A couple of years ago our staff read the book Lessons from the Mouse. In fact, almost our entire church has read the book. The author, Dennis Snow, spent over twenty years working at Walt Disney World. He served in Walt Disney World management and even taught at Disney University.
I visited Disney World this past summer, and it’s amazing. The employees are kind and helpful from the ticket window to the rides. Bathrooms remain clean, and trash is quickly scooped up. They call it the Magic Kingdom for a reason. As soon as you step onto the property, it’s like you become eight years old again. It makes sense that Disney World is a place every church should look to for ideas and inspiration.
The book was full of great tips that applied to our entire church, but one principle stood out to our staff. Never Let Backstage Come Onstage. For Disney World, the backstage was the area where staff ate, took breaks, changed costumes, held meetings, etc. According to Snow, “Onstage was where we Disney employees had an opportunity to impress the guests.” It was important for Walt Disney World to keep the magic alive for all of its guests. If a character walked around the park in half of a costume, then the experience for the guest would be diminished.
Before the park opened each day, employees surveyed the park to make sure nothing was out of place. No shovel left behind or blown light bulb was allowed to go unfixed before opening. This philosophy extended beyond the physical elements of the park. Employees were expected to carry the Disney philosophy in the attitudes as well. Even how they spoke to guests was considered onstage. If you’ve ever been to the park yourself, you know that this is true.
What’s backstage in your children’s ministry? What’s onstage? These questions are critical because allowing the backstage to seep into the onstage is easy to do. Here’s an example from our church. Our volunteers had a habit of carrying cups of coffee or tea with them, especially in the early service. This practice didn’t seem like a big deal at first, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized that this didn’t create a good onstage for our church attendees. So, we instituted a policy where drinks stay out of the classroom or hidden out of sight in closets. It’s helped us create a more welcoming and professional environment.
Here are some things to watch out for in keeping the backstage elements backstage:
- Hold meetings in a private area or office and not around guests.
- Neatly organize supplies in bins or cabinets. Avoid allowing the service props or supplies from lying around the room.
- Pick up trash right away. If you see it, it’s your job to pick it up. Keep a vacuum nearby in case you have a messy activity. Cleanliness communicates to parents that your ministry will care for their kids.
- If you have a note for volunteers, don’t post it where members can see it.
- If staff have an issue with another employee, never discuss it in front of attendees or volunteers.
It’s our job to set the standard and maintain that standard for our volunteers. Of course, that only happens when we explain the new procedures, model them, and set up a system for accountability. Don’t hesitate to empower your volunteers to hold each other accountable for keeping the backstage hidden.
Having a clean, professional environment won’t hinder the warmth or friendliness of your children’s ministry. Instead, having an environment that puts guests first and staff/volunteers second will greatly enhance your opportunities for growth. Take some time this week to observe your classes and hallways. Are there elements you’ve grown accustomed to that belong in the backstage? What are one or two small steps you can take to keep your backstage hidden?
Written by Dwayne Riner. Dwayne is the head writer for Equip KidMin curriculum, he has been in children’s ministry for over two decades.
Let’s Chat is a new four-week series from Equip KidMin. It will help you equip kids to have regular conversations with the One who created them, loves them, and plans good things for them. These lessons are designed to show kids how easy it is to pray, that it’s truly as simple as chatting with your best friend. There’s no better time to start a conversation with their Heavenly Father than as a kid. This series will challenge your kids to start that conversation.