Generosity Begins in the Parking Lot

Originally on guestexperiencedesign.com

I have been consistently attending weekend worship services for nearly 40 years. My personal experience extends beyond more state lines than I would like to count.  I feel like I have seen it all, though I am sure I haven’t. Never the less, I have been to church in a school, home, movie theatre, funeral home, and more normal locations. I have been at a variety of hours, seen different styles, and experienced a breadth of theological persuasions. Here is one thing I have learned over the years. Culture is unstoppable. It is the first thing a guest experiences. It shapes every attender like it or not. It is irrespective of location, denomination, or even the wishes of the pastor. Every church has one, but most do not name it.

I love going to a church that has a generous culture. It doesn’t take long to figure it out. You’re impacted immediately by it and it starts in the parking lot. You can not stop generous people from being giving. It is just who they are. So when you drive on to a church site for the very first time, not knowing what to expect, that first smile in the parking lot is a great sign. Here is how I have noticed a generous culture works.

Generous People Live A Lifestyle

When you have to choose to be generous you probably won’t be. Our minds are typically filled with stuff. Things like to do’s, work, family needs, even hurts. These mind consuming thoughts really make no room for generosity. Creating a giving thought or action is relegated to the bottom of the to do list, then it rarely surfaces. Empower your most generous people to release all that goodness on to others. For those who have not embraced the lifestyle of generosity just yet they will need this breath of fresh air. When you train your volunteers for the work of guest experiences do not just relegate to the functions, system, or actions. Grow a generous heart. The weather won’t always be great. Drivers won’t always be courteous, but generosity covers many sins.

Generous People Relieve The Pressure Of Others

I am not sure how truly generous people do it exactly, but they can both relieve and diffuse a situation without taking on the burden of another. It is absolutely wonderful to watch. Most guests are coming because they have a need in their lives that they have been unable to meet on their own. There is some longing or disappointment. They have tried many things to cure it, but the itch still exists. For some, this is a full blown life crisis, for others it’s a secret emptiness in their soul they have told no one. Guests do not usually come to church for the first time because they are bored or looking for something entertaining. They are looking for an experience that touches them deeply even though they may not be able to articulate it perfectly. This brave new venture comes with a lot of fears, but the need for help over powers the fears and they come. A smile and handshake at the door is really powerful. Being handed a worship guide to help them get oriented can relieve some fears. Being willing to answer their questions is calming. The more generous we are with our guests, the more hurts we heal and barriers we remove. Generosity both prepares a person and adds fuel to a great worship experience. On the other hand, the lack of generosity in the parking lot can really spoil a good sermon.

Generous People Are Contagious

I love it when I go to a church and a stranger speaks to me. I am not an outgoing person, but I do really appreciate a stranger thinking about me at church. I especially enjoy it when a congregation member feels empowered to cater to its guests without being told. I have been in many churches of a variety of sizes that unknowingly created really bad guest experiences. The one’s with a generous culture really stand out. I’ve noticed that church signage, pre-service screens, and stage language are great training tools. Yes they help the guests, but they are cultural vitamins to members learning to serve guests. The constant catering to guests both reminds of why the church exists and encourages the inviting of friends. It creates a default mode of generosity in people and is accompanied by the confidence that church culture will not disappoint when I invite others. If I’m not generous around here, I will be the one standing out.

Generous People Come In All Ages

My son came to Christ at a really young age. He immediately wanted to serve and be an usher. (This was 20 years ago so please excuse the antiquated language.) He didn’t want to be an usher that handed out bulletins (again old language, I know), but one that took up the offering. He was a kid in a big church that wanted to help with the money! You can imagine the concerns that rushed through my mind as an associate staff member. However, I am so grateful for a church culture and older usher that welcomed him gladly. He was made a part of the team, was trained supported and watched. Several years later we moved churches and my son was at it again. This time he had recruited multiple boys from his 2nd grade class to help with ushering. Again, I was able to watch a church culture embrace the generous passion of a young boy. You know your church has a generous culture when volunteers are self-motivated to engage and train all generations to live a big life.

Generous People Need To Be Grown

The generosity conversation at church is often limited to money. Which means it can be pretty silent or awkward at times. Deep in people’s hearts they really want to be generous. It is a good thing. No one would argue with that. The individual is better, the family is better, the church is better, and communities are better when generosity is a cultural lifestyle. Because we have limited the conversation to money, and hence it has become distorted in many ways, the giving lifestyle can be a secret sect kind of experience. Generosity by Lifeway has actually taken the time to help identify a few different types of givers throughout the Bible in their various stages of development. There are people who fail at giving, like Cain, to those who are unstoppable, like the Good Samaritan. What leaders need is confidence in a growth tract that helps grow generosity both financially and as a cultural lifestyle. There is a lot of shame and guilt related to the topic which is so unfortunate. Generous Life is a content series that helps church leaders develop a generous culture. It is anchored with five message outlines, small group leaders guides for all ages, weekly family devotions, and actionable growth steps on all levels. There is even a training tool for church leaders called Leading A Generous Church that can take the conversation to a collaborative level for your team.

 

Money is probably the most common aspect of generosity that comes to mind when the topic is mentioned. But it is really just one of many fruits of a generous life. You can be generous with your time, smile, words, and hands. My experience is that when a church has a generous culture, it is not limited to the offering plate, but is actually overflowing in the parking lot. So if you are in charge or serving in the parking lot, live generously a guest is depending on you.