Cleaning Toilets for Jesus

June 27, 2005 by

When 10 people in matching blue T-shirts show up at a local shopping center, armed with brooms, towels and squeegees, and volunteer to wash windows and clean bathrooms, well, they’re bound to attract attention.

They’re part of the Kindness Team at the Vineyard Church of Richmond, Va. In addition to free cleaning at local businesses, they’ve also passed out donuts at Virginia Commonwealth University, brought watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumbers to homeless people on hot days, and stood outside a theater buying tickets for moviegoers.

The church spends $400 to $500 per month on the ministry, and in addition to the free services or goods, they also pass out cards that explain who they are and include a map to the church.

But the point of the Vineyard ministries, [pastor Ken] Peters says, isn’t so much “trying to attract new members to our church, but to break down some of the existing views of church that people have, that the church just wants something from you.”

(link via CT’s weblog)

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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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16 Responses to “Cleaning Toilets for Jesus”

  • Anthony D. Coppedge
    June 27, 2005

    Valid outreach, creative community awareness and a reflection of the selflessness of Christ. Greatness!

  • eddie
    June 27, 2005

    okay, i know i’m gonna take a lot of crap for this but….

    1. do businesses, in a shopping mall no less, really need to have their windows washed?
    2. do people really need you to buy them movie tickets or do they even need to see a that you’ve decided is something they should see?
    3. the homeless need compassion and not pity. handing out food without getting to know these people on a personal level and getting involved in their lives is nothing more than a bum run to make you feel better about yourself.

    i’ll be honest, all this crap sounds to me like some kind of high profile marketing scheme to get a lot of people to see how “kind” your church is. and i might add, contrary to what pastor ken says, when your wearing uniforms (ie. t-shirts) and handing out maps to your church, you are “tring to attract new members to your church.”

    don’t get me wrong, i really do belive that the church has a purpose to serve their community but i’m also reminded that we need to “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it…. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure–“playactors’ I call them–treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it–quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” –the message

    but hey, what do i know…

  • kevin
    June 27, 2005

    You make some good points, eddie, though I wonder how doing good without drawing attention to yourself can be done without, well, drawing attention to yourself. There’s no way you can clean toilets or wash windows without asking permission first–and that’s going to draw attention to what you’re doing, whether you’re doing it for local stores or people’s homes.
    Maybe that means these sort of ministries can’t work, or maybe that means they need to be done differently. But in today’s climate I think it’s pretty difficult to do acts of kindness without drawing attention.

  • eddie
    June 27, 2005

    without a gospel changed heart, performing “acts of kindness” is just that, “acts.” when serving others 100% agenda free is a way of life and not some kind of minisrty, your community will recognize your heart and not be drawn to the attention of your acts.

  • Solo Multimedia
    June 27, 2005

    Quick easy fix.
    1. Lose the “team” shirts
    2. Take the $ you spent on the t-shirts and invest in missions. Shoot, give the shirts to the homeless.
    3. Go help out a homeless shelter instead of washing windows. By helping there you are in a place they are familiar with and can recognize you and in turn turn into a relationship vs. a “bum rush”.
    (If your plan works this brings in new members and at the same time helps the diversity in your church.)

  • Michael
    June 27, 2005

    This is why we have churchmarketingsucks…
    The church isn’t allowed to market themselves, oh look the people on TV are building someone a new home how wonderful, oh I can’t believe the church would wear shirts why helping others.
    Ok, so I’m not okay with him not fessing up to trying to draw people to his church…of course he is…so what? Tear down the church walls and turn off the lights because someone might think that we are using humanly ways to attract people instead of only letting the spirit guide them.
    Good for them getting out there and doing something (though I do agree the activity could have been more productive) and letting people know that it was a christian church that was helping.
    Good for them…I just hope the t-shirts weren’t tacky…oh I hope……

  • David Zimmerman
    June 27, 2005

    Me (the pastor) and my music leader do this every-other week as a ministry to our neighborhood. We are constantly balancing the “showyness” of it with the sincere desire to serve others. There is no question this can be abused but we have found that the response is generally positive.
    For example: One local shop owner turned us down with extreme prejudice, and then asked why we would do this. We explained that we could tell him how much Jesus loves him or show him- and we’d like to show him. He then accepted our offer and we cleaned his restrooms.
    We returned a couple weeks later and he greeted us at the door, and simply waved us through to his restrooms. We went back and started cleaning. He later came by and started talking to us. We got to know a little about him and his history with Christ.
    We are building relationships with these people who otherwise wouldn’t have given us the time of day. Please pray for this manager (his name is James)- that his heart would be softened and he would be open to the good news.
    This is not a cost effective means of marketing our church, and if it were the only way people would hear about us it would be a real waste of time and resources. But is a very powerful way to connect with otherwise resistant and unreachable people.

  • Eddie
    June 27, 2005

    actually, what i’m saying is that the church wouldn’t have to market itself in this way or anyway if its motivation and heart were in the right place. are you serving your community because Jesus has called you to do so or, are you just a member of a ministry team that performs acts of kindness so that you can feel better about yourself and/or get people to come to your church? when you have an agenda other than being selfless and doing what is right, you’re nothing more than a used car salesman and the vast unchurched population in america can smell your insincerity a mile away.

    but hey, you don’t need to take my word for it…

  • nathan.
    June 27, 2005

    I think it all comes down to motivation and the heart.

    If a church is doing it for attention and recognition, then I think its not the best use of time. But if a church is doing it to serve the community, then I am all for it.

    Every year on Mothers Day, our church finds a single mother in the community to serve. We show up that afternoon (yes with matching shirts) paint the house, do repairs, plant flowers, do anything she wants us to do.

    Even without the shirts, it would be tough to do this incognito with 40+ swarming around the outside of a house. It’s a ton of fun, a good lesson for me in servanthood, and a blessing to our community.

  • kevin
    June 28, 2005

    I think it’s fair to say that our motivations are never entirely pure. While we want to do the right thing and be a servant, we also realize the potential to attract recognition and perhaps interest people in our church. That’s a conflict we live with.
    It’s the same sort of issue with wanting your church to grow. There’s a selfish motivation to have a larger church with more people and more money and more stuff, mingled with a deeper motivation to simply see more people come to God.
    Does that make sense? I guess I’m basically saying we’re complicated people and it’s never as simple as you have a pure heart or you don’t. (which probably means we never have a pure heart, which is just as difficult)

  • nathan.
    June 28, 2005

    Agreed. I think thats why I steered clear of using the word “pure.” But I do think you can tell what your prevailing motivation for action is. Is your primary motivation to serve the business, community, etc… or to get an article in the newspaper and a pat on the back? If its to serve and an article comes out of it, fantastic.

  • eddie
    June 28, 2005

    not that i’m trying to knock the good you have done for the single mom that received your services, God only knows she probably needed the help…. but how is serving one individual, one time a year a good lesson in servanthood? how do you choose what mom gets the services rendered and what happens to her the other 364 days in the year? i’m not trying so suggest that anyone can have a “pure heart” but if you turn your eyes away from yourself and onto others, you won’t wait for events like these to teach you a lesson but rather, you will see everyday as an opportunity to be a true friend to moms like these. with true friends, love, help and service is always available and an army of people won’t be needed one day out of the year.

  • nathan.
    June 28, 2005

    eddie- valid questions. The mothers day event is an annual event but its not the only outreach the church does. I’m not sure exactly how the single mom is chosen because I am not involved in that process. But I am sure (as you point out) that she and others have needs on the other 364 days, but does that mean we shouldn’t do it? Hopefully, helping her with her house is something that will make her life easier in the days and months after we’re gone.
    And FYI- We also have a steady, weekly homeless ministry and a variety of other service opportunities through community groups going on all year-round along with other community events. We’re not just waiting for that one glorious Mothers Day, once a year.

  • eddie
    June 28, 2005

    “I’m not sure exactly how the single mom is chosen because I am not involved in that process.”

    you’ve just made my point. single moms and the homeless are people that need our compassion and not problems that can be identified through a process and/or benefit from a handout. handouts are a form of pity and ultimately demoralizing to the recipient of it. compassion inspires you to get involved with your time and your heart and ultimately empowers a friend.

    please understand that i’m not trying to pick on you or intentionally try to argue with you. all i am trying to do is share recent revelations i’ve made about myself and the church as i’ve come to know it. in the end, you can take it or leave it.

  • nathan.
    June 28, 2005

    I can no longer justify being on this blog because I’m not sure how I’m helping the homeless through this exercise. Best of luck.

  • Ken
    August 17, 2006

    I just came across this blog and realized that I started it last year washing windows in Richmond. It is difficult to know motivation via an article or a blog for that manner. When I first began ministering to the “homeless” in 1991 by going to a local park and feeding “them”, it was there that I met “John” and “Mary and “Javon”. I began to hear their stories and in the process, my heart was exposed and changed. My wife and I have had individuals live with us for a season. Several families in our church have taken in people from the street and worked to help them. We do these kinds of outreach on a regular basis. We have a few people check our church out from them, but mostly it’s about us getting out of the “church setting” and serving people. I’ve found that this is where our hearts are changed and it begins to spill over into our daily lives. By the way, I don’t wear my tee-shirt anymore, mostly because I just don’t like it.

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