Pondering Faith

Church Hospitality: The Parking Lot

The church parking lot is the first thing that people experience when they come to church.  I want to put together a checklist of things to think about when reviewing a church parking lot. If you have stumbled across this post, and have an idea that will help our church parking lot be a more welcoming place, please add it in a comment! Here are some things that I have thought of:

  • Designated parking
  • Have enough designated parking for handicap, visitors, elderly, expecting mothers, etc. I would not designate special places for church staff or lay positions… in fact I have taken my own advice in another post and park in the back of the parking lot in order to give room for others to park up front.
  • Signs to direct people
  • No one likes feeling lost and out of place, and we do not want our visitors to feel that way, either. Make sure there are signs that will lead people to where they are going: Sanctuary, Church Office, Pastor’s office, Nursery, Sunday School, Restrooms, Fellowship Hall, etc.
  • Parking lot should be inviting
  • If a parking lot looks closed, people will not turn in. Well painted stripes, good lighting, and directional arrows will help people know that they are on the right path. Striping a parking lot is a great project for a prospective eagle scout!
  • Church Sign
  • Church sign out front should look professional, and be informative (no cutsie sayings). If your church faces more than one road, you need more than one sign. Also, look at your sign (not the words) and see if your sign says, “You are invited to come be a part of a living, thriving congregation,” or “This church is tired, run down, and outdated, nothing to get excited about.”
  • Clean
  • Parking lot should be well kept, and free of rubbish – teach church leadership that they may extend hospitality to others by picking up garbage if they see it. The best way to teach this is to lead by example.
  • Parking Volunteers
  • Consider placing volunteers in the parking lot. They can direct people to a parking place, and then they can point people in the right direction.
  • Directing Traffic
  • Be aware of traffic before and after your events. If it takes an hour to empty the parking lot, people may be incovenienced to the point of not coming back. Consider contracting an off duty officer to direct traffic. An off duty officer can help people get in and out quickly and safely. I have helped load someone in an ambulence after leaving a church event. That is not fun for anyone involved.
  • Pickup and Dropoff canopy
  • Have a place where people may pickup and dropoff others without getting soaked when it rains.
  • Plan for the future
  • Make sure your parking lot will fit with future growth. I used to work at the Burger King in Crestview, Florida. It had the most unique drive thru in America, because it was the only drive through that had its pickup window on the passenger side. The Burger King was built in 1975, and they added the drive through a few years later. The city would not let them build a drive through in the correct direction because it would back up traffic on hwy 90, only a short distance from where 90 hit 85. They suffered from not planning ahead. Make sure design fits with your long ranged plans.
  • This is a list off the top of my head, if I missed something, let me know and I will add it! Or if you have pet peaves about parking lots, share those, too… I want to learn from them.

    Dan

    Welcome to Pondering Faith! My name is Dan. I am a husband, father, and pastor. I serve as the Director of Church Development for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is the place where I ponder all things related to faith, including church leadership, and life in general.

    2 comments

    • Just a thought…the large church we attended in the Orlando area had an expansive parking lot. We had parking volunteers (called “Parking Angels”) and even had a couple of volunteers who were more than happy to bring their golf carts to church on Sunday morning to help shuttle those who were unable to walk the distance. (Make sure the parking volunteers wear brightly colored vests to set them apart.) You make a lot of great points here, Dan…often, the parking lot/signage makes the first, and often the most lasting, impression.

      • Yes, I love the golf cart idea. Frazer Memorial in Montgomery actually built golf carts into their parking lot design. The golf carts have their own lane, complete with a turn-around at the church building.

        The bright colors are must. Safety, safety, safety!