For the week of June 06, 2005

Hospitality Starts in the Parking Lot
By: Tom Bandy
We all know that hospitality ministries are really important for church growth. The problem is that most churches start the hospitality too late. Seekers are more and more timid about coming to the church. I do not have statistics … but my hunch is that 99% of the spiritually hungry public who speculate about “going to church” on any given Sunday morning give up long before they ever meet the greeters at the front door. Many give up on the drive over, electing at the last minute to go to the mall or stop for coffee.

Growing churches go way beyond signs on the major intersections and greeters at the door. They deploy people at the major intersections and parking valet teams in the parking lot. Imagine this:

Bob, Sally, and the kids have made the courageous decision to “go to church” … but at every traffic light their resolve lessens. They’re just about to bail out, when suddenly they see real people, identifiable by their colorful dress and personally carried signs, beckoning passersby toward the church. And that began four blocks away! When Dad drops the family off, a Christian valet offers to park the car for him. If they park in the lot, a Christian parking lot attendant opens the car door for them. And every one of them smiles warmly, states the mission of the church, and points them toward the main entrance and the refreshments. By the time they even meet the friendly greeters, they feel special.

These two volunteer church hospitality teams are active rain or shine, 52 weeks of the year. They meet early on Sunday morning for breakfast, Bible conversation, prayer for the strangers they know God will help them meet, and last-minute briefing on the best parking places. Then they go out and spend the whole morning on their mission.