“At Disney, demographic information is thought of as factual information about our guests.  Demographic information reveals who customers are, where they come from, how much effort they expend to get here, how much money they spend, etc…  Another valuable aspect of demographics is that when you know who your guests are, you automatically know who your guests are not.  Figuring out who is not doing business with you sometimes triggers huge changes in service themes and strategies, especially if you find that you are missing a large group of potential customers….it is surprising how often demographics open an organization’s eyes to basic realities that others may have overlooked.”

listenThis quote comes from Be Our Guest, a book by Theodore Kinni, a book I’ve been reading over the past couple of weeks.  Ok, I have to admit it.  I’m just a little bit of a Disney freak.  I like Disney.  (yes, I know all about big, corporate entities, etc…)  Why do I like Disney?  It’s a long story, best saved for another day.

But I’m always interested in how the work.  I’m interested in their operations…in their customer-centric ethos…I’m interested in their cultural footprint…and I’m very interested in how they have created a standard of excellence in how they interact with their guests (customers.)   So I’m reading this book, which focuses on how they create and carry out “The Disney Way” of doing customer service.  It’s actually very interesting.  And I think that there is much that the church can learn.

The focus of the Disney Parks is the experience of the guest.  That is the single driving factor.  That determines all.  Disney is relentless in trying to get inside the head of the people who walk through the parks.  To create a framework where everything is thought out in advance.  They carry this out further than you would imagine.  Example:  “Park planners did research to figure out exactly how far an average person would carry a piece of rash before pitching it (about twenty-seven feet) and then factored that into crowd densities.”

They figured out how far people would carry garbage before they just littered with it.  That’s crazy.  That’s amazing.  At Disney, they actively listen to their guests.

What do we really know about the people with whom we work?  How well do we know what they want…what they hope for…what they need?  Yes, we are called to be Christ Centered.  But at the same time, I believe we can be “person centric.”  For far too long, the church has expected people to fit into its “box” of expectations.  We have squandered opportunities to meet people where they are at.  And if there is one thing that I picked up from John Roberto’s talks at this year’s Extravaganza, it is that if the church is going to grow and thrive, we need to figure out where our people are at, and then accommodate.

We do this by holy listening.  We enter into deep relationship, and ask questions and listen.  Try it once.  Ask the parents of your young people in Sunday School or Confirmation, “What do you hope your kids get out of this.”  Their answer may differ from yours, but that doesn’t make their answer wrong.  It may just be a “yes and…” to what your expectations are.

Enter into conversation.   Ask questions.  Consider yourself a researcher.  Focus on Christ, but design for your young people and their families.  Listen. Pay attention.    Listen.  Pay attention.  Act.  Repeat.

Networked in Christ,


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