Polish your people.

If there was one letdown of the Disney experience, it was this: not everybody who works there believes it is the happiest place on earth.

It wasn’t like that on past trips.  Everybody was cheerful.  Really cheerful.  Sickeningly cheerful.  Hey-that-kid-just-ate-too-much-funnel-cake-and-barfed-on-my-shoe-but-I’m-still-freakishly-happy-about-it-cheerful.

And after all, that’s the Disney Way.  It’s the role of the cast member to create a little magic and make somebody’s day.  And for the most part, that’s what I experienced.  Rafael was a blast.  Phil the concierge was incredibly helpful.  Joann the housekeeper twisted our towels into fun animal shapes.

But there were exceptions.  One notable exception was the Walt Disney Railroad lady.  This is an almost direct quote…

“Sir, I’m going to ask you to please swap seats with your son.  If the conductor sees a deer, he has to hit the brakes.  We have a lot of deer in the parks and we get fired if we hit one.  So he’s going to hit the brakes, and your son will go flying.”

Now, there are a couple of things I need to say here:

  1. She may not have said “fired.”  She may have said “fined.”  But either way, it was a negative impression.  She may as well have said, “If you don’t swap seats with your child, my child will be hungry, I will be homeless, I will pay no taxes and therefore Florida roads will go unpaved, and you don’t want that.”
  2. Of course there are deer in the park.  And of course it would be bad to hit one.  Bambi’s had a bad enough life.  I hold no ill will against deer.  That’s our student pastor’s job…to kill poor defenseless forest animals.

So what does the church learn from that?  Simply this: we polish our people.  True, we may not be giving people directions on how to ride a train (yet…but a guy can dream), but every weekend our volunteers interact with thousands of people.  That’s thousands of opportunities to design a great experience, and thousands of opportunities to turn someone away.

My friend Mark Waltz says it well in his book First Impressionsthere are five things we never want our guests to hear from our team:

  1. “That’s not my responsibility.”  If you’re asked about it, told about it, questioned about it, or informed about it, it becomes your responsibility.  Your issue to fix.  Your time to shine.  Don’t hand off and forget, embrace and wow ’em.
  2. “I don’t know.”  Volunteers are simply a representation and extension of the pastoral team.  If they don’t know, it’s likely my fault as a pastor.  Still, an “I don’t know” should always be followed by a “but I’ll find out.”
  3. “No.”  Figure out a way to say “yes” when you can.  Rather than dying by your policies, live by a spirit of generosity.  And if the answer really is no, cast some vision as to why the no is there.  People can accept “no” if the reason makes sense.
  4. “They,” “Them,” and “You Guys.”  The proverbial “they” will kill a volunteer team.  “They told me I had to.”  “You guys need to figure this out.”  A solid First Impressions team embraces the “we.”
  5. “I’m just a volunteer.”  No one is just a volunteer.  People either lead out of their giftings and passions, or they need to find another place to serve.  And besides, guests at our churches don’t see unpaid weekend-warrior volunteers…they see living, breathing people who hopefully hold the answers and the hope that they need.

What else?  What are some other ways we polish our people?  Comment below.

Other posts in this series: