My story is many years old, but its impact still lives with me today.
On a Sunday morning, I was walking outside the worship center and greeting people as they came into the church where I was serving as pastor. I saw a car moving slowly in the parking lot. The driver obviously could not find a place to park.
I walked toward the car. The driver rolled down his window and called to me by name: “Hey, Thom, where do you park around here?”
The man was a coach in the baseball league where I coached with one of my sons. I didn’t really know much about him, but I was glad to see him at church. I led him to one of the few available parking spots. He thanked me: “Thanks, Thom, I was about to give up and go home.”
A few months later, the man, his wife, and two of his older children responded to the gospel and became followers of Christ.
It is for reasons such as this one, I am committed to the practical aspects of ministry. Certainly, the Word of God and His truths are foundational and much more important. But to neglect practical ministry is to be unwise and, perhaps, even sinful.
Over the years, I have gathered untold volumes of information about practical ministries in churches. Let me share with you some of these lessons about parking lots through “ten commandments.”
- You shall have at least one greeter in the parking lot. That person makes an immediate impression on guests.
- You shall understand the 80% rule applies to parking lots. When the parking lot is 80% full, it appears totally full to a guest.
- You shall calculate your attendees per car ratio. On the average, two persons come together in a car to church. But that number can vary significantly by church, and it definitely affects how many spaces a lot should have.
- You shall have more than adequate handicap spaces. Do not limit these spaces to code requirements; exceed the requirements.
- You shall have more than adequate guest parking. Make certain you have at least one more guest spot than the highest number of guest cars you have for a given worship service.
- You shall have parking for needy groups in the church. Those groups vary by church. One church has several places for expectant mothers. Another church has spots for the “over 80” attendees.
- You shall not have an ugly, poorly marked parking lot. Remember, the parking lot is the first place your guests will see when they visit your church. What kind of first impression do you want to make?
- You shall not require guests to park in an obscure, far place. I preached at a church where the pastor told me to park in guest parking. I was blown away when I saw it was the furthest place from the church facilities, and it was poorly marked.
- You shall not have reserve parking for the pastor and staff. Those parking spots communicate privilege instead of service.
- You shall have clear and prominent signs in the parking lot. Good signage makes a good first impression. Bad signage does the opposite.
Are parking lots the most important facet of our ministries? Absolutely not. Not even close. But they can be used of God toward making an eternal difference.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.