Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Your Church Needs a Parking Lot Ministry (No Really, It's Awesome!)

Your Church Needs a Parking Lot Ministry (No Really, It's Awesome!)

Many times, when I mention church parking lots, eyes roll and people tune out. What is there to know about parking lots? Why is he being so pragmatic? Doesn’t he have anything better to discuss?

Please stay with me for a few lines.

Many years ago, I preached at a church in a rural area. I wish I could remember more details from that visit. But I do remember the church seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. And I remember that the church was larger than its rural community, about 500 persons, if I recall. Finally, I remember the two parking lot ministers. That’s right, I called them ministers.

They were a married couple, and they both were in their 60s. When you entered the parking lot, they waved to you. If they knew you, they called you by name. If they didn’t know you, one of them came to the car to see if he or she could help in any way.

I would later learn from the pastor that this couple got to the church an hour before anyone arrived. They prayed over the entire parking lot, praying for those who would later come to that church. And they prayed silently for each person or persons who entered the lot by car.

I asked the pastor the question he had obviously been asked many times. How did the country church grow in the middle of nowhere? He pointed to the couple in the parking lot. “That’s one of the main reasons,” he responded.

Since then, I’ve never looked at church parking lots the same. I learned three important lessons that I will share with you.

Lesson 1: Every Church Should Consider Having a Parking Lot Ministry

We often think that parking lot ministries belong in large churches with lots of people in lots of cars who need to be shown where to park. But that perspective misses the point of it being a ministry.

Many churches have greeter ministries, but they place the greeters inside the church buildings, or just outside key entrances. I’ve been in some churches where the greeters do nothing more than stick a bulletin in my face with an indistinguishable grunt.

But people first arrive via the parking lot. That’s the point of first contact. That’s where greeters should be.

Every church of every size should consider having a parking lot ministry.

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thomrainer@churchleaders.com'
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.