May 8, 2014

Hole-y Soap

The soap in the hotel seemed to be missing something. Specifically, the center.

I flipped over the box of this hole-y soap and learned that it was an environmental effort “designed to eliminate the unused center of traditional soap bars.”

It’s not a bad idea, really. At our house, the nubbin’s of the soap bar get thrown away. I don’t think it’s the whole center, but there’s definitely some waste.

Several years ago, I heard a story on the radio about how Coca Cola moved into the bottled water business. The company purified water as part of the process of creating the soft drinks. When bottled water started trending, someone at the company realized they already had all of the elements in place. All they needed was different packaging.

So what can doughnut-shaped soap and Dasani bottled water offer to our churches? An invitation to creative thinking. 

The soap company could have dismissed the idea: after all, we call them “bars of soap,” not inner tubes of suds. Coca Cola is a soft drink company, not a water distributor. But both companies were open to new ways of carrying out their core business. I invite the leadership of congregations to engage in the same type of thinking. 

At your next vestry meeting, put a bottle of Dasani water in the middle of the table. (Put aside issues of whether we should use bottled water or bring our own reusable bottles). For this exercise, ask how the church might capitalize on its current resources to extend its ministry and mission into the community. Is there a strong knitting ministry that could invite middle school students, offering to teach them how to knit and to join in a ministry to the local hospital? Could a strong youth group partner with one from a smaller church? Could the land near the church be used for a farmer’s market or a community garden? 

What new things could emerge, building upon the strength of existing resources? 

I also invite you to put on the table a middle-less soap, and ask the question: Where are we wasting our resources? Where are we putting our time, money, and energy? Do these activities make sense or are some longstanding but dying-on-the-vine traditions? 

It may take a while for some creative ideas to bubble up. Some may be complete flops. I’m not convinced, for instance, that a soap bracelet is the best idea. But encouraging and nurturing creativity may lead us to places we never imagined but where God has been waiting.