Your First Chance at a Great First Impression

While onsite with a church near Orlando this week during a Guest Experience consultation, I emphasized the importance of a Parking Team in the church parking lot. After completing the consultation, I stopped by Walt Disney World for a field trip to observe the real pros at parking: the Cast Members who work on the parking teams at Walt Disney World.

The two cast members pictured above are working in the lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What the picture doesn’t show is that the Cast Member on the right had just completed walking down the entire row of parking spaces, personally directing each car to a space and then engaging most of the Guests (especially those with children) along the way. The kids were laughing, the parents were smiling, and a successful trip was well under way – before the family even set foot in the park.

What a powerful first impression!

The first face of your church is in the parking lot. Guests and members coming to your church should see an energetic, welcoming, smiling group of people helping you pull into the parking lot and getting safely to the buildings. But they are much more than that – they are setting the tone for the whole experience – before your Guests even enter the building.

I was reminded of this one night during the course of the small group I lead. We were talking about the “connections” of groups, and I asked our group to share a quick story of how they became connected to Elevation. One of our members recounted the story of how his wife had been encouraging him to come with her for weeks, and he finally did. He didn’t want to indicate he was a first-time Guest, but he did. He didn’t want to engage in a conversation with a parking team member in the Guest Parking lot, but he did. He didn’t want to talk with our VIP team, but he did. He was reluctant to go into the auditorium, but he did. He didn’t want to be seated by our ushers but he did. During the worship experience, he became convicted by all he had seen and heard, and gave his life to Christ that day. Today he leads a men’s eGroup dealing with recovery issues, participates in my couples group, serves on a security team, and by his wife’s admission, is a totally different husband and dad.

That’s why the Guest Experience is so important. I believe the Holy Spirit will work on individual’s lives no matter what we do. But as my friend Sam attests, the journey from skeptic to believer began with the repeated welcome and kindness he received every step of the way.

Full disclosure: I love parking teams. I’ve served on parking teams at two different campuses for Elevation Church since 2009. I’ve written about those experiences here and here. I think every church needs to have a parking team whose primary job is not to park cars, but to welcome all who drive onto the campus with the love of Christ.

Is your church’s team creating an amazing first impression to Guests coming to your campus this weekend?

Read more from Bob.


Parking is just one of seven Checkpoints covered in Auxano’s Guest Experience Boot Camp. Learn more about them here.


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Bob Adams

Bob Adams

Bob is an absolute fanatic about Guest Experiences, growing up watching his father serve customers at the gas station he built and operated for 44 years. Bob is continually connecting with corporate leaders in the customer experience world, learning and then translating practices for ChurchWorld. He writes, speaks, and consults on the topic frequently. Best of all, he is a front-line practitioner at Elevation Church, serving in various roles at the Uptown and Lake Norman Campuses. Vocationally, Bob has a dual role at Auxano, a clarity first consulting firm serving the church. As Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader he researches, edits, writes and publishes online content. As Guest Experience Navigator, he leverages his passion, providing Guest Perspective Evaluations and Guest Experience Blueprints. Bob and his wife Anita have been married for 38 years. They have 4 children, 2 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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