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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.
I had someone ask me an interesting question the other day about whether or not I think it matters for worship what the church looks like. The trend has been for church sanctuaries to make them functional, much like a gym that you can put chairs in for Sundays. To me these rooms still function quite well as a sanctuary, but do you think it takes away from worship to be in a building without stained glass windows or pews?
I have heard of some people that say, “I just cannot worship in this church. There’s a basketball court right under my feet.” For me it does not matter what location I am in. It does not matter to me whether I’m in a barn, in the middle of a parking lot, or in the most beautiful cathedral, the quality of my worship is not contingent on the aesthetic appeal.
I am not saying that I do not like churches with stained glass or pews. I think they are absolutely beautiful, and I do love to be in them. I am just saying that worship to God does not depend on our surrounding.
My sister would tell you that worshipping in Haiti in a building almost like a warehouse was one of her most emotional times of worship. God can work in any kind of building, and God hears and enjoys our worship no matter where we are when we praise him. I think that is important to remember. Everyone has different venues that they are comfortable in, just like everyone has different styles of music that they connect with more, but as long as we have the right mindset and our heart is in the right place, we can worship anywhere in any situation. It is a matter of the heart, not a matter of what you would prefer. Our preferences should not matter in the grand scheme of worship to God.