Your parking lot is the very first of first impressions that guests at your church experience. When was the last time you thought about how to improve that experience? Is the parking experience at your church turning people off before they even get to your building? What is your parking lot communicating to people who are looking to attend your church?
Recently I reached out to some church leader friends and asked the question: “What’s the biggest “facility lid” that is holding you back?” It was fascinating how often parking issues were raised as concerns that church leaders had. Here are just a few examples of what leaders like you had to say:
- Not enough parking along with unpaved grounds too soggy to park on.
- We are full in the parking lot when our auditorium is only about 65-70% full.
- By far, the biggest issue is parking given we share a lot with another church that moved in across the street from us.
Your parking lot is an essential piece of infrastructure that can easily be overlooked by church leaders. If you don’t address the parking issues at your church, you might be limiting the redemptive potential of your church.
Consider what other people-oriented organizations do for parking. Have you ever stopped and looked at the amount of parking at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in relation to the size of the actual theme park? Or look at how much parking space a Walmart has in any town across the country? How does that compare to what your church is attempting to do with your parking? Here are five ways to improve the parking situation at your church that (mostly) won’t break the bank.
Get Clarity on the Issues
When was the last time you saw your parking lot on “game day”?
Most church leaders arrive before the majority of people get to the church and are gone long after the crowds have exited. This fact can give you a skewed sense of what happens with your parking. You need to get clarity on what happens in your parking lot during any given week.
Zoning bylaws have created a situation that causes parking issues in lots of churches. In most cases, the zoning requirements when your building was put together means that you don’t have enough spots to function comfortably as a church. The issue is compounded when you’re settling on the project costs because parking can be expensive to do well and means that fewer interior spaces are built in your building. These two realities have left lots of churches with not enough parking to go around.
Here are a few ways to get clarity on what’s happening in your parking lot on Sunday mornings:
- Greet Guests // Spend some time on a few weekends in your parking lot greeting guests. You’ll pick up what happens and some potential areas for improvement. The real-life input from your people will be invaluable as you attempt to get better at this.
- Video // Mount a small video camera, like a GoPro, on the roof of your building and record your parking in action. You’d be amazed how a time-lapse video quickly identifies problem spots on the operation of your parking lot.
- Data // It would be good to get some measurable data on how many cars use your parking lot. What is the ratio of vehicles to actual attendance? I’ve seen lots of time that it’s one car for every two people attending. Getting data on how your parking lot functions will give you options to move forward.
Get Team Members Out There … Every Week!
One of the fastest and most effective ways to improve your guests’ parking lot experience is to build a volunteer team to make it better!
Your team should focus on making the parking experience both “faster and funner” for your guests. If your team can help your guests get to their spots quickly in a more pleasant manner, that would be a win!
3 Ways Your People Could Make Parking Faster
- Direction // Giving clear paths of exactly where to go as guests enter the parking lot will reduce hesitation and potential bottlenecks.
- Load Balancing // Rather than people just picking where they want to go, have your team fill the parking lot one section at a time.
- Fine Tuning // Sometimes certain spots are a little tricky to navigate for guests. Ensure team members are proactively helping people.
3 Ways Your People Could Make Parking More Fun!
- Extra Help // Empower your team to look for guests that need extra help getting from their car to the building. (Single parents, elderly, etc.) Lending a helping hand goes a long way!
- Music // What if your team set up speakers and had high energy music playing as people got out of their cars? This communicates joy and builds anticipation for what’s about to happen.
- High Fives & Big Waves // You’d be amazed how far a great big high-five or a goofy wave to kids in the backseat of a van go towards making a fun parking experience! 😉
Ensure that you build a team that’s committed to being in the parking lot every weekend of the year. In the northern climates, that means suiting up your squad with winter jackets! In the south, that means ensuring the team is well-hydrated in those long summer Sundays!
Increase the Signage
After your team has been in the parking lot for several weeks, it will become apparent where they could use some signage to help guests.
Signage can be a relatively inexpensive solution to making your parking lot experience better. You’d be amazed at how a few hundred dollars could go a long way to make this a clearer and more pleasant experience for your people. Here are just a few examples of simple signage to improve your parking experience:
- Welcome | Thank You A-Frames // Simple A-frame signs that welcome guests as they arrive and then on the back, thank them for coming as they leave!
- Feather Flags // These add energy to the parking lot and can serve as guidance for people on which entrance to head towards.
- “New Here” Parking // Signs that help point guests towards special parking for people who are new to the church.
- Parents with Kids Parking // There might be a part of your parking lot that in which it makes more sense for parents with young kids to park.
- Walk This Way // Signs that point people where to head once they get out of their car.
Church leaders are most likely to see a packed auditorium and be motivated to launch a new service. Sometimes they will respond to children’s ministry workers who are talking about the fact that those environments are too full. However, a full parking lot is one of the last-to-be-noticed growth “pinch points” that could be holding back your church.
Count the number of available spaces, and work with your parking team to maximize those spaces or find other reasonable solutions. Like the main auditorium, if you are reaching somewhere around 70% capacity in your parking lot during a service, then you need to start thinking about adding another service.
If you don’t have empty spaces in your parking lot, it’s time to launch more services.
The multiplication work that is required to launch another service will help your church develop new leaders and will stretch your team to reach new people. Particularly when you consider the financial cost of acquiring more parking spots, this is usually the best option.
Resurface & Restripe
Finally, you might just need to exercise the most capital intensive option and change the parking lot.
A civil engineering firm could do a parking study on your space that could garner you more spots on the same size parking lot. They can look closely at the current “best practices” for parking lots and squeeze more cars in.
Over the years, the way we design parking lots has changed, and often a second opinion on the layout is worth the investment. (Also: you might have a volunteer within your church who does this work for a living and could give you an educated guess before you even invest any money!)
Investing in a resurfaced parking lot with a new parking scheme not only gets you more parking spaces but improves the visual appeal of the church. A freshly resurfaced parking lot looks fantastic! You’d be surprised at how economical this cost could be for your church to pursue.
Feeling the Growth Pinch? 3 Free PDF Resources for Church Leaders.
If your church is feeling the pinch of growing, we have some additional resources to help you! These three PDFs are designed to be great discussion starters for your team. Use them to help guide conversations with your team around growth issues you might be facing. Click here to download free resources to help your church. In this download, you’ll receive 3 PDFS:
- 5 Ways Your Parking Lot Might be Holding Back the Redemptive Potential of Your Church
- 5 Factors That Should Move Your Church to Add Another Weekend Service
- 21 Easy Ways for Your Church to Be More First-Time Guest Friendly
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.