by Rick Bundschuh
Ever notice the mass of keys it takes to get in anywhere in the typical church building? Yep, hernia potential because every room from the janitor closet to the nursery most likely has a different key.
Now, have you compared how many keys it takes to get into your home and garage? Not nearly as many, right? After all, the kids don’t have keys to their bedrooms, Mom doesn’t have lock and hasp keeping the pantry closed to marauders, and except for the possible gun locker, Dad doesn’t padlock his tools or golf clubs.
And here is why…because one collection of people thinks and acts like a family and the other collection of people claims it’s a family but acts as if it is not.
I noticed this in great clarity when our expanding church moved out of our rented storefront into a brand spankin’ new facility.
Something bothersome happened. People started staking out their claims.
The women’s ministry declared the kitchen their domain and made noise indicating teenagers would not be allowed to enter (and if they somehow did get in, would be frisked on the way out). The various age level leaders started talking about keeping unwanted traffic out of their areas.
I sensed something was amiss…and it bothered me.
I began to imagine what it might be like if we actually thought and acted as if the church was a family who trusted each other and not a collection of religious strangers to guard against. I began to mull over what possible difference it might make in the tone of doing life together if we entrusted people with responsibility rather than put up barriers of protection.
I asked myself what would be the risk if we, the leadership, viewed the people in the church as those who God was working in and renewing rather than rotten-but-saved sinners who might easily be tempted to do something horrible if they got into the church office…like copy their tax returns on the church copy machine without offering reimbursement.
I pondered if we might dare to take a risk on grace.
So before the locks were ordered or installed in the new building, I sat down with our leadership team and invited them to consider risking something crazy.
“What if we keyed all the doors (except private offices) so that they opened with the same key?” I asked.
Now everyone thought this was a brilliant idea since no one relished the thought of adding fifty new keys to their key ring.
Then I dropped the other shoe. “And what if we decided on our grand opening day to give a key to the building to every family in our congregation?”
Suddenly bewilderment appeared on faces. I could see that they were wondering if some demon of stupidity had suddenly possessed me, so I explained quickly.
“It’s just an idea, an experiment,” I said. “But what might happen if we gave real ownership to our people…you know, the same people who offered their money, time, and sweat to get us into this building? What if they could get into the janitor closet if there was a mess left? What if they could go in and redecorate the room they teach in if they were suffering from late night insomnia? What if this makes everyone feel more like the family we keep saying we are like? Why don’t we risk putting our keys where our mouth is?”
And you know what? They bought it.
That was in 2003.
In September, we added a $2 million Sports Center to our property. And guess what? The doors in all our structures are keyed the same to this day.
But the most fun for me is the wrap-up moment at our “New Crew BBQ”—the event we hold to welcome new members into our church family.
You see, the very last thing we do at that event is pass around a basket of church keys and invite people to take one, because after all, they are family.
For me, the big payoff is the look of shock and amazement on the eyes of these “new to the family” folks when they realize that the church leaders are willing to take a risk on them, to empower them, to trust them.
Am I suggesting you try this at your church?
Well, what would you have to risk if you did?