More lessons from the “creativity in ministry” conference……
Today, we worked really hard! We spent the day at Disney! (I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me now!) It was rainy and cold, but God was still at work.
As part of our conference experience we had a tour given by a manager at Disney, who is also a Pastor. He shared with us principles that Disney uses at their parks, which might also be applied at our church. John gave us so many great insights and tidbits, but I want to focus on the one that held everything together. This principle is three words:
Be Our Guest
John started us out in the front entrance for our tour; if you’ve been to Disneyworld, you might remember that the sidewalks at the entrance are red. The reason: so that you feel like you’re having a red carpet experience. This is a theme throughout the park. But you get this feeling even before you walk onto property. In the parking lot, there are people to greet you, and help you park and direct you where you need to go. You are a GUEST, you are made to feel special and wanted and welcome no matter where you are. You are ushered into an important experience that will call to all of your senses and engage your imaginations and your emotions! Not only are there popcorn machines right at the beginning of the park, but they also have artificial popcorn smell to capture you! (and in other parts of the park, the smell of cotton candy!) Disney goes out of its way to make you feel like you are a treasured part of their community. (They even call the girls princesses!) They are not going to welcome you one day and put you to work on a committee the next. They don’t expect you to find everything yourself, or to share your whole like story. They don’t single you out—but they make you feel wanted and special. They are also constantly adapting things-making sure that each time you come you experience something new.
John shared one story that was a pivotal moment for him. A number of years ago, while he was still pastoring a local church (now he pastors one for Cast Members of Disney!) he and his family were on vacation at Disney from Atlanta. They were taking a break eating a snack in adventure land, and John noticed a couple holding a Disney map up trying to figure out how to get somewhere (as we all do!) Then he saw a Janitor (they wear white uniforms and are very visible.) see the couple. The janitor stopped what he was doing, and asked the couple, “Hello. My name is Larry, and I’m a cast member here. Can I help you find something?” The couple mentioned some attraction they wanted to go see, and that they were trying to figure out the fastest way to get there. Larry showed them how to go, and then he said, “I would be happy to walk you over there.” And he did. John said to us, “This man, who makes minimum wage, doing a job that isn’t very glamorous, stopped his task, and walked those people to the complete opposite side of the park, to show them to a ride that held absolutely no value for him. And yet on Sunday morning, when we have the best news in the world---something that we DO value, we can hardly put ourselves out to greet someone we don’t know. What’s wrong with this picture?
First time visitors to a church decide in the first 15 seconds if they will come back. Before the good preaching, or the great music, or the excellent programming for children. So how do we create an experience that draws them into a “magical moment” with God- something that engages their imaginations, emotions, and spirit? How do we make the whole experience of worship share THAT message.?
One thing we have to remember—as the cast members are reminded- it is not all about us. The Disney experience is NOT about them. It is about the guest. In the same way, sometimes as church members we forget that worship isn’t all about us. If our mission and purpose as a church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ—then worship is a part of that. Worship should be designed for the guest-to come to know Christ in new ways.
So what if we did that? What if our Sunday morning was really about making new disciples? What if we were purposeful and intentional in our hospitality for guests? What if we had greeters for the parking lot? What if we had special spaces for new guests, and someone who opened the door and showed them where the important places are? What if we treated every new person who enters like they are a child of God, and give them a REAL red-carpet experience?
Join me in praying that God shows us how to be more welcoming, more hospitable to our guests.