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Churches too often think that the worship experience starts with the morning prayer. There are some churches, however, who view that the moment you step out of your car as the point when the worship experience begins. If your church begins to view worship in this way, will that not change the way people experience your church once they have one foot out of the car. If you want people to experience Christ the moment they are in the parking lot, then everything starts to matter so much more. If you want to have a car-to-car worship experience, then there are suddenly several things you need to think about.
The Parking Lot—Is parking easy? Do we have guest spaces? Do we need shuttles to make things easier? Is it safe? Do we need staff in the parking lot?
Greeters—Are our greeters trained and ready to welcome all people and direct them where they need to go? Are they attentive? Are they kind and welcoming?
Information—Is our info center easy to find and are the people welcoming and knowledgeable? Do we have all the information that people may ask for?
Signs and Maps—Is everything well-labeled? Easy to find? Is our building overly complicated? Do we need a map? Are classrooms labeled and times and subjects posted?
Hallways—Are hallways clean? Do the posters we put up look good and represent the themes and style of the church?
People—Are there people throughout the church to answer questions and direct people where they need to go? Are we warm and welcoming but not overwhelming?
*see how much there is? And we have not even gotten into the sanctuary yet.
Sanctuary—Is our sanctuary warm and inviting? Do we have people around to help visitors find seats? Are there people in each section to welcome people they do not recognize?
Welcome—Do we have a welcoming time for people to reach out and greet one another? Do we extend a special welcome to visitors? Do we have a chance to interact with visitors by having them fill out an information car?
Service—Do we have a service that is easy to follow and understand? Do we communicate our message effectively and consistently?
Closing—Do we give an invitation? Give a call to action to a next step? When walking out of the sanctuary, are guests still interacted with? Is there a guest package to be given to visitors?
Leaving—Is it easy to get out of the building? The parking lot? Is there a spoken invitation to come back?
There are many multiple other questions under these categories, and these are not even all the categories that need consideration. So much more effort goes into a viewpoint like this, and when so much goes into it, people are bound to get even more out of it.
A book that I have been reading on and off about church marketing said that even your parking lot can give people a perception of your church. I have been away at college for a few months, and I got a sweet surprise when I drove to church this morning. The church had started to add on to their parking lot, and it is definitely needed. The parking lot has been overcrowded and a maze to park in sometimes. I thought about how a visitor would view the parking lot and its changes.
If I was a visitor who went to visit my church before the parking lot expansion, I might have thought it was too packed to even bother visiting. Overcrowded parking lots can be overwhelming. And also when the parking lot is packed, visitors oftentimes have to park far away. I think that churches show priority for visitors when they leave space for them by the door, like they are the most honored guest.
If I were a visitor now, with the church expanding the parking lot and refinishing it, I would see growth. I would see that this is a church that people want to attend. I would be more eager to visit that church. So I am hopeful to see the direction that my church is going and I hope it will bring positive growth.
Next week I will be at a new church, in Kenosha, Wisconsin for an internship, and I am looking forward to the new environment and chance to learn.