March 4, 2013

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: while serving as a volunteer at Elevation Church I have been a Guest Services Coordinator for the Uptown Campus and served on the Lake Norman Campus parking team, 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: That people far from God will be raised to life in Christ. We fulfill that vision by welcoming everyone to our 14 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 raised to 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.

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 14 locations and there are a lot of similarities, there are a lot of differences in the parking lots. For example, consider some of our locations:

  • Gaston, Concord, Raleigh, and Roanoke – high schools, with limited entrances and exits and multiple lots
  • University City – business development area
  • Matthews – retail shopping center with shared designated parking areas
  • Blakeney – mixed development with five means of egress in multiple lots
  • Uptown – performing arts center using a parking garage with two entrances
  • Lake Norman, Rock Hill, and Roanoke – Downton – buildings in a mixed use developments
  • Blakeney – broadcast location
  • Melbourne – performing arts center

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 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 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 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!


Day #13 in the 40 Day Guest Experience Journey

Begin the series

Day #12

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