Many times when I mention church parking lots, eyes roll and people tune out. What is there to know about parking lots? Why is he being so pragmatic? Doesn’t he have anything better to discuss?
Please stay with me for a few lines.
Many years ago I preached at a church in a rural area. I wish I could remember more details from that visit. But I do remember the church seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. And I remember that the church was larger than its rural community, about 500 persons if I recall. Finally, I remember the two parking lot ministers. That’s right, I called them ministers.
They were a married couple, and they both were in their 60s. When you entered the parking lot, they waved to you. If they knew you, they called you by name. If they didn’t know you, one of them came to the car to see if he or she could help in any way.
I would later learn from the pastor that this couple got to the church an hour before anyone arrived. They prayed over the entire parking lot, praying for those who would later come to that church. And they prayed silently for each person or persons who entered the lot by car.
I asked the pastor the question he had obviously been asked many times. How did the country church grow in the middle of nowhere? He pointed to the couple in the parking lot. “That’s one of the main reasons,” he responded.
Since then, I’ve never looked at church parking lots the same. I learned three important lessons I will share with you.
Lesson 1: Every Church Should Consider Having a Parking Lot Ministry
We often think that parking lot ministries belong in large churches with lots of people in lots of cars who need to be shown where to park. But that perspective misses the point of it being a ministry.
Many churches have greeter ministries, but they place the greeters inside the church buildings, or just outside key entrances. I’ve been in some churches where the greeters do nothing more than stick a bulletin in my face with an indistinguishable grunt.
But people first arrive via the parking lot. That’s the point of first contact. That’s where greeters should be.
Every church of every size should consider having a parking lot ministry.
Lesson 2: Prayer Should be the Focus of Parking Lot Ministries
Do we really believe in the efficacy of prayer? Of course, I don’t expect many of my readers to do anything but affirm my question. Frankly, though, I don’t see much corporate prayer in churches today. Sure, there are the prayers at the designated slots during the worship services. I don’t take that time for granted.
But where are the pervasive and ongoing prayers of those in the church? Where is the sense of prayer in the early church, where the leaders devoted themselves to it (Acts 6:4)?
Why shouldn’t we train and equip persons to be men and women of prayer even as they are conducting the more routine duties of directing cars in parking lots? If we really believe in the power of prayer, does not that same belief hold in parking lots, where members and guests first arrive on worship weekends?
Lesson 3: Parking Lot Work Should Be a Ministry
I’ve been in many large churches lately where members are doing work in parking lots. They are working feverishly and with much dedication to point those in cars in the right direction.
I hope those men and women see their work as ministry. I hope they have a brief prayer for those in every car that passes them. Those cars include people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Those cars include people whose marriages are falling apart. Those cars include men and women who have serious illnesses in their families. Those cars include people who have recently lost loved ones.
We cannot know the impact of a prayer, of a kind word, or of a smile on those who come to our churches. But we can demonstrate the love of Christ through our prayers, words, and smiles.
Parking lot signage is important. So are well-marked spaces. And so is good traffic flow.
But they are not nearly as important as the needs, the hopes, and the hurts of those who enter the lot.
Does your church have a parking lot ministry? Are you training your workers to be true ministers in their work? It really can make an incredible difference.