Is Your Parking Lot Helping or Hurting Your Church?


Believe it or not, your parking lot could be the thing that is holding back the potential of your church, according to church growth expert Rich Birch. He describes how a tired-looking parking lot creates a poor first impression and offers five tips for launching a parking lot team.

The first thing that most people typically see about your church is your parking lot. This is the case not only on weekends when your guests arrive but all week long as people just drive by your parking lot.

I’ve seen some churches with a small forest growing between the cracks in the parking lot. This communicates that it’s been a very long time since anyone parked there. We’ve all seen a worn-out parking lot that hasn’t been painted since the Spice Girls were on Top 10 radio, and it all looks far too depressing.

Stand back and look at your parking lot. If it were the only thing people knew about your church, what would it communicate? It is the only thing most people know about and identify with our churches because they simply drive by and don’t come inside. Ensure your parking lot communicates that your church is welcoming and open for one and all!

On a related note, have you ever stopped to consider what your parking lot communicates if it’s empty throughout the week? Most church facilities have their heaviest usage during the weekends, but does that mean they’re completely empty during the week? Does an empty parking lot throughout weekdays implicitly communicate that your church isn’t relevant to people’s lives the rest of the week? Just wondering.

Why Launch a Parking Lot Team?

If your church doesn’t have people serving on a parking team, there are people within your church missing out on a perfect service opportunity. Over the years, I’ve found that churches that have parking teams are actively engaging a group of volunteers that lots of other churches seem to be unable to engage. I love the churches that have parking teams that espouse an almost superhero-like ethos as they serve outdoors all year long. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this team from the swift completion of their appointed service.” Even the postal service can’t claim that anymore!

Your church grows when more people get plugged in and spread the word among their friends. As you get this group of volunteers involved, they will start telling other people. Also, churches develop faster when they see more people getting active. As you move a group of people from anonymity to community through serving on a team, the church is inevitably strengthened.

Tips for Getting Started

1. Start with the who.

The team leader is critically important for this team. Find an outgoing team builder who doesn’t mind asking people to join the team. Typically, these are high energy folks because it takes a lot to persuade others to stay outdoors all year long!

2. Launch in a mild season. 

Please don’t launch this team in July if your church is in Florida, or in January if you’re in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Launch the team in a “shoulder season” where your team can effectively do its task before the heat or cold sets in.

3. Consider the uniform.

Give the team something to wear that will help them stand out while serving. Think about the various kinds of weather when considering the uniform.

4. Training! Training! Training!

Make sure to think through exactly what kind of experience you want your guests to have upon their arrival. Talk it over with the team before they start. Draw it out on a diagram or two for the visual learners. Theme parks often do a fantastic job of parking people. What can we learn from them?

5. Celebrate Lots!

This team needs lots of public celebration and admiration. These people are heroes of the church because of what they do for you. Talk lots about them and celebrate their service. You can’t overemphasize how amazing this group of people really is!

This material is adapted from a longer resource that appeared on Rich Birch’s blog “unSeminary” and used by permission.

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About Author

Rich Birch is a consultant and founder of the unSeminary resource website. He helped develop multisite churches: The Meeting House in Toronto, Connexus Church in Georgia, and Liquid Church of New Jersey. His most recent book is Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church (2018).