Organization

On The Post Office (and Other Apathetic Environments)

Environments / The Basics //

Yesterday I asked myself why I hated visiting the post office so much. The lines aren’t that long, generally the service is OK, but every time I visit I feel like exiting the building is the highlight of my day.

I know the answer. Our post office’s physical building is a prime example of architectural heartlessness. From the outside it’s drab and brown, and inside it screams disinterest. On the walls behind the counter there are posters hung (crookedly) with packing tape. Trash cans are covered in stickers, pens are broken, envelopes are scattered, and nobody has any interest in changing things. The entire enterprise screams apathy.

As I waited in the post office, I wondered how this building got to seem so dull. I speculate that there isn’t anybody motivated to maintain the facility. I’m sure at one point it was sparkling and new, but gradually everyone accepted gradual decline. Before long, nobody cared to change out the packages advertising gift wrapping (even though it was August). Nobody wanted to take the time to adjust the poster hung at an angle. Everyone decided that trash overflowing from the outside trash cans wasn’t that big of a deal. Before long, a functional facility has become an eyesore. Not only that, but the environment has rubbed off on the employees too. When your workplace doesn’t take pride in its environment, it’s difficult for workers to take pride in their work.

When I started out as a children’s pastor, there were a lot of things I didn’t know. One thing I did know was that a dilapidated room communicated a lack of excellence in our ministry. I knew that what our families observed visually communicated a great deal about the intangibles of our children’s ministry. Looking back, some of the most important time we’ve invested is the time spend painting, cleaning and re-arranging. Those efforts push us to make every part of our ministry live up to its potential, and they communicate to parents that we’re interested in the details of their kids’ environment.

It’s easy to get used to your facilities’ flaws. Maybe your paint scheme is outdated, maybe your room is too messy, or maybe your environment is a little lifeless. No facility is perfect, but a dull environment is not just dull, it’s a missed opportunity. It tells parents and kids that their experience in your ministry will be average, and it tells your leaders and staff that average is OK. A dull environment tells everyone that the drive for excellence isn’t there.

The good news is that even the oldest facility can be turned around. With a little creativity, some paint, or even a simple re-arrangement, an apathetic environment can be changed into one that wows.

Every interaction, every “touch point” is an opportunity. A great environment influences leaders, parents and kids. Don’t settle for mediocre, aim for wow and see how people respond. If you build an intentional environment, you’ve set the stage for all the intangibles that come with it.

Have fun!

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About the Author

Collie Coburn is the pastor of children's ministries at First Christian Church in Santa Maria, CA. He loves doing, strategizing, and writing about children's ministry. He loves spending time with his wife and son even more. Collie blogs at innovatekids.com, and is also on twitter.