Have you heard of the Winchester House? Billed as “the world’s strangest home,” the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA is an architectural oddity that includes 160 and hallways that lead nowhere, staircases that descend seven steps and rise eleven, and stairs that are 2″ high.
The house was built by Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Winchester and heiress to his fortune. Deeply superstitious, Ms. Winchester believed she was guided by spirits that told her to build the house, and instructed her on its continuous construction. First begun in 1884, constructed continued until her death in 1922.
It didn’t matter whether the house “made sense” or not. The point was that construction must never stop. Even if a particular doorway, stairway or room was useful at the time, subsequent development resulted in pockets of unused or unusable space.
I’ve seen too many churches and ministry organizations that are “Winchester ministries.” Over the years, they have continued to add parts and programs. Where some of these might have made sense for a previous era, now the organization is just a mishmash of unrelated components. Committees meet just to meet, even though their original purpose is forgotten or defunct; there are programs that overlap to the point of redundancy; or there are isolated ministries, programs and groups, with no coherent connection to each other or to the organization’s overall mission.
The challenges for a leader in a Winchester ministry are to determine the original functions of each part, decide which ones need to be demolished or overhauled, and figure out how to do this renovation without causing overall structural collapse in the form of lost trust or organizational effectiveness.
What are some examples that you have seen of Winchester ministries or organizations?