The other day, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend six hours in the Atlanta airport. In between reading magazines and complaining about the wi-fi not being free, I jotted down a few thoughts about the similarities between churches and airports.
#1 – It’s takes a lot of people to run. Ticket takers, baggage handlers, pilots, flight attendants, food service people, and more. It takes a bunch of different people to run an airport, and it takes a bunch of different people to make a church. It’s always cool to me to see people volunteer at church.
#2 – Each area depends on the other. If the guys don’t get the bags to the plane on time, then the plane doesn’t leave on time. Each area of service depends on another to function properly. A church is a body, and all the parts are important. If your stomach gets sick, it’ pretty much affects your whole system. When the kids ministry is healthy, it feeds into student ministry. We depend on each other for health.
#3 – Customer service isn’t always what it should be. In my case, the ticket agent couldn’t help me, and I had to go on the internet to book for a lower fare. Not good. I wonder how many guests have bad first time experiences at churches…checking in their kids, finding the restrooms, knowing where to go for help, etc. I want our church to keep pressing ahead to become the most guest-friendly church people could attend.
#4 – We’ve both got insider language. Next time you fly, notice how many airline-only terms are used in the flight attendants safety speech. Why don’t they use regular words like “turn off your phone” instead of “place electronic devices in the off position”? I don’t tell my kids to put their lights in the off position. But churches have their own vocabulary too, and we just expect people to understand what we mean. I have no idea why they call the inside of the airplane a cabin, and I’m pretty sure people in the world are freaked out when we say washed in the blood.
#5 – Not very kid friendly. So many people travel with kids (and they usually sit right behind me), but so few airports are kid friendly. Where are the play areas? Where are parent-friendly waiting areas? Churches can be the same way…we spend so much money on adults and programs for adults, and often forget about kids. The church should spend more money on kids and teenagers than ANY other ministry.
#6 – All the smokers gather in one place. All you have to do is just walk by the open-door smoking lounge to smell like a bowling alley. In churches, they usually gather out back. And they are usually deacons.
#7 – People are always coming and going. In the airport, people are always going somwhere…same is true for churches. Sadly, there are so many church-shoppers and church-hoppers. People don’t settle down and sit still. You’ll have people leave when you talk about money.
#8 – Many systems make it easier for employees and not the customers. I saw a ton of things that were designed with airport employees in mind, forgetting about the travelers. In the same way, churches often do what is easier for the staff or key volunteers, and forget about the guests. As a leader, one question I used to ask myself is “does this just make it easier for our staff or for the people in the church.”
#9 – People aren’t always happy to be here. You don’t see a lot of joyful people in the airport…they are stressed and hurried. And sadly, there are a lot of people that aren’t smiling at church. We’ve made it boring, informational, and something you have to endure. You know what…it’s okay to have a good time a church!
#10 – The best ones have free wi-fi. I like airports with free wifi…with so many mobile devices, it’s probably something that’s helpful in church too.