I’m not saying building cleaning isn’t service. It is. It’s certainly practical. I just find it strange that the only service we’re required to do outside our callings involves taking care of a building. It only benefits us. It’s awfully insular.

    Even for our ward’s service day this year, the men cleaned up yards while the women were tasked with giving the church building a deeper than usual cleaning. Even though the service day would be a couple weeks before the building was due for an actual professional deep cleaning. It was thus billed as a deep cleaning to prep for the deep cleaning.

    I think cleaning perhaps becomes an easy way to check off the “doing service” box, as it’s turnkey, and, paradoxically enough, not very “messy.”

    Finally, the reasons given for why cleaning the building is a good thing always strike me as ex post facto in nature; that is, I don’t think we would come up with them if cleaning wasn’t already a member responsibility; I don’t think people would come up with a proposal to shift cleaning to members listing such reasons as benefits. Rather, because it is a responsibility, we find reasons it’s a good thing. This dynamic plays out in a lot of things in the church, actually; e.g., “Church is very boring. But that’s ok. Here’s why boring church is actually really good for us.”

  11. I agree more community service and outreach would be wonderful, but it doesn’t really fall to the institutional church to “require” this. This has got to come from individual agency–from you, from me.

  12. I don’t mind cleaning the building. We don’t have to do it in our current ward though. I’m not sure why (perhaps it has to do with the number of people on church welfare…?). I don’t like the assigned dates though. I’d rather have a sign up sheet that goes around weekly with a note encouraging people to sign up every three months or something. Back in our old ward, I was endlessly having to find people to swap with for that single free Saturday in month already full of Saturday activities.

    “but it’s the closest most of us will get to actual service in a given week.”

    That makes me scratch my head. I suppose if you don’t count callings or the titt-for-tatt of being in a ward (I got three calls for help this week from fellow R.S. members needing kids picked up/ dropped off, etc.) then maybe this is true. But what about volunteering at school, running whatever organization our kids are involved with, putting on service activities for the youth (inside and outside of church), and being on the committees of whatever organizations we’re pulled in through our outside-the-church interests? Plus donating goods/cash to local homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and every organization that comes asking us and our kids? I was joking last night with another Mom about a college scholarship requiring 20 hours of community service. We’re like “They give the kids three years to get enough hours? Our kids do that easily each semester.”

    I’m sure not all members of the church get as many service opportunities thrown at them (the mom with kids at home probably does get more than anyone else), but an hour of cleaning the church is nothing compared to everything else coming at us. And at least in my case, yes – I’m professionally employed as well.

  13. Greg Jakubowski says:

    Looks like we have a concensus that the blue vacuums suck. Or a concensus they don’t suck.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Too true, Greg, too true…

  15. My own view is mixed. I think that having members clean the building probably results in less wear & tear on it. If you know you’ll be the one cleaning it, you are less likely to let your kid grind graham crackers into the hymnal holders.

    But, on the other hand, the cleaning done is usually very cursory. The vacuums are inadequate, and nobody has ever been trained on any of it–how to use the products or what’s included in the cleaning–not in my experience anyway. I guarantee the toilets are seldom cleaned in our building. Most people just vacuum, empty trash, and do mirrors in bathrooms. That’s about it. Now, most janitorial work is pretty terrible surface cleaning and trash emptying (all who work in corporate will know what I mean), so I suppose it’s not a big difference there, but at some point, it would be nice if the church didn’t have that church smell because it was truly, professionally, deeply cleaned. It always smells like nursery stink to me, just below the surface.

  16. We have kids from ages 15 on down. We find it’s an excellent way for them to learn how to work and serve. If only for that reason, I think having members/families clean the church is an excellent thing.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    For the reasons you give, Angela, I would hope that they do a truly professional deep clean periodically, like maybe once a quarter or so. But I have no idea whether that actually happens.

  18. I was visiting a ward in Lubbock, TX last year and got to help with Saturday cleaning. The maintenance closet was outfitted with maybe ten totes each labeled for a specific area of the building. Each tote had various sprays and supplies specific to the area to be cleaned. There was also a laminated instruction sheet which was very detailed. I finally learned how to properly clean a toilet after 45 years of running my own household and teaching my children! It seemed like a great system. When you arrived to clean you were handed a tote and instructions; return them when finished and pick up another one.

    Wards and branches need to get out into the community and serve. We need to meet the people who live in our communities and they need to see us serving.

  19. Common Sense says:

    Kevin – Let’s compare what you could do if you donated the proceeds of an hour of your time working as the the “managing partner of a law firm in Chicago” (in your words). No doubt that hour is worth quite a bit – perhaps hundreds of dollars. What could this buy? Well, life-saving mosquito nets for kids in Africa cost about $2.50 cents each. You could save hundreds of kids from getting malaria. You could pay for people in developing countries to have clean water and basic medical supplies. Or pay for them to have operations. Or donate that money to improve literacy in poor nations – perhaps earmarking it for LDS members if you so chose.

    Or, you could forego all that to do the work of a $10 per hour janitor, because it makes you feel “humbled and grounded” (I suppose in a way that preventing malaria doesn’t). Hmmm…

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Common Sense, I don’t understand your point. If I make a donation toward abating malaria in Africa in lieu of cleaning the church, then who is going to clean the church? Are you suggesting that ward members should be able to make donations to worthy causes and thereby opt out of cleaning? But then who will do the cleaning–the poor who cannot afford to make such donations (and at a substantially more often pace to make up for more affluent members who opt out)?

  21. A Happy Hubby says:

    I love to give service. It really is one of the few things that gives me a good feeling. I like to have my kids help in this as it helps them respect the building a bit more.

    But as a few people have mentioned, it reminds me that most members consider this “service” and too me Mormons are already to self-focused. Our efforts need to be helping others – not just those that have “joined our club” (nor should all such outreaches be club membership drives – yes I mean “missionary opportunities”).

    It also reminds me that my church does not give nearly as much $ and effort as I think is appropriate for being a Christian church.

  22. Today was my turn to clean the chapel too! I actually enjoy it mostly. We assign families alphabetically and therefore I’m always assigned with the same seven families. For the last four cleanings in a row, only my family and one other shows up. So while I like the actual cleaning part (though agreed on those stupid blue vacuums that don’t fit between the pews so it’s a total exercise in futility), I find the natural man nags at me and I’m slowly beginning to resent these other families that seem to think they don’t need to participate. And since I completely hate that feeling, then yes I would rather let someone in need get paid to clean the building.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t think cleaning the Church for an hour or two every few months needs to be a limit on the performance of genuine Christian service. But I take your point that some members probably think that an occasional church cleaning meets their quota in that regard.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Chadwick, good point about the limitations of the usual assignment pattern. That is definitely a weakness of the way it is usually done.

  25. If you like to clean toilets in public buildings then by all means knock yourself out. My biggest issue is members being assigned to clean without regard to ability or health constraints. In the last year my 87 year old mother (with advanced arthritis and a heart condition) spent four hours cleaning the church because someone somewhere decided it was a good way to save a few dollars. Shame on them.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    No one is forcing anyone to do this assignment. People should simply opt out if that is best for them. (Of course an 87-year old with medical conditions should not be doing this.)

  27. My feelings: The building never feels clean to me. When was the last time those bathroom door handles were cleaned? Blotting the drinking fountain with a paper towel does nothing. Our area is in the midst of an official flu epidemic, and I get heebie jeebies thinking about germy pews, doorknobs, and don’t get me started on nursery toys! Our building gets a once-a-year carpet cleaning, and that’s IT.

    I have four immune disorders, a dissolving back, and a husband who works nights, so asking him to be at the Church at 9m is like asking anyone else to show up at 3am. We still go when assigned (but, oh, I wish they’s Ask!), although we usually go Friday later afternoon instead. Everyone’s schedule is different. I’ve been at the building for one thing or another on Saturday, and it’s always the same one man, the guy scheduled for two knee replacements, carrying out the trash all alone, promising to “get the rest next time.”

    I don’t know what the answer is, but here at least, it doesn’t seem to be working.

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you all for sharing your perspectives, both positive and negative, on this subject. I appreciate learning from your experiences. (I don’t mean to come off as an apologist for the practice; my point is simply that I’m not personally bothered by it the way some seem to be, but I’m definitely interested in learning your perspectives, as in Deb’s take immediately above.) Keep your thoughts coming!

  29. I liked taking my kids with me to clean the building; it was a good wake up call to them (and me) to see how messy the ward left things the previous week. I think it made us more conscientious of our impact on the facilities during Sunday services and at other activities.

  30. When you have spent 87 years being told that obedient members never turn down an assignment you go when called. Really, an 87 year old should not even be on the rotation list, but she is. Another person was told that her temple recommend would be taken away if she declined the cleaning assignment calling. She has severe allergies to many of the chemicals used in cleaners. Didn’t matter. Shameful I say, just shameful.

  31. In our ward, we’re asked to volunteer — no one is assigned. It takes 8-10 people an hour and a half to clean, and we generally have that many, and often more. The bathrooms are always cleaned and mopped. There are many families who don’t sign up for various (mostly good, I’d think) reasons, but the ones who can, sign up often. Children are always involved, and the building coordinator seems more focused on them being able to contribute in a way they feel good about than about just getting the job done. Put that all together, and I’ve really been happy to bring my kids. It gives them a sense of community and duty to the community. Admittedly, we have a few units meeting in our building, so we’re not cleaning every week. But with so much use, the building is trashed by Saturday, so you really feel you’re doing something. I think it’s been really positive. Throw in a donut run with the kids afterwards, and it’s become a bit of a tradition.

  32. Michelle Magnusson says:

    When I clean the church I feel connected to a long chain of brothers and sisters who have consecrated repetitive, menial tasks to the Lord. Like craftsmen and women who have filigreed and tatted and decorated the most obscure pieces of cathedrals and temples and mosques. Living in Egypt I loved finding hidden alcoves that you didn’t really see from most angles but someone poured their heart and talent into glorifying God through their skills. I prefer to clean alone (or with my son) and meditate on holy places (or tell stories of Jesus to him) while doing it. Making Mormon small talk kills me (this is true while not cleaning also). I tried to capture the same intentionality when assigned to the laundry on a temple shift. There’s something holy about doing simple things with your hands and letting your mind turn to God. I don’t consider it my service (I do that outside church) and I totally resent the Friday night calls telling me to do it the next morning. Make a schedule and I’ll cheerfully make it happen, people.

  33. Like Deb, I have 3 autoimmune diseases as well as severe dust mite and mold allergies. The first time we were assigned to clean, our four year old only child with severe mold allergies came home and vomited (it’s his strange reaction to mold) and I ended up with a sinus infection. My husband now goes for our family. I understand as Shari pointed out that there are many members who would crawl on bloody knees to clean the church. I have no such honorable convictions so I don’t feel guilty I don’t contribute to the cleaning. I agree with the previous comments that there is a marked difference in the cleanliness of the church from when we used professional cleaning services. We have a branch with strong members who are by no means slackers. I just don’t think our efforts match those of professionals. TBH, I cringe at the assertion that “cleaning toilets” keeps people “humble.” I have friends who are custodial workers so the “humble” thing comes off as elitist. I guess you’ve a got a few more toilets to clean. Not to mention, as I already stated, the pros are better at it. I also have a problem with the idea that we don’t do any service during the week. I live in a small branch in TN and there is no lack of service opportunities during the week, at least for the Relief Society. We work with the local refugee housing and services. We sew curtains, donate a range of items, help plan activities, etc. We team up with a Catholic Church to do a meal ministry for the elderly and shut-ins once a month. We volunteer hours each month at a thrift store that benefits those in need in our community. All this in addition to individual community service and serving the needs of family, friends and our callings. To me, cleaning the church, as others have pointed out, only benefits our already too insular church. And finally, count me as one of those who thinks that since I am a full tithe payer, it’s not too much to ask to have the church professionally cleaned. I feel resentful at the programs and investments that receive my tithing funds (shopping malls, all 56,000 Utah temples, funding of universities I didn’t attend, the tuition of GA family members, hunting clubs, etc.) rather than the upkeep of our local church building.

  34. Sigh. I have six kids, a husband, and a dog. I spend all week cleaning up other people’s sh!t. I refuse to go and clean the church the only morning I get to sleep in. I am exhausted and burned out. I don’t need to clean our church building to keep me humble and grounded–spending the day wiping noses and butts and being told I have a fat tummy keeps me plenty humble and grounded. I am not cleaning up after other people–many of whom have zero respect for the building. And our building always stinks and never looks clean. It’s embarassing.

  35. BCC conscience says:

    I find it’s almost always the lazy, excuse making folk who make the church building the dirtiest… Those who refuse to come and do their fair share are the same parents who allow their children to grind toxic sugar candy into the carpets… Funny how those with weakened immune systems, from their crappy diets, are willing to sit for three hours in a supposedly moldy building, but unwilling to come and clean it for 1-2 hours…. If that wasn’t funny unough, they then have the gall to complain that the building isn’t clean enough… Of course it isn’t, people like you won’t “pay your fair share…”. Also, wrt claims of pulled Temple recommends, I’m calling Bs. Let an impartial party verify or refute this claim… It sounds so stupid as to be preposterous, or IOW, fake news…

    Kevin, this may be there only post I’ve ever agreed with you on… But really, some of BCC fails the conscience test…

  36. I hate the bathroom smell. I smell it when we walk in the building and it gets worse if you go in the bathroom or if the door is opened and I’m nearby. I believe professional cleaning would be able to get rid of that smell. I don’t mind cleaning the church and go when asked. But I think it should be done professionally every so often.

  37. Professor Lockhart says:

    If that 87 year old woman goes without objection, then it’s her decision. God Bless her for it.

    I agree with the thoughts here and am a bit saddened to see the complaints or push back.

    If you don’t like the toilet smell and feel a professional cleaner can remove a smell then maybe the spirit of the Lord is promoting you to look into making it better. Seek out the facilities management or inquire among some professional cleaners yourself.

    Wouldn’t your actions in that case be doing everyone in the ward a service?

  38. Leonard R says:

    I grew up in a small branch in a remote part ofor Alberta. Our janitor was a member of the branch. The job helped provide for his family.

    I currently live in a small branch in India. It takes many members of our branch an hour to get there on public transport. It’s 45 minutes for us by car. There are definitely members of either the branch or the community who could use the employment more than I could use the extra “service”.

  39. Our ward has a vacuum device that straps on your back which makes cleaning the chapel a bit easier. My complaint is the inadequacy of our cleaning supplies. All we get to clean the bathrooms with is some weak, pink stuff that foams a bit. A member in our ward who works for the Church in maintenance told me that the stronger cleaners are not provided because of liability issues. (Don’t know if that’s true, that’s just what he told me). My wife and I bring our own cleaning products from home when it’s our turn to clean bathrooms. But overall (and for me personally), it’s something I don’t mind doing from time to time though if it wasn’t there to do, I wouldn’t miss it.

  40. I wish it was more of a sign up, and less assigned. I work every other weekend (for the last six years!), and we are always assigned the week I work. At this point we have stopped going. If they can’t bother to even ask, I can’t be bothered to find a replacement.

  41. I want to add my comment to those that have gone before: The vacuums provided by the church are worthless and have been for the 24 years they have been in use in our building. A couple of years ago one of our members bought a couple of Shark vacuums that do a great job.

    Anyone have access to the church’s suggestion box so we can give this feedback? Oh, that’s right, there is no such feedback loop. Sure, the stake president will forward that concern up the hierarchy, sure.

  42. Anonymous so I don't make enemies says:

    How about a thread for complaints about the difficulty of working with Facilities Maintenance? I run a local family history center as a stake calling and about 80 to 90 percent of my requests have been ignored. We have holes in the wall, stained carpet, stained ceiling tiles, no one to fix the microfilm readers. We can only requisition replacement furnishings through FM, and it has to happen in January, and that’s almost impossible to do. They aren’t interested in working with me or the other directors in the stake. Another director in the stake had new computers misplaced by FM. I’ve sent requests directly. I’ve sent requests through the agent bishop. I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is a problem throughout the United States; it’s not just this area.

  43. fbitsi: I thought BCC was the suggestion box!

  44. Common Sense says:

    Kevin – ” I don’t understand your point. If I make a donation toward abating malaria in Africa in lieu of cleaning the church, then who is going to clean the church?”

    Really?? Let’s say you make $200 per hour as a managing partner. You work an extra hour. You pay a professional cleaner to do the work (how much do they cost – $10, $20 per hour?), and donate the rest to much higher yield causes. Everybody wins. The professional cleaner has work. The people in Africa got much needed supplies. Your clients got help they need. And you performed work that you prefer (otherwise, you wouldn’t have become a lawyer, but a janitor).

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    Ah, Common, you elided the second step so it wasn’t clear to me what you were suggesting. Thanks for the clarification.

  46. Suzanne Lucas says:

    I don’t mind the cleaning assignment. Our building is rented space in an office building, though, and the bathrooms are part of the common areas. This means that we don’t have to clean the bathrooms.

    I, too, grew up in the days of wards paying for their own buildings. My sisters and I thought it was so funny when we got to go into the boys’ bathroom to clean it.

  47. My husband loves cleaning the church. He loves the contribution and chance to show our children we all have a role.

    I frankly, am not a fan.

    My husband was a in a demanding residency that left him with barely any free time. I was left doing everything for our house. All the cooking, cleaning, childcare, yard work, budgeting while running a smaller business to help cover the bills. It was a huge sore spot for me that he had time to clean the church but not mow the lawn.

    I also think that paying janitors, especially in wards where people need work, would be great. I spend multiple hours a week on my calling already and want to have time to spend doing volunteer work like th work I do with a refugee resettlement group I’m with.

  48. When it works for me, I like the cleaning. My thoughts on that score are similar to the OP.
    However, like others commenting I have a hard time meeting the schedule that others set and that seems to work well for many. It reinforces an ongoing (personal, private) sadness that the Church programs seem designed for a certain class of people (which in fairness is a majority and probably the right thing to do for programming) that doesn’t fit me well.
    Regarding deep cleaning and professional cleaning, the last time I was close to the system (in a different Stake in a different decade, so everything may be different here/now) we had a small team of two or three, essentially full time, who rotated through the buildings in the Stake on weekdays. They would spend a day or two, every week or two, in each building, doing a ‘professional’ cleaning. Saturday mornings by people like me was in addition and focused on appearance rather than deep cleaning. I thought it was a good balance.
    Regarding the vacuum cleaners, I recall them not working very well but because they were not maintained. Fundamentally OK-to-good machines that required regular maintenance and cleaning to work well, like most machines. If you don’t have someone in the background making sure the machines work and the tools are in repair, it’s a bit unreasonable to walk in on a Saturday morning and expect everything to be in place and in working order. That’s a job by itself, almost never on the assignment sheet.

  49. You know, we were pigs. Ground Cheerios in the pews, hymnals defaced and scribbled in or crewed up, trash on the floor, etc. I know that one of the reasons for members cleaning was to learn to be more respectful of the facilities, and I fear that we might need alternating decades of cleaning duty or (gulp) full-time cleaning duty.

    That being said, in practice only about 10 families from each Ward actually clean. Everyone else is too busy. These families are the ones that do everything else in the ward. They are getting burned out. Not fair and not sustainable.

    If this is going to be a “thing” for us, I’d love to see, even once, a PR piece showing President Monson vacuuming, or Sheri Dew window cleaning. Can you believe how popular cleaning would be if it was the most likely place to bump into GAs??????????

    I’m waiting for a cover pic on th Ensign, new era or friend…of elder eyeing in jeans and a dusting mitt.

    Until then, I’m following the brethren and letting the minions clean.

  50. Our ward used to have a sign up sheet for building cleaning that went around and I was happy to sign up every few months and take a turn with my son. Then they went to assignments that were printed in the bulletin. If I am there to see it (Stake calling so I’m often at another ward) and it fits my schedule and I remember to go then I do, but often I find I have missed my turn. I frankly don’t feel guilty about it. If no one can bother to ask/remind those assigned I’ve decided in my grumpy old age that I’m not required to use any more effort to find out my dates or get a sub or whatever.

    I serve in a calling few want or would accept and I work darn hard at it. That is enough for me at this time. If you need to clean toilets to feel you’ve done your part, than that is great and go for it and feel good.

    While I understand the rationale that if we take care of our building we will feel more responsible for it, I don’t really see that in action. I see people as careless with the building as they are with the rest of our disposable world. Also, I hear far too often from people that it’s “their church” or they “pay their tithing” and that means they can take tables and chairs and whatnot from the building for their personal use. Our ward cub master has bought 6 flags and stands for the pack in the last 4 years she’s had the calling because they are continually stolen from the locked scout closet. We have just tons of stuff taken from the building.

  51. Mortimer–that’s exactly the problem I’ve seen.

    A few years ago I was in a small ward. Two other units shared our building. Every third month, the EQ would handle two weeks and the HP would handle two weeks of cleaning.

    Unsurprisingly, each week the EQ was responsible for cleaning, as EQ President, I would show up to clean. If I was lucky, two or three or four other people would also show up. If I wasn’t lucky, no one else would show up. My wife worked Saturdays, so I’d drop her off at work (we only had one vehicle) and bring the infant/toddler along for the clean.

    I’m sure different wards operate differently, but after having to clean an entire building by myself while watching a 1-year-old, I’m not a huge fan of the program.

  52. Uncleaning Mike says:

    I don’t clean the church. Years ago, I wrote a 30+ page booklet on how to mess up the cleaning of the church. Leave wine bottles under the bishop’s desk, flush tar balls down the toilet, polish pews with brake fluid, turn rats loose, scatter powered paints on the carpet near the door, etc. (You could wire those beloved blue vacuums to explode when turned on and be done with them one at a time- not in my booklet) It was supposed to be joke. They take me too serious. Never been trusted with the church cleaning calling since then.

    Last week they spent 30 minutes in PM begging people to clean the church. It seems Bro.R. and family have cleaned it 7 weeks in a row. He might be on assistance I don’t know but he needed a break. Bro. (Wild) Bill who thought my booklet was funny, finally consented. He is some big gun attorney who charges $1200 a hour. I know because I asked him to do some legal work for me. (Maybe he was joking and I took him too serious). If he worked about 4-8 hours on Saturday and donated it to the yet-to-be-formed ward cleaning fund, they could hire Bro R. and pay him and he might not get burned out quite as fast.

    I wanted to stand and bear my testimony at that time that I do not believe in the cleaning-the-church program. I would ask all those who also did not believe in it enough to actually do it ( which by logic should include most of them without legit excuses) to join me in sending a message to our ward and stake leaders that too little faith is present in our ward to live this higher law. But I am mightier in written than spoken word and chickened out.

    How much energy does this program sap out of other duties?

  53. Uncleaning Mike,
    You can’t fool me, you’re really Robert Kirby, right? I love your plans. I’m in. I’ll even volunteer to illustrate your book (we could turn it in to something like Shel Silverstein’s Uncle Shel’s ABZs.).

    Tim, there you go. Uncleaning Muke has the plan. Zelophehad’s daughters, you’ve got to grab Uncleaninf Mike’s comment you the 2017 funniest comments on the bloggernacle.

  54. BCC conscience, if it makes you feel better, I haven’t been to church in over a month due to illness. Guess I better get off that crappy diet! Thank you for the suggestion! What would a humble sister do without charitable suggestions such as these?

  55. On the point that it would cost the Church a lot of money to hire people to clean the buildings, it bothers me that the Church just built a new commercial office building in Salt Lake at 111 Main, with an estimated cost of $170M. (See http://www.sltrib.com/news/4386439-155/new-mormon-church-owned-skyscraper-brings-high?fullpage=1) Further, they just bought Provo High School across from BYU for $25M. (See http://www.sltrib.com/home/3821580-158/byu-purchases-provo-high-school-property?pid=3352026)

    The next problem is that the members of the Church, who fund our buildings through tithing, have no say in how those buildings are managed. A previous poster mentioned problems with Facilities Management. As a thought experiment, say you wanted to put wood paneling in your chapel, and you find members of your ward who would be willing to pay for it. Would you be allowed to do that? I believe the answer is no. The members don’t own the building, the bishop doesn’t, the stake president doesn’t. I don’t know how far up the chain you have to go to find someone who both has direct control over Facilities Management and has ecclesiastical authority. Perhaps the Presiding Bishop?

    We have no control over our buildings. We are expected to pay for them through our tithing. And then we’re asked to clean them. This is actually a small point, but one which I think shows the deep centralization of the Church.

  56. How did I miss that there’s a troll going by the moniker ‘BCC conscience’?? Shame on me. But if you want an example of alt-right fake news, “BCC conscience” is it. Everybody knows BCC has no conscience!

  57. I agree with Kevins post. Cleaning the building is great. If you find that you are unable to clean the building then just don’t. Serve in other ways.

  58. BCC’s conscience showed up while you were gone on vacation, Steve. Coincidence?

  59. My kids love cleaning the chapel. I alternate between liking it, when I’m in a meditative state of mind, and hating it, when it’s one more thing on the pile of things that need to get done on a short Saturday.

  60. My two cents here….

    When I lived in Provo, no else showed up on our week and we had to clean a entire stake center by ourselves. This took awhile and is lame.

    Our ward currently has a pretty small list of people who are actually physically able to do this kind of work, so it comes up pretty often. With 3 small kids under the age of 6, our effectiveness goes way and so the effort is annoying and often.

  61. Not a Cougar says:

    I’ll pile on.

    I’m honestly a bit dismayed to read all of the complaints here about cleaning the building. While I understand the inconvenience or even illness that some experience with this, I don’t think that it is that big of a burden for the majority of members. For those who have afflictions or situations that make cleaning hard or impossible, have you provided any feedback to someone on the ward council? If so, what was the response? If not and you just decided to to tell anyone you weren’t showing up, may I recommend that you owe it to your leaders to provide that feedback?

    As to those who complain that they are assigned rather than being asked to sign up, I’ve been responsible for wrangling people to clean, and asking for volunteers was the worst way to go about it. I found out quickly that most members couldn’t be bothered to sign up. When I followed up (which was uncomfortable for them and for me), the usual reason was child sporting events. While I have some sympathy for that, we’re asking people to come out no more than twice a year to clean.

    My workaround was to email out the schedule with a deadline to sign up and a reminder that those who didn’t sign up would be assigned a Saturday to clean. I also asked people to let me know if they couldn’t clean on Saturday so that we could make alternate arrangements for them (Friday evening was usually the default). Doing so allowed people to pick the a time that worked for them. I realize that this will not work in every situation (especially in third world areas where transportation may be difficult), but I’m willing to bet it will work in the vast majority of first world wards and branches).

    We also tried to get the schedule out at least six weeks ahead of time to give people time to arrange their schedules, and we finalized the schedule a month out. After the schedule was finalized, it was up to the individual members to do some horsetrading if they needed to switch. It’s not perfect, but the building gets cleaned, and the majority of members now show up.

    As to the multiple comments that we could provide jobs to many, many, people if we hired professional cleaners, I’m on board, but the same is true for other Church assignments. Imagine how much more family history would get done if you didn’t have to rely so heavily on lay members and (mostly elderly) service missionaries. In many areas of the world, having church vans available to pick people up for services would see significant increase in attendance. Professional bishops would have far, far more time to attend to the needs of members (no comment on whether they would necessarily be better at being bishops). Yes, I’m being hyperbolic, but it seems a bit arbitrary to say that the Church is wrong for not professionalizing building cleaning but is right for not professionalizing other services.

  62. anonymousgideon says:

    Some of these comments have left me disappointed, while others uplifted. How very common for BCC comments.

    For my two cents, our ward has a successful cleaning program. Our building is shared with another ward. We take six months, they take the other six. A month or two before our turn, a member who has been asked to coordinate building cleaning will publish a calendar, after working with the bishopric and relief society to make sure no one is on there who shouldn’t be (for age, health reasons, work schedule, etc.), and vice-versa. That calendar will list 3-4 families per week, with one of them being designated as the “lead” family to coordinate. (The lead family usually has a building key, which means you are getting ward leaders to lead by example.) The lead family then contacts the other families to coordinate a time to clean and work out the details, which by default is 9am on Saturday morning unless the participants want to do something else. If a household can’t show up, the expectation is to try to find someone to switch weeks or otherwise take the spot.

    All in all, it’s a pretty good system. But it operates on the principle that we’re all in this together. I do, however, agree with other commenters that the building would benefit from deep cleaning. We do get one, but not often enough, in my humble opinion.

    I appreciate the opportunity to clean. It helps me — and my kids — to have an increased appreciation for our house of worship, and a vested interest in keeping it clean. It also gives me a chance to get to know fellow saints in a way I would miss on Sundays, and in so doing increases the bonds of love and charity. It also reminds me that the first shall be last, and the last first, and in a sense it is like washing feet – not as an ordinance, but rather as a symbolic act of service and humility.

  63. Incidentally, our ward shares the building with another ward. We alternate with the other ward between meeting in the morning and the afternoon. The ward that meets in the morning has its cleaning assignment on Saturday, and it’s more of a traditional cleaning assignment with vacuuming, bathrooms, etc. The ward that meets in the afternoon has a cleaning assignment after church to just take out garbage, stack chairs, pick up any obvious trash, straighten hymn books, etc. Our ward does its assignment on an alphabetical rotation, and I don’t think our family even gets assigned every year. More like every 18 months or so, I think, though I’ve never actually counted it out. At times, it’s just been printed in the bulletin, but it’s a lot better when we get an email a few weeks ahead of time. Once every other year the whole ward is scheduled to come and do a deep clean of the building and the grounds. It’s not a perfect system, and I’ve done my share of grumbling about it, but as long as there are at least a couple weeks of advance notice, I don’t mind it too much.

  64. Last Lemming says:

    I cringe at the assertion that “cleaning toilets” keeps people “humble.” I have friends who are custodial workers so the “humble” thing comes off as elitist.

    All true–it is elitist. But the fact remains that Kevin (like me and many other commenters) is an “elite”. So you can have (a) elites who clean toilets occasionally or (b) elites who never clean the toilet. I pick (a).

  65. I wish that any of the wards I had ever been apart of had a rotation rather than a volunteer sheet. I always enjoy my time cleaning the building, but I can always find an excuse not to do it.

    I think that having members clean buildings gives us a sense of ownership over the building, as well as helps us to bond together. I don’t often look back to “the olden days” with longing, but I do when it comes to stuff like this. My parents always tell fond stories of helping to build our chapel, fund raising for the temple, cleaning the building, doing laundry at the temple, etc… and I think that a large part of why they love the church so much is the physical work they do for it. I definitely wish the little 8 & 9 year old buttheads I taught in my old ward had felt ownership of the church building rather than leaving trash everywhere and not flushing. I think we take too much for granted when things are given to us.

    I also like to know that places like the bathroom and kitchen are cleaned to my standards.

    Thanks for this post, Kevin. I’m newly committed to volunteering to clean my building.

  66. it's a series of tubes says:

    Yes, I’m being hyperbolic, but it seems a bit arbitrary to say that the Church is wrong for not professionalizing building cleaning but is right for not professionalizing other services.

    Ah, but in many places in the world, we USED to professionalize building cleaning and maintenance. Custodians used to be paid positions; the transition away from that began in 1989 with the introduction of the “Member Maintenance Program”.

  67. Kay Cookie says:

    I think it depends, like so many things on the size and demographics of your ward. We tried to do the assignments and the church never got clean. Now, when it is our month (4 or 5 times a year), split between 2 wards and a single branch, each auxiliary gets a week. My husband goes with our kids on the high priests week and I count that as good. The high priests bring donuts and love having the kids work, so it works. As a mom who is home most of the time and seemingly cleaning all the time, I don’t mind letting my husband fulfill the duty. I think they still have a very low turnout. It’s always the same 10 families, really. And our ward is almost completely missing the 35 to 55 demographic (there are like 10 men in that category … I counted), all the 10 families are super burnt out already. And I do resent having to give every day over to the church sometimes. Luckily, we live only 10 minutes from the church, but some in the ward are more like 40 minutes. If I were them, I would never clean the church.

  68. Let’s just make the deacons do it. It’s their job, after all.

  69. I hate cleaning the church. I hate that the church isn’t clean and smells. I hate having an assignment to clean the church. I would much rather have a sign-up sheet that I can ignore until the have time and inclination to clean the church. Why can’t we just pay people to do this and make it go away.

    Seriously, some folks here sound a lot like my kids.

  70. I suspect like many other things, one’s feeling about this will depend on the strength of one’s ward/branch. In strong functional wards, it’s not such a burden. Maybe you get assigned once or twice a year, with 10 other people and it’s over quickly. In a smaller unit (like ours), you’re up every 7-8 weeks, usually have to do it yourself because no one else shows up (or they all need rides and coordinating the rides is harder than just doing it yourself), and the same 10 families that do everything else are stuck with this as well. Complete burnout.

  71. I appreciate our “Home Depot” style church that helps us do it ourselves–in a lot of aspects. I for example miss the old days when the Nauvoo Pageant was performed by volunteer families, and every one of you from Joseph to child #4 sitting on the fence had to strike the set at the end of pageant run or you weren’t invited back next year.
    I always have a good feeling after our turn of cleaning the church, and a sense of ownership. I feel bad for the couple called to fill the assignments though–they pass around sign-up sheets that never get filled in, and it seems the same several families always end up doing it. I hope they will do more of a rotation or opt-out system this year. I really don’t get everybody’s complaints about the blue vacuums, in fact our ward’s work so well I was thinking about buy that brand for home use! They’re tough and the detachable hose and nozzle is right there for edging. Maybe it’s a matter of specific model or proper emptying, maintenance, etc.

  72. For a number of years I lived where the chapel shared the same building as the temple, so local members cleaned the chapel on Saturday mornings and the temple on Tuesday nights. All of this was fine because in my ward, at least, we had a number of people who came regularly, and if they tended to be the same people, well, we got the system down pretty quickly and got things done fast and relatively well. During our ward’s assigned cleaning months our Relief Society president made a point of making sure the RS room was properly “done.” One week she was out of town and asked me to look after the room for her. I vacuumed the floor, washed the blackboards, dusted and straightened the pictures, stacked the hymn books and arranged the chairs in nice neat rows. I even spritzed some air freshener in there, although only a little because I didn’t want to set off anybody’s allergies. Anyway, the next morning I arrived to discover that one of the wedding parties at the temple the day before had, without first getting permission to use the room, moved all the chairs and the piano, set up tables, had a big meal in there, ground crumbs into the carpet, left the garbage overflowing (and this was food-related garbage so it smelled), and not put any of the furniture back. Oh, and left their good wishes for the happy couple scrawled all over the blackboard.

    That temple doesn’t have a visitor’s center or even a waiting room, other than the downstairs entryway, so it’s no wonder visitors spread out all over the building. But a little thought, consideration and care would go a long, long way.

  73. Uncleaning Mike says:

    Running a bit further with my previous comments:

    I don’t believe cleaning the church is anything more than a chore which I would rather not do. I am a harmless prankster in spirit only who would never actually do any of these stunts described in my booklet. But within our ranks and former ranks are those with enough anger and bitterness to actually desire to harm the church.

    I am sitting here thinking it is only a matter of time before they take advantage of the naive trust we place in each other even when we don’t know each other that well and under the guise of this cleaning program do real harm. (I hope I didn’t give them any ideas.) I can think of some not-so-funny stunts that could significantly damage property, harm or even accidentally kill people; orchestrated under the cover of cleaning the church.

    When you hire janitors, you greatly reduce the risk of this happening. They would tend to have reputation, loss of income and more “hide” on the line. More to lose pulling stunts.

  74. Back in the old days, a man in our ward was the paid custodian. He would almost never attend ward functions (parties, roadshows, firesides) because the members always asked him to do custodial work at the event. At least that was his perception.

  75. A few years ago, I attended my grandfather’s funeral held at an LDS chapel on a Monday morning. This man had dedicated much of his life to church service: served two missions, was in charge of temple lights for over a decade of his retirement. And the bathrooms stunk up the building. It was so disrespectful to my grandfather, who had given so much, and couldn’t even have his funeral in a non-stinky place.

    And who should have fixed that? Not the grieving family, who is already dealing with all they can. Not the Relief Society who has their hands full providing the luncheon. Not the ward members, who shouldn’t be doing a deep clean on a Sunday night and are busy Monday morning.

    A professional should come in once a week to clean everything right. Let members continue to do a surface clean to get ready for Sunday, or to clean up after their own activities. I’ve had good experiences cleaning the chapel with my children and neighbors too, but it just gets to be too much. It doesn’t take away the need for a professional cleaning job.

    And I will not plan to have my funeral in an LDS chapel.

  76. I do not have a testimony of every member a janitor! In addition to cleaning the church, we are also asked to clean the temple. The deep cleaning is 2 1/2 hour sessions during the day, the regular is 40 min post session. Then we are asked to landscape, pulling weeds at both buildings and changing out the flowers at the temple each season. In addition, we are asked to bring live friends to the church and dead relatives to the temple. Whenever the bishop asks how he can lighten my load, I want to tell him that if I didn’t have to do any of the above, including at my own home, it would help so much. But as leaders of course we must be there. Once the assignment wasn’t made and so the ward council was called in to do it last minute since, you know, we don’t do anything else.
    I was once in a ward with heavy welfare needs and those recipients along with those who needed another way to pay tithing, were the ones who cleaned the church. That’s not the case in the ward I am currently in. Despite all my complaining, I was once cleaning the toilets at the church, wearing a mask due to my asthma and sensitivity to smells, and I had the thought that if I was willing to do this for the Lord, then hopefully he would know I was willing to do anything for him. Consistent discipleship means something to God. It may even change my rebellious heart.

  77. Small European ward with maybe 50 in the congregation. The Bishopric & their families clean the chapel, because there isn’t anyone else to do it/will turn up. Same 3 families that organise the activities, run the auxiliaries, and whose kids make 70% of the mess whilst hanging around for hours after Sunday meetings waiting for parents.
    We probably deserve the state of our own building.

  78. Bruce Spencer says:

    I write a pretty big check every two weeks… well I push a button now which is probably part of the problem… imagine if we all paid out tithing in cash. I think the church can spring for a few hours a week for professional cleaning.

  79. I hate cleaning the church, but I also hate cleaning my own house. I don’t have a good reason to get out of either, unfortunately.

  80. I fall squarely in the “third” category. The church should pay to have its buildings cleaned. Period. (And I love this church with all my heart.) Although I’ve cleaned toilets and dry-erase boards willingly, lo these many years, to be perfectly honest, it smacks of feudalism.

  81. My father worked for Facilities Management for 30 years. He had some health and emotional issues that made cleaning our neighborhood (Utah) churches the best possible employment. For the first 15 years he and one other man spent every week cleaning two buildings, top to bottom. Then it was 5 buildings. Then it was 15. When he retired, he alone oversaw 20 buildings in the course of a week. If the members didn’t do a good enough job cleaning, he didn’t have time to take care of it. He tried to get the major issues taken care of, light bulbs, broken furniture, and any other repairs. After all that, he was forced to retire several years early. His employment was superfluous. So, it’s no wonder that the FM group is so hard to nail down. There’s no one there to take care of the problem.

  82. Maybe we are asked to clean the church because our attitude is just as important as our actions? This is truly the easiest service that most of us can do. As someone pointed out it has a definite end, no need to go to bed and stew about whether we made the right choice or not, just go clean, smile at the cleanliness, and go home satisfied, if only for a brief moment. Repetitive mindless tasks are great opportunities to seek the Spirit. Do you not have an hour or so every few weeks to do that? Be thankful that you have the strength and health to clean, be thankful that your ward building is safe and warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. Let the resentment go, I’m sure it isn’t doing anything for our eternal progression. Isn’t that what is important here? Instead of resentment use the time to reflect on spiritual matters. Stay positive! I’m sure there is a lesson here for us all. May the Lord bless us all to be more patient, kind and loving.

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