Today I get to spend my morning sitting in the Tampa Airport waiting on a flight to get back home to Kentucky. We'll be loading the van and bringing the family down to our new home in Florida! But since TSA in Tampa International is incredibly fast, I've got loads of time before my flight! Watching how an airport works can teach us a lot about ministry leadership. Here's how:
1. Security is important - I'm not going to lie, taking off my shoes and going through the cattle stalls is annoying. But it's worth it knowing that the "bad guys" can't get through. As ministry leaders, we have to remember how important safety and security are. Do a facility audit sometime, and ask yourself if your children and nursery are secure. Does anyone have access, or do they need to be a parent/guardian? Do you have check-in & check-out procedures? How we minister to children and families is the front door for our churches, if we don't get that right nothing else matters.
2. No one goes to an airport to stay there - I love people watching, and deep down I'm still 10 years old watching planes take off. But I don't want to stay in the airport. The coffee is too expensive, the chairs aren't that comfy, and I didn't pack any extra clothes in my backpack. We go to airports as a launching spot towards our destination. Sitting in a church pew isn't the end game, it's the launching spot to living on mission the rest of the week. Our aim as leaders shouldn't be to just get people to sit in the pews, it should be to mobilize them to missional living throughout the week. I'm indebted to JD Greear's book Gaining by Losing, which drives home this idea of sending people, not just holding them.
3. Airports are diverse - I love people watching at an airport, especially a major international one. There's diversity of skin color, language, income, family, and more. Airports aren't homogenous, but sadly there's a lot of truth to what MLK said "Sunday at 11am is the most segregated hour in America." Our churches are placed in multi-generational, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic communities. Are we reaching those? Or just people who are like us?
4. Airports move intentionally - Parking and signage to find where to go may not always be easy or fun, but everything in an airport has a purpose. The numbers of people who pass through one each day demand that there be no wasted space or motion. That's why I passed two Starbucks' to get to the one I went to. Churches who operate without intentionality in their ministries, programming, and activities do so only to keep spinning plates--busy without accomplishing anything. The key question a ministry leader should ask about any ministry, program, or event is "What is the end goal?"
5. Everyone has a role - Everyone involved in the airport has something they do that contributes to the success of the entire facility. Pilots, gate agents, air traffic controllers, the guy with the cool sticks on the tarmac, restaurant workers, cleaning staff, and more all function as part of the whole. In the church, there's no such thing as retirement from serving in the body. Every member is a minister is a phrase that Rick Warren used to drive home how important it was to function as a body, just like 1 Corinthians 12 describes. No one in a church is unimportant, and no job or volunteer in a church is unnecessary.
Anything you'd add?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.