As stated in previous posts, making connections with unchurched families attending VBS is the responsibility of every member of the church. Taking advantage of connection points STARTS WITH INTENTIONALITY. GREETERS and the REGISTRATION TEAM are typically seen as the front line for welcoming and introducing unchurched families to VBS, however, several anxious-filled minutes can pass between the time a family first approaches the church campus and encountering a greeter or someone at a registration table.
The opportunity to make a positive impression and begin the connection can begin (should begin) the moment the family pulls off the main street and onto the parking lot. Actually there are lost opportunities if the connection doesn’t begin several blocks away on the approach to the church campus and parking lot entrance.
Think back to a first time you visited a church, attended a school or community meeting, or approached a theme park. What uncertainty and apprehension did you feel concerning where to park, which door or entrance to choose, or what you would experience once you entered?
I was a late bloomer when it came to the Wonderful World of Disney. It was only a few years ago I first approached the entrance to Florida’s Disney World. Joyful anticipation? Certainly! Anxiety? You bet!
I was in a stream of traffic that seemed to contain millions of cars, vans, and motor homes. Billions of people were all headed to one of the four parks at the exact same time. How would I find the right park? What if parking lot was already full? How long would it take me to find the correct ticket booth and how long would I have to stand in line once I found it? How would I ever find my car at the end of the day?
What an eye-opening experience of customer service and hospitality. Thankfully, the cast members trained by Walt Disney had anticipated every question and concern. Anxiety quickly dissipated as well-marked signs and smiling cast members (parking lot attendants and greeters) ushered me every step of the way. From the moment I was greeted by the first welcome sign (in letters too large to miss) to the moment I saw the last “thanks for coming" sign late that evening, every directional need had been anticipated and met.
Hopefully you didn’t skip over “the cast members trained” phrase in the previous paragraph. My Disney experience didn’t happen by accident or chance. Every concern was anticipated, planned for, and intentionally executed by people who had been trained for that very purpose and moment (rain or shine).
As you prepare for VBS 2016 enlist a team to help you think through and implement parking lot hospitality. Train parking attendants to:
- Smile, wave, and demonstrate excitement as cars approach,
- Identify unchurched families and usher them to reserved parking,
- Demonstrate joy in the opportunity to help drivers locate parking spaces,
- Take a moment once cars are parked to welcome families to the event and make introductions,
- Escort families from their cars to the appropriate entrance,
- Engage in conversation in order to know something about the families, then give information to greeters as families are handed off to the greeter team,
- Assist kids being dropped off and picked up (at a designated drop off area),
- Greet parents and help them locate their kids at the end of the day,
- Thank parents for bringing their kids and encourage them to return the next day of VBS or Sunday,
- Distribute a Takin’ It Home CD to each family and encourage them to listen to the day’s session on the ride home.
The parking lot is much more than a place to house cars during an event. It is an opportunity to make memorable connections.
Joins the conversation: I would appreciate how you make sure your parking lot and building entrance is an extension of your church's hospitality and creates connection points.