The Magic Kingdom

On Sunday, I promised I would blog some of my thoughts from our two weeks away for General Council and family vacation. General Council is the bi-annual national meeting for the US Assemblies of God. This year it was held in Orlando, Florida. We decided to tack on some days before and a week after in order to have some vacation as well.

On one of our family days we went to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. Many pastors and leaders have documented well the level of hospitality and imagination that is very evident from the moment you step onto the property. Mark Batterson weighed in his thoughts here and here which were very good. There are many others I could point to as well. I won’t take time here to add to what others have noted except to say, the Disney plan and vision is quite impressive and they do hospitality and details like few others.

My take in this post will be somewhat different. First, I will say that we went at the wrong time. Orlando in August is NOT the time and place to go anywhere outdoors that the crowds are large and the lines long. It was the least enjoyable day for my wife and I. Truth is, our daughters were ready to leave shortly after lunch as well. We stretched it out to dinner time because of how much it cost. The day was more hot and humid than some of the surrounding days and there was little to no breeze to bring relief. We found our most enjoyment to come from the indoor shows. I don’t mean to whine, just want to give some background and perspective for my comments.

Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe I was hot and cranky. Maybe my daughters were a little too whiny and had asked for one too many things to buy. Or maybe Disney is in danger of losing sight of who they are. Maybe the success that Disney has and is enjoying is causing them to lose focus.

The biggest problem of our day there was the amount of people in the park. There was little room to move and the lines were extremely long to everything, including the food. Has Disney crossed the line of being more worried about profit than providing a quality experience to every visitor?

Here’s a radical thought, what if Disney limited the visitors each day to a set number that would allow for a better experience for those who made it in. I know that goes against the grain, but so has much of what Disney has done over the years. I would have been disappointed, but understanding, to find out that the day we wanted to go was sold out. We would have tried for another day. I know it isn’t the best business model to turn away customers, but neither is unhappy and dissatisfied customers walking away feeling like they just wasted precious time and money. My point is simply that Disney has found a better way to do most things, but they are failing in finding a new way to approach the size of their crowds and the cost of their parks.

Now let me turn this around a bit. As a church we must make sure that we are constantly evaluating what we do and make sure that we are doing everything we can to provide a positive experience to our guests so that nothing hinders them from having and encounter with Christ. That means asking the question is there a better way. A modern example of that question being asked and answered has to do with the very things that disrupted our visit to the Magic Kingdom: crowds and costs. As churches have grown, many have not built huge buildings costing untold millions where larger crowds could gather. Instead, they have chosen to “limit” the amount that could be there at any one time by keeping facilities smaller and meeting more often. This helps keep the indebtedness down freeng up money for ministry and it helps give a better overall experience to those who attend. I am not against large gatherings or mega-churches by any stretch. I greatly appreciate and celebrate them. A new day is here and, for some, a new approach has also arrived. This has come from leaders asking the hard questions.

Disney has been known for asking hard questions in the past. The problem is, the larger you get, the higher the stakes for asking those questions and then acting on the answers. I don’t know that Disney is now capable of some of the radical risks they once took because of their current size and scope. For the church, the same can hold true (on a much smaller scale of course): the more we grow the higher the stakes. If we are not careful we stop asking the questions and start protecting the status quo and it will cost us. That cost will be much higher than a profit margin on a spreadsheet.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this…

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