What Can A Church Planter Learn from an Auto Shop

About two weeks ago my truck suddenly stopped running. A friend that I trust suggested that I take it to a certain auto shop he knew about. When I went back to the shop for my 10 day check up, it got me to thinking about some things related to church planting: 

1. First impressions are made before anyone steps into the building. 

Fortunately, I roughly knew where the shop was located. The sign had missing letters and looked horrible. My first impression was "Oh boy. Is my transmission going to be okay in their hands?" But I trusted my friend and his suggestion.

What the church can learn: If your signage is not well kept or non existent, people will automatically have a bad first impression. Additionally, if people can't find your facility/building, then they will turn around and go somewhere else. So, make sure that you have clean and visible signage. 

2. Give your guests the best. 

After I found the shop, I had nowhere to park. Every parking spot was taken. I almost turned around and left.  

What the church can learn:  Parking needs to be easy for guests who show up on Sundays.  At some churches I'll see staff parking signs right in front of the building or I recognize volunteers who have parked in the prime spots.  If the parking system is confusing or if people have a difficult time finding parking spots, they will not return. Leave prime parking spots open for first or second time guests. Have your staff and regular volunteers park in the back. 

3. People like clean. 

I got out of my car and walked to the front door. I peered into the door and all I saw were boxes and clutter everywhere. It was filthy and man did it smell! I've never seen clutter like this in a place of business. 

What the church can learn: If people's senses have a good time, they are more likely to come back. If you don't pay attention to all the details of your facility, you are sending a message. I realize that church planters usually don't have their own buildings. You're in a store front, school or someone else's rented space. I know you can't do major projects, but there are all types of small things to make a place look good.

Hot water and soap can go a long way. The same goes for a lawn mower and weed eater. Even a bit of paint can make a huge difference! There are also multiple options for air fresheners like wall plug-ins and candles. If you don't think that guests are paying attention to the way things look and smell, you are missing a key element in the overall experience.

4. Everything matters

Once I approached the counter, a lady in curlers said, "How can I help you?" I greeted her and we made small talk. She had a sweet motherly type disposition and was definitely not what I was expecting. She was so helpful and kind. As dirty and messy as the place was, I received incredible service. I misjudged the cover of that book.

What the church can learn: Everything matters. Unfortunately in Church Planting you get one chance to make a first impression on someone who is far from God.  Everything from signage, to parking, to the smell of the bathrooms matters just as much as the worship experience and message. 

As I was leaving they told me to come back if I ever had another problem. I realized how big of an impact the signage and smells had on me. If it weren't for the nice lady at the counter and the service I received, they would have lost my business. You may get by with it in the car world, but church is not a body shop. 

Helpful Tips: 

  • Have a regular cleaning day with your staff and/or volunteers. Once a month the facility gets deep cleaned. If everyone pitches it it won't take that long. 
  • Designate a volunteer or staff member to keep an eye out for clutter. It would be their responsibility to make sure that trash or discarded items are taken care of. 
  • Buy some Glade or Air Wick or any other brand plug ins. They are cheap and actually work. 

Thanks for reading, 
Philip Thurman 


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Philip is a seasoned church planter who planted in Mississippi over ten years ago. He grew up overseas in Bangladesh and loves curry. He is passionate about global missions, soccer, and seeing people come to know Christ. Philip is now the Lead Pastor of Vision at Vertical Church with locations multiple locations in Mississippi.  

You can follow Philip on Twitter and Instagram at @Philipthurman