June 24, 2016
Unless your church is in the city, chances are there aren’t many people walking to church on Sunday morning.
There are a lot of factors that go into Church of the Nativity’s “Sunday Experience,” from the music, children’s programs, creative tech, which have an immediate appeal to many churchgoers. Why talk about parking? As Nativity has discovered, parking has a significant impact on the ability to create an irresistible environment that disposes churchgoers to enter into community and worship, whether they know it or not.
For this reason, parking is viewed as a ministry. It has a spiritual component and value- as long as church leaders take the time to cultivate it as a ministry and not just a job. Father Michael White, pastor of Church of the Nativity, pointed out three reasons why parking ministry matters for growing a healthy church.
The Sunday Experience Begins and Ends in the Parking Lot
Your parking ministers are the first and the last people parishioners and guests will encounter at your church. That means they make the first and leaving impression of your church through them. Are they joyful, smiling, enthusiastic, helpful? Nativity strives to have visitors greeted by five different volunteer ministers before taking their seat, and that starts in the parking lot.
Parking ministers are especially helpful for churchgoers who have disabilities or other special needs by providing additional assistance or information. That goes a long way. Ultimately, parking is a ministry of hospitality.
A Place for Prayer
The parking lot is also a place for prayer. Before cars start arriving, the parking ministry team at Nativity circles up and prayers for all those families coming to church that day. They pray that God will bless their work and help them share their joy. People are prayed for before they enter your door.
For churches looking to begin the difficult journey of culture change, the parking lot could make a perfect place to start. For those starting out, beginning a parking lot ministry doesn’t require you to change any environmental or liturgical details. It’s something easily appreciated by all (who doesn’t like finding a spot made quicker and easier?), so you’re less likely to get pushback. However, it’s important that your parking ministry team itself doesn’t turn into a boy’s club mentality (though adult men in our experience fit best in this role). Make sure the ministry is clearly defined and ministers agree to your ministry standards and values.
By: Evan Ponton, Assistant to the Pastor, Church of the Nativity, Timonium, MD