Be Our Guest

morgue_file6471299306693David Woody is part of our Learn By Going Orlando event staff. He is the Minister of Faith Development at Providence Baptist Church in Charleston, SC. He also provide daily devotions and faith development resources at Faith Apprentice.

Can you imagine a place that is welcoming and inviting? Can you imagine a place where everyone has a seat and receives a warm welcome? Can you imagine a place to escape the stresses and challenges of the world? Can you imagine a place where everyone, regardless or age or gender comes together?

That place exists, but it is probably not the place you are thinking about. The place that I’m describing is Disney World. My guess is you were thinking about the church.

The church does a good job of providing all of this, but Disney does a great job. They do so because they are the best in the world at providing customer service. Disney spends time, energy, and resources training their cast members to make sure their guests have a magical experience. Every cast member (Disney’s term for employee), from the popcorn vendor on Main Street to the CEO is taught how to interact with a guest (Disney’s term for attendee).

If you have ever had a Disney experience at one of their theme parks, on a Disney Cruise, or even in a Disney Store, you have probably noticed the care the cast members take to make sure everything from cleanliness to conversations is at the highest quality possible. This attention to quality is mainly based on the emphasis Disney places on interactions and not transactions.

Disney could still make a lot of money if all they cared about was “transactions”—taking our money in return for goods, services, and experiences. Everywhere you turn at Disney World is an opportunity for a transaction—Mickey Ears, lunch in Frontier Land, a photo album, etc. But, Disney takes the idea of transaction and turns it on its ear. Transaction is transformed to “interaction”—the act of relationship.

Every cast member wears a nametag with their first name and hometown. That simple gesture gives each guest an easy way to start a conversation with a cast member and vice versa, “So, I see you’re from Des Moines. My mother grew up in Des Moines.” A conversation starts and an interaction is born. With all the rides and experiences of the day, that one little conversation might be the most meaningful part of that guest’s day. Cast members also wear pins that they trade with guests. For free. It’s another simple way to interact with the guests to provide a magical experience in the happiest place on earth.

The church can learn a lot from the way Disney invites us to be guests. Learn By Going held a Hospitality and Creativity Conference at Disney World in Orlando last February. Churches from all over the country came to learn from the best at how to welcome, how to focus on interactions, and how to make magical experiences for their congregations. Everyone came away with something different, something specific for their church, which moved everyone closer to providing a place we can imagine God at work with God’s people working together.

Learn By Going will hold another Hospitality and Creativity Conference in Orlando on January 30 – February 2, 2017. Consider making this event a part of your church’s plan to enhance the way you reach your community and welcome folks into your fellowship.