A few weeks back I wrote about our new parking policy which stated that if a regular attending yahoo decides to park in First Time Guest parking, we’d tow them several zip codes away and also cover their car with outdated Summit bumper magnets and maybe say disparaging things about their mother.

Of course that post was a total April 1st-inspired farce, but two days ago, low and behold…we towed our first car. Here’s what happened:

When I arrived on Sunday at about 7:20 AM, there was a car parked smack dab in front of our main entrance (if you didn’t grow up in southern middle Tennessee, that means “inconveniently located”). There were only two of us on campus at the time, and neither of us drives a car that nice.

There was an envelope on the back seat, so we ran the name on the envelope through our database…nothing. We asked volunteers as they arrived if they knew the owner of the car…nothing. We prayed with faith the size of a mustard seed and asked the car to be picked up and hurled into the sea…nothing.

So there we were, with an hour to go before the service began, with a car sitting in the main entrance (usually an area reserved exclusively for pedestrian traffic), and in the exact spot where our First Time Guest tent needed to be set up.

We didn’t know if the car was broken down, out of gas, or if the owner made it to our lot on Saturday night and realized he needed a designated driver. But we knew it needed to be moved.

So the question, readers: what would you do? How do you maintain a good first impression to a total stranger who is inadvertently throwing a wrench into your morning? Do you play the role of megachurch jerk and tow it off to an unknown location? Do you let business continue as usual and run the risk of scratching or dinging the car? Do you sell raffle tickets to raise money for missions and give the car away during the 11:00 service?

Here’s what we decided to do: we called a local towing company and asked them to rush over and tow the car at our expense. However, we only moved it about 50 feet down the parking lot. Then we drafted a letter of explanation which we stuck under the windshield, detailing the reasons we needed to move it. And finally, we tossed in a $5 Starbucks gift card for their troubles, and of course an inviter card to come back to the Summit (ironically, we had already towed the car to First Time Guest parking).

Did that actually communicate a good first impression? Well, we don’t know the end of the story. We know that the car was eventually retrieved. We don’t know the amount of head scratching that took place when they saw a tent where their car used to be. We don’t know if they were an unbeliever that had a tiny bit of faith restored in organized religion, or just a Starbucks connoisseur who enjoyed an afternoon pick-me-up.

We do know that we did what we could with what we had, and tried to honor the individual while protecting our systems.

If you’re a guest services guru, I’d love to hear your “tow away” stories. What’s a similar situation you’ve dealt with in your ministry, and how did you handle it? Comment below.