Digging through an old shed yesterday I came across a couple signs that I didn't know we ever had. It was the signage for designated pastor & staff parking. I'm not against designated parking in some situations. If your church has an older pastor who isn't as mobile, a closer parking spot is a blessing to someone who genuinely needs it. There may be some other reasons where a designated parking spot is valuable. That's the beauty of the church: there's not a one-size-fits-all approach.
But I'd like to ask you if you're in a leadership role in the church to dump your parking spot. You may not have a sign on it, but it's "your spot." It's close to the building. It's where you've parked for years. You get there early, so you claim the good ones. We've all been there. You're hauling in a trunk load of stuff for a Sunday so you get the close spot so you don't have to drag it through the rain. Or you've got young kids and you have to bring in the amount of gear normally reserved for summiting Everest.
God's pattern for leadership is upside down. Last go first, first go last. Influence comes through serving, not power. Authority is from God, not a position.
That's why I'm a big believer that it matters where and how we park. It communicates loudly. And it shows people in profound ways how we view our leadership and its stewardship. I ask our staff and our leadership, as they are able, to park as far from the building as they can. We do this for three groups of people:
1. Guests - When we let our guests have close spots (I'd even encourage you to have labeled parking for them) we're communicating that we're glad they're with us. It can be daunting to visit a church for the first time. You don't know which doors are open, signage can be confusing, and you can't find a bathroom. Parking close lets you also have people who can be helpful first impressions on everything from directions to times to helping connect with people.
2. Physically Limited - Every spot a leader parks further away from the building is a spot that much closer someone who isn't as physically strong can have. No matter how many ADA-compliant handicap spaces we might have, for most churches it's simply not enough. That's why it's important for not just leaders but those physically able to yield to their brothers & sisters who simply cannot. In doing so, we show deference and love to our senior saints and to those who struggle.
3. Young Families - Our young families arrive with strollers, car seats, diaper bags, and a nervous system held together by prayer and strong coffee. This is where I think signage can be a blessing. If your church is willing and able, designate spaces near your children's ministry area for families with young children. Make their journey easier. If you can't designate spaces, parking further away allows you to serve and bless. A church is only as healthy as its next generation ministry.
This Sunday, park a little further away. And as you walk toward the building, pray for those who'll be in the closer spots. For those guests, for those with physical limits, and for those young families.
And if you have your own parking spot sign, dump it.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.