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. Somebody‘s 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.