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The 10 Commandments for church parking lots

| by Thom Rainer

This story is many years old, but its impact still lives with me today.

One Sunday morning, I was walking outside the worship center and greeting people as they came into the church I served as pastor. I saw a car moving slowly in the parking lot. The driver obviously could not find a place to park.

I walked toward the car. The driver rolled down his window and called to me by name: “Hey, Thom, where do you park around here?”

Responding to the gospel

The man was a coach in the baseball league where I coached with one of my sons. I didn’t really know much about him, but I was glad to see him. I led him to one of the few available parking spots. He responded: “Thanks, Thom, I was about to give up and go home.”

A few months later, that man, his wife, and two of his older children responded to the gospel and became followers of Christ.

It is for such reasons that I am committed to the practical aspects of ministry. Certainly, the Word of God and His truths are foundational and much more important. But to neglect practical ministry is to be unwise and perhaps even sinful.

Practical ministry

Over the years, I have gathered untold volumes of information about practical ministries in churches. Let me share with you some of these lessons through my “Ten Commandments for church parking lots.”

1. You shall have at least one greeter in the parking lot.That person makes an immediate impression on guests.

2. You shall understand the 80 percent rule—the point at which a sanctuary looks full—applies to parking lots.When the parking lot is 80 percent full, it appears totally full to a guest.

3. You shall calculate attendees per car ratio.On average, two persons come together in a car to church. But that number can vary significantly by church, and it definitely affects how many spaces your lot should have.

4. You shall have more than adequate handicap spaces.Do not limit these spaces so you barely meet municipal code requirements. Instead, exceed the requirements.

5. You shall have morethan adequate guest parking.Make certain you have at least one more guest spot than the highest number of guest cars you have on average for a given worship service.

6. You shall have parking for needy groups in the church.Those groups vary by congregation. I know one church that has several spaces for expectant mothers. Another has spots for the “over 80” attendees.

7. You shall not have an ugly, poorly-marked parking lot.Remember, the parking lot is the first place your guests will see when they visit your church. What kind of first impression do you want to make?

8. You shall not require guests to park in an obscure, far-awayplace.I preached at a church once where the pastor told me to park in guest parking. I was blown away when I saw it was the furthest place from the church facilities, and it was poorly marked to boot.

9. You shall not have parkingreservedfor the pastor and staff.Those parking spots communicate privilege instead of service.

10. You shall have clear and prominent signs in the parking lot.Good signage makes a good first impression. Bad signage does the opposite.

Making a difference

Are parking lots the most important facet of our ministries? Absolutely not. Not even close. But they can be used of God toward making an eternal difference.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.


Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
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