Saturday, March 26, 2011

The "First Face" of your Church...

...should be 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.

I admit my bias: I serve as the Parking Team Coordinator for Elevation Church's Uptown Campus, so I'm all over this thing called parking.

You should be too, because it's often the "first impression" your guests receive of your church.

At Elevation Church, our worship experiences begin in the parking lot.

You may have thought that church parking lots, and the teams that staff them weekly, were just about cars, orange vests, and two-way radios.

We see it differently: we’re the first face of Elevation, and we are connectors to the current of the power of God. The parking teams at Elevation have a vision that is the same as the church’s: So that people far from God become filled with life in Christ.

We fulfill that vision by welcoming everyone to our four campuses, giving them the first of several audacious welcomes for the day. We remove every barrier possible so that they can be a part of a powerful worship experience.

As a Parking Team Coordinator at one campus, and after surveying our other campus team leaders, here’s why we think parking is a very important part of what happens at Elevation Church. From the first few sections of our parking manual:

Purpose:The Parking Team exists so that people far from God will be filled with life in Christ.

Goal:We will “WOW” every guest by exceeding their expectations.

Strategy: Create and ensure a quick, easy, and stress-free parking experience.

Elevation Church is called to dominate the city of Charlotte with the Gospel of Jesus. No one person can accomplish that. God accomplishes that through us as a team. You have a role to play in that - God wants to use your life. When the calling is significant there is no role that is insignificant. Parking is a demanding role in a high-pressure environment, and it requires quick thinking and high organizational skills. It is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, it is extremely rewarding.

Statistics show that guests make a decision on whether or not they will return to a church within the first ten minutes of driving onto the campus. It’s the role of the parkers to instantly exceed each guest’s expectation. Parkers are the first impression of Elevation, and a smile, a wave, and quick direction to a spot can ease fears and prepare a guests heart to hear the Gospel. Parking can either be a disaster or can instantly make someone’s experience great. Pastor Steven is depending on us to create a problem free parking experience so that our guests are entering the worship experience with a positive impression and high expectations.

Our priority is to help traffic enter and exit smoothly but more importantly to honor people and get them excited about Elevation.

Our basic parking guidelines are very simple:
  • Make eye contact 
  • Smile
  • Wave
  • Go the extra mile to make someone else smile
So are our suggestions for moving traffic:
  • When you move, they move.
  • Keep the main line of entrance traffic flowing the majority of the time. 
  • Quickly help those that are stopping to ask questions and get them moving again. 
  • Be aware of pedestrian traffic and be considerate of those going the wrong way.
  • Stay visible.
  • Wear your vest and make motions with the entire arm instead of just the forearm
The parking teams may have a single vision, and simple guidelines, but we express them differently at each campus. Even though we are one church in four locations and there are a lot of similarities, there are a lot of differences in the parking lots. For example, consider the locations:
  • Providence – a high school, with limited entrances and exits and multiple lots
  • Matthews – retail shopping center with shared designated parking areas
  • Blakeney – mixed development with five means of egress in multiple lots
  • Uptown – parking garage with two entrances
Our locations alone make a big difference in how we serve as a parking team.

Here are some interesting parking factors anyone with a parking team might consider:

1. Our parking teams have more fun than you can pay for!
2. We understand the power of a great first impression.
3. We understand the letdown of a poor first impression.
4. Safety is at the top of our list; juggling lines of moving cars and walking people is always a balancing act.
5. Multiple parking lots with many entrances and exits (Blakeney, Matthews, and Providence Campuses) are great-until you try to staff all them at once.
6. Traffic cones are a wonderful invention (see #5).
7. People sometimes pay more attention to a traffic cone than a person in a vest directing traffic flow.
8. Parking teams have to know everything about the church in order to answer guest’s questions.
9. Sharing parking spaces with retail stores (Blakeney, Matthews Campuses) is a science – and an art.
10. Checklists help parking teams do it right, every time.
11. Grace helps the parking team deal with situation when #10 doesn’t work.
12. Safety orange is everybody’s favorite color!
13. With large multiple lots, two-way radios help direct traffic flow efficiently
14. Parking garages (Uptown Campus) are a whole different world, especially when they also serve two very large nightclubs.
15. When in parking areas with major attractions nearby, the parking team will be asked directions, times, etc. A little knowledge and a great smile make a great first impression even when someone isn’t coming to Elevation.

All Parking Teams do is help guests find spaces to park their cars, right? At Elevation, there’s so much more to being a part of the parking team.

We serve everyone with audacious, radical hospitality – “just” by parking cars!

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