For so many years, I had not been too motivated to make such an adventure happen. I grew up in Orange County and went to Disneyland many times. As I reached my teenage years, Walt Disney had died and his Magic Kingdom was in a slump. The Disney Corp. was recycling its classic movies and not doing so well making new ones. If you could not get a job elsewhere and had to work at Disneyland, your peers would consider you a loser.
After struggling for a decade, though, Disney got back on track. Disney started to make movies that enchanted children and entertained families. The Magic Kingdom got its magic back. In fact, the Disney Institute trains corporate leaders and nonprofits in the art of “imagineering.”
As I interact with the new face of Disney, I remember lessons I learned from a Disney Institute training for church leaders.
Disney began to turn around when it made the main thing its focus once again. For Disney, that meant creating memorable characters in animated movies.
Churches can also lose focus on their main thing — telling people about the love of God, walking with Jesus and gathering to worship.
We can be focused on meeting budgets, maintaining buildings, developing new programs and caring for children in ways that lead us to lose sight of our main thing. When we do that, we become disjointed and lose our sense of purpose.
Disney is highly focused on having all employees — cast members, as they call them — fulfill their main purpose. Whether you sell Mickey Mouse hats, sweep sidewalks, design rides or draw characters for movies, you are part of creating lasting memories.
In the church, we can become too focused on the pastor as the one who is in ministry for us. A vital church is one where the nursery attendant, the lawn mower, the choir director and the finance committee all perform their duties as a part of ministry. Every gift offered the church is helping shine the light of Christ in Patterson. Everyone’s gifts and talents are as important as the next in God’s eyes.
The third insight is that every Disney employee is involved in improving hospitality. Everyone is to make guests feel welcomed. Disney has programs where people with different jobs work together to improve the guest experience.
The church could do well to learn that everyone welcomes, greets and shares the love of God. It is not just the duty of the greeter for that Sunday or the evangelism team.
Wouldn’t it be a surprise if going to church was an experience as focused on sharing the love of God as Disney is on creating memories?
The Rev. Kevin Campbell is pastor of Federated Methodist-Presbyterian Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.