Elayne Werges is a Diaconal Minister in our synod who serves with her husband Pastor Dave Werges, the four-point geographical parish Cross Roads.
Elayne loves Disney. After coming through a grueling series of cancer treatments, Elayne and David took a well-deserved vacation at Disney World.
She came back with some good insights into what the church can learn about hospitality from Disney.
I’d like to share some of those insights she wrote for their parish newsletter.
Jesus was clear about welcoming the stranger and taking care of others.
Jesus told special stories called parables to demonstrate how important it is. Take for example the story of the “Good Samaritan”. Three people passed by the man laying along the side of the road. The third person to pass by was the Samarian. The Jews hated the people of Samaria. And it was this person who stopped to help and make sure that the man was taken care of. As the priesthood of all believers, we are called to serve those who we like and even those who we consider our enemies.
Pastor Dave and I are in the perfect place to talk about hospitality. After all, this place is all about hospitality. They have even written books, have seminars and classes, and they have a university to teach it. But even more importantly Walt Disney World practices it every day and throughout their organization.
In the day to day functions of the Church, we can learn from the Disney organization.
First of all, when we arrived we were greeted with a friendly smile and a sincere “Welcome Home”.
These words communicated there is a place here for you and we want you here! Disney does details well. From the dedicated parking lot for check-in to providing extra towels for the pool. They go out of their way to ensure your needs are met. Everywhere we looked there was something to see, hear, or do. From the signs, that explained things to the carvings on the sides of buildings.
Secondly, there are plenty of people to direct you to where you want to go.
Disney provides ample training to their cast members. But they also have trained guests to share information with other guests. We have learned so much by talking with others.
Disney trains every cast member in the “Four Keys”
Safety- is always the first key.
Examples that we do in our congregations are things like making sure that the ice is removed from sidewalks in the winter and wet spots are cleaned up. We also want to make sure that our SAFE policies are up to date and we ensure that our children are safe in the building.
The second key, Courtesy-refers to how we treat each other and our guests.
Making sure they are attended to and questions are answered. When a cast member enters any guest area, they are ready to serve. They are in costume, they are trained for their area, and Gossip is never tolerated. For us, we want to make sure that we are equipping and empowering the people of Cross Roads to share the Good News Monday through Sunday to all they encounter.
When at Disney or in our congregations, issues arise on a regular basis. Issues are inevitable when there are thousands of employees and millions of guests from all over the world. With that many people, there will be messes. Disney has a huge “mousekeeping” staff, but ALL employees are expected to clean up and to help each other out as needed.
Which brings us to Key #3 Cleanliness. Disney strives to keep things clean and updated.
While we don’t have the budget that Disney does. There are things we can do. We can make sure that our public spaces are welcoming and cheerful.
And the final Key is Efficiency
As a parish, we have the opportunity to do things together.
If we choose, we can coordinate the ordering of supplies to be able to take advantage of discounts. We can save staff time by offering the same Bible Study one time rather than the same thing four times. Same goes for some of the other programs of the church.
Disney World prioritizes these things so the most important is Safety. When there are two things that are equally important, Disney looks to the highest ranking thing. All of these things contribute to a positive experience.
We would propose that for us as a parish, we add a Key Ring, the ring to hold us together….
Our “key ring” is God and the Good News that we are called to proclaim. Walt Disney once said….”Whatever you do, do it well”.
Diaconal Minister, Crossroads Parish, Osage, Iowa