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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Five Keys to a Well-Run Church Parking Lot

Parking_lot_1Here's something practical... you can do alot of things to get people to come to your church; but if they have trouble finding a parking space, they're outta there.  This helpful article over at ChurchCentral.com by Chris Forbes can help...

You can improve your church outreach, use advertising, even get your church members motivated to bring their friends, yet if you don’t manage your parking lot well, your impact will be limited. The good news is parking lot management is not rocket science. Here are five keys:

1. Provide adequate space for all the people who come to your church to park. 

Many church architects recommend as a rule of thumb that you have one space for every 1.8 people attending your church. This number represents the average number of people in each car.

That means if you want to provide parking for 200 people, you will need around 112 parking spaces. Say you have 100 people at your church, but you have a goal to increase attendance to 150 people, you will need to make sure you can park at least another 28 cars.

Some researchers say if your parking lot is 80 percent full, people will feel your lot is "too full" and may not stay. Make sure you have ample room for new people!

2. Have clear signage with easy-to-follow directions.

Don’t overlook simple direction signs that can help people who visit your church. Make sure people can tell which doors to use for children’s ministry, the welcome center, sanctuary, etc. Make sure the signs are all accurate as well. Conflicting "one way" signs that inadvertently sent traffic toward a head-on collision are very confusing for guests!

Signs should also be visible to drivers. A children’s wing sign that is not visible from the perspective of drivers, but only to people standing on the grass across from the children’s area, won’t help newcomers navigate your lot and they may become frustrated.

3. Recruit and train parking lot greeters.

The experience of visiting a church begins in the parking like. That’s why greeters in a well-run parking lot are as important as greeters inside the building.

Sometimes new people will pull into your parking lot, and then lose their nerve to go inside. A parking lot greeter can wave to people and give a warm welcome as soon as they drive up. Sometimes a friendly greeting is just what the newcomer needs to find the courage to come inside.

Parking lot greeters also can help manage the flow of your parking lot and provide added security—features that will make your guests happy.

4. Make sure parking is provided for guests.

Set aside some choice parking spaces near the door and reserve them with appropriate signage for "guests." Assign greeters to help new people find these places.

Also encourage them to show a smile as they greet people. There’s nothing worse than a gruff parking lot attendant.

Don’t forget to inform your parking lot greeters about things going on inside the church building so they can answer visitor’s questions.

5. Provide easy access from parking lots to buildings.

Make sure you have a paved walkway from your parking areas to the building entrances. People walking in dress shoes (and high heels) won’t want to traipse across a grassy lot.

Also, keep in mind that not every parking space you count may be considered usable. Some parking spaces are hidden behind your building or are located in places that are far away from your entrances.

You can help by providing a shuttle to people who park off site. Encourage members to park furthest from the building in an effort to more readily welcome visitors.

FOR DISCUSSION:  Has parking ever hindered your growth?  How did you help resolve the situation?

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March 29, 2006 in Church Construction | Permalink

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We are maxing out our parking lot here, and it's always a challenge to make this part of our ministry work. I'm passing this article along!

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Mar 29, 2006 12:28:03 PM

Hmmm... no comments here? I've found parking to be one of the most pressing items of discussion around church business meetings! Chris has provided some good thoughts here.

One church I visited had a sign that said something like "Visitors, please flash your lights." That allowed the pleasant lot attendants to direct them to the well-placed guest spaces. In planning the lot, also be sure to provide adequate room for larger vehicles. You'll lose a few spaces, but you won't lose the people who drive trucks.

A final thought - IMHO, the only "reserved" parking should be for handicapped...not for staff. From the pastor down to the nursery worker, staff and volunteers should park as far away as practical to allow the best access for those who come the least. (And no, I don't think volunteers should be rewarded for their "service" with premium parking spots. If necessary, provide a convenient drop-off spot for those who tend to bring a bunch of stuff from home for the classes they teach, then they can go park elsewhere.)

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Mar 29, 2006 12:39:03 PM


[A final thought - IMHO, the only "reserved" parking should be for handicapped...not for staff. ]

SO true. I guess it depends on your mindset. At our church we are ACHING for lost people to know Christ. So we staffers park in the worst parking spaces there are, so do our key volunteers... Why? Because we LOVE people who are far from God!

I liked the flashing lights idea too!

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Mar 29, 2006 12:44:39 PM

Have it YOUR WAY!
Start a premier "PARKING CLUB" for members who tithe the most. They get heated stalls, and an umbrella stand stocked with bottled water, sunscreen and of course an umbrella. Youth group members will wash their cars during the service, and the nursery kids hang a special craft project air freshener on each mirror.

Posted by: Jeff | Mar 29, 2006 1:07:12 PM

At our church we are already running out of seating space and parking space. But, for vistor's and new member's this is not a problem. Because we have 8-10 parking spaces for VISTOR'S, New Members, and hanicap and they all are right in front of the church. They also have parking alot attendents who control the parking lot every Sunday and for Special Events.

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Mar 30, 2006 7:47:43 AM

Is this a place to whine? Our church has 23 off-street parking spots (behind our building). Our on-street parking within one block has decreased by 38 in the past ten years as bicycle lanes have been added. We have two sandwich boards marked "Visitors" and three marked "Handicapped" that we put out in front of the church on Sundays. Everyone else walks. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Scott | Apr 3, 2006 6:47:21 PM

Scott, welcome to MMI! I haven't "seen" you here before. Eileen and I enjoyed the chance to visit your church a couple months ago and didn't have a problem finding parking. As I recall, there is a school right across the street from you; do they have a parking lot you can use on Sundays (other than the long narrow one across the other street)? I know you have the added challenge of being on a hill and in a rainy climate, so walking is not the best of options. One thought - in your planning for growth and visitors - is to coordinate with one of the nearby strip malls to use their parking lot and run a shuttle bus. You should be able to find a company that will do that for you at a fairly reasonable price, even without a long-term contract (I'd start with a month-to-month agreement if you go this route--probably around $1500/mo, if that).

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Apr 3, 2006 7:49:42 PM

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