We understand the topic of church parking lots is not attention grabbing. Yet we remain to see too many churches miss an opportunity to relieve the hardship of their parking problems. Here are some parking lot problems others have shared with us, listed in no particular order.
1. The parking lot entrance is not easily evident. Sometimes the area of the church building itself is not the best. At other times, the location is not poor, but the entrance to the parking lot is difficult to see from the road. Perhaps a line of trees blocks the view. I’ve visited other churches where the church sign is actually the obstacle.
2. The landscaping is badly tended. Frankly, it’s remarkable to me that church members look past landscaping at their church that they would never ignore in their own yard. Uncontrolled weeds, dying flowers, uncut grass, and old mulch are not a good witness to the community.
3. Not adequate parking is available. Generally, the 80% rule about church facilities applies to parking as well: when 80% of the parking spaces are full, it is likely that attendance will plateau until more space is available. Many churches, though, do not monitor such important data.
4. No guest parking is offered. The church that has no marked guest parking is inadvertently saying (a) we do not expect guests, or (b) we see no reason to treat guests in a special way. The former proposes a lack of faith, and the latter implies a lack of concern.
5. Guest parking is available, but hard to see. When a guest pulls into a parking lot, he is not likely to know guest parking is available. Unless someone is directing him to that parking or those spaces are immediately obvious, he is likely to miss that benefit for guests.
6. No greeters are in the parking area. In several ways, a greeter in the parking lot is more important than a greeter at the door. Without being overly intrusive, parking lot greeters can welcome guests, direct them to an entrance, answer questions they might have, provide umbrellas when it’s raining, assist families with children, and help the elderly.
7. The church has parking area greeters, but they are not easily identified. Name badges are helpful, but they are insufficient to identify parking lot greeters. Because the parking lot often has a large number of people wandering around, greeters should be clearly identified by something like a vest.
8. The traffic movement is poor, and no one is pointing it. This problem is often more severe in congregations that have worshippers from multiple services entering and exiting at the same time. Parking lot guides who direct the traffic can make a big difference.
9. The walk from much of the lot to the front door is long, and the church gives no shuttle option. Clearly, this problem exists primarily in churches with large parking lots. Those who arrive later than others frequently find open spaces only in the distant areas of the lot, and the walk is long. A parking shuttle before and after services may be a wise investment for this church.
10. Churches miss the possibility to have welcome centers outside the building. If the weather permits, establishing a portable welcome center in the parking lot is a good approach. Not only does it avoid the crowd inside the building, but it also becomes an exciting central place to which to direct guests from the parking lot.
11. The church provides no security in the parking lot. An unattended parking lot during a worship service is regrettably an open invitation for thieves.
12. Churches do not account for construction in the local area. Sometimes all it takes is a month of difficult access to have people pick a more “convenient” church to attend. This could be either on your own buildings or on surrounding roads. Give point to consider to parking shuttles whenever parking and access is in question.