This post examines three duties that Disney World gives to all of its employees, and how these duties could strengthen hospitality in our churches if all Christians were to accept them as well.
When travelling through a forest, Dorothy taught us that we could expect to find lions, tigers, and bears. When travelling through the Walt Disney World Resort, you can expect to find photographers, janitors, and greeters. This is because Disney World teaches all of their employees (also known as Cast Members) that in addition to their assigned duty, they must always be janitors, photographers, and greeters. I think our churches can learn from Disney’s example.
I love to look through old pictures of past vacations to help remember the fun we had as a family. There is one problem with those pictures, though: whoever took the picture is always missing! Those pictures are not complete. They are better than nothing, but it is much better to see a picture of the whole family having fun together. Disney wants you to remember your vacation as a family. They make sure that everyone is in the picture by teaching their cast members to be photographers.
Disney goes to great lengths to make sure that everyone is in the picture. If you are at Disney world, you may ask any cast member to take a picture of your family. Pictures are our primary way of recording an experience to help us recall the vacation later. While going through Disney University courses, I learned that the Disney Parks sell only one thing: A memory. Vacationers go for the experience, but leave with a memory. From a practical perspective, Disney knows that the better the memory, the more likely the vacationer will return, and the more likely children will return with their children in the future. With this emphasis on creating a lasting memory, it is no wonder that Disney world wants everyone in the picture.
Thriving churches do not want anyone to be missing from the picture, either. They take steps to make sure that everyone is in the picture – that everyone is included. If someone is missing, thriving churches notice, seek them out, and find ways to help get them back in the picture where they belong. After all, Christians are not trying to give people a memory… Christians are trying to give people a future. It is important to Christians to help as many people enter into God’s future as possible. We need to teach all Christians to be photographers.
In medieval times, castles and towns were dirty. It was common practice for waste to be dumped out of windows and into the streets. Disney World models those castles and towns, but creates a fantasy setting where cleanliness is prized and litter simply does not belong. Disney combats ground litter by teaching their cast members that they are always janitors.
All cast members are taught that it is their duty to pick up litter and throw it away. The way that Disney teaches this to Cast Members is inspiring. They teach cast members about their mission to provide excellent memories to their guests. They explain how some families save up for years to take their children to Disney World for a week that they will never forget. It needs to be as perfect as possible to give those families something to remember and cherish forever. Cast members are encouraged to take ownership in Disney’s mission by providing the guests with great, litter free memories. As the cast members take ownership in this mission, they take better care of the park and their guests.
It is the same in church. We have an awesome mission, to reach people for Jesus Christ. If we are passionate about that mission, even mundane and tedious tasks, like picking up litter, or wiping baseboards, become important acts of ministry to help provide an atmosphere where people experience God. As our members grow in their understanding and ownership of the Christian mission, they will take better care of their church, their members, and their guests. We need to teach all Christians to be janitors.
Visiting a new place is not always comfortable. I recently visited a drug store for some allergy medicine. When I walked in, I did not see anyone working. I looked and looked for my medicine, but could not find it. I needed some help, but could not find anyone to ask for direction. I felt unwelcome. Disney helps you to feel welcome by teaching all of their cast members to be greeters.
Disney wants you to feel welcome in their parks. In fact, they call tickets your “Keys to the Kingdom.” You are the princes and princesses of your vacation. As such, it is important that you are made to feel welcome in your own park! Cast Members are taught to welcome each person. They are also taught to actively seek out guests that may need assistance. They look for anyone looking at a map, so they can offer direction. Cast members are also taught to watch for guests who seem to be upset about something. A welcoming conversation could be all that is needed to crown that guest as a prince, and get his vacation back on track.
Churches tend to assign greeters to doors. That is a good practice that we need to keep doing. In addition, we should teach all church members to be greeters, all the time. Church would be a much more welcoming place if members were to seek out people who looked lost and make them feel at home, or if everyone tried to have a meaningful conversation with someone new each week. Guests do not want to feel like guests. They want to feel like they belong. There is no better place to belong than in the body of Christ. We need to teach all Christians to be greeters.
If we could teach all of our church members to be photographers, janitors, and greeters… -oh my, what a church we would be!
Awesome post, Dan. Some really great ideas in there.
Thank you, David. I love thinking theologically about Disney business practices 🙂