By Chuck Lawless
I know the topic of church parking lots is not attention grabbing. In fact, I almost did not write this post – except that I continue to see too many churches miss an opportunity for ministry that begins in the parking lot. Here are some parking lot problems I’ve seen, listed in no particular order.
- The parking lot entrance is not easily visible. Sometimes the location of the church building itself is not the best. At other times, the location is not poor, but the entrance to the parking lot is difficult to see from the road. Perhaps a line of trees blocks the view. I’ve visited other churches where the church sign is actually the obstacle.
- The landscaping is poorly tended. Frankly, it’s amazing to me that church members look past landscaping at their church they would never ignore in their own yard. Uncontrolled weeds, dying flowers, uncut grass, and old mulch are not a good witness to the community.
- Not enough parking is available. Generally, the 80% rule about church facilities applies to parking as well: when 80% of the parking spaces are full, it is likely that attendance will plateau until more space is available. Many churches, though, do not monitor these important data.
- No guest parking is available. The church that has no marked guest parking is inadvertently saying (a) we do not expect guests, or (b) we see no reason to treat guests in a special way. The former suggests a lack of faith, and the latter implies a lack of concern.
- Guest parking is available, but hard to see. When a guest pulls into a parking lot, he is not likely to know guest parking is available. Unless someone is directing him to that parking or those spaces are immediately obvious, he is likely to miss that benefit for guests.
- No greeters are in the parking lot. In many ways, a greeter in the parking lot is more important than a greeter at the door. Without being overly intrusive, parking lot greeters can welcome guests, direct them to an entrance, answer questions they might have, provide umbrellas when it’s raining, assist families with children, and help the elderly.
- The church has parking lot greeters, but they are not easily identified. Name badges are helpful, but they are not enough to identify parking lot greeters. Because the parking lot typically has a large number of people wandering around, greeters should be clearly identified by something like a vest.
- The traffic flow is poor, and no one is directing it. This problem is often more acute in congregations that have worshippers from multiple services entering and exiting at the same time. Parking lot attendants who direct the traffic can make a big difference.
- The walk from much of the lot to the front door is long, and the church provides no shuttle option. Obviously, this problem exists primarily in churches with large parking lots. Those arriving later than others frequently find open spaces only in the distant areas of the lot, and the walk is long. A golf cart might be a wise investment for this church.
- Churches miss the opportunity to have welcome centers outside the building. If the weather permits, setting up a portable welcome center in the parking lot is a good strategy. Not only does it avoid the crowd inside the building, but it also becomes an exciting central place to which to direct guests from the parking lot.
- The church provides no security in the parking lot. An unattended parking lot during a worship service is regrettably an open invitation for thieves. Security personnel can serve as a deterrent to crime while also being available to direct guests who come late to the service. They might also pray for the families represented by each car as they walk the lot.
- No one is praying for this ministry. This work is just that – a ministry – and churches should prayerfully and wisely recruit workers to do these tasks. Moreover, they should commission these workers and pray weekly for them as they serve God in the parking lot.
Does your church have a parking lot ministry? What other problems have you seen? What effective ministry ideas might you share?