The Quick And Easy Way To Make Visitors Feel Unwelcome At Your Church

Where Pastors Need To Park It

Some churches have handy little signs to guide visitors in the parking lot as they pull in from the street.

That one seems fairly benign. Kind of classy-looking, too. The next one adds a little humor to the sign, so the visitors can chuckle as they drive on looking for a place to park.

413KX38DPXLChuckle, chuckle. Some churches skip the humor and go for the more straightforward approach.

TC110-500x500As the visitors keep looking, they might run across another reserved parking space.

Pastor-Wife-Parking-Sign-K-4490Because after all, which person is more important to that church? The pastor’s wife or the single mom wrangling three kids out of the house and into her 12 year old mini-van, handing them a box of cold cereal to share on their way to church, hoping they won’t be late … again.

If those visitors ever come to this next sign, though, I hope they take it as a sign they should just turn the car around and go home, because that’s the message it’s sending.

parking1Dare to park here and you’ll be paying towing and storage fees.

Welcome to our church.


While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely. (Luke 20:45-47.)


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35 Responses to The Quick And Easy Way To Make Visitors Feel Unwelcome At Your Church

  1. lauradroege says:

    This reminded me of something. At my old church, I heard that one of the former ministers, an older man, used to park in the parking lot of the youth building across the street and walk from there to the main building. (It was quite a hike!) He felt that the main parking lot should be reserved for other people, and he didn’t mind the inconvenience of parking waaaaay out as long as other people felt welcome at the church. I bet he’d have taken one look at that last sign and ripped it down and heaved it into the nearest dumpster!

    He was also the pastor who, after meeting someone once, would always remember their name and whatever else they’d told them about themselves. He wasn’t the best preacher (he was an associate pastor) but he knew how to shepherd people and make them feel loved. We all cried when he resigned to work with Young Life, mentoring coaches and high school athletes. I wish there were more pastors like him in this world!

    • Tim says:

      That pastor sounds wonderful, Laura. At our last church there was an overflow dirt parking lot across the street from the church building. That’s where all the pastors parked.

  2. Jeannie says:

    Ouch — yes, that would be a definite turn-off! Jesus’ words in that passage speak directly to what you’re talking about don’t they? Jesus’ must have known that temptation to privilege would always be present. May He give us all servants’ hearts!

  3. Erica M. says:

    My only addendum is that the pastor’s wife might also be wrangling three kids into a car. That said, if they are going to reserve spots, they should have them reserved for people who need to park closer-older people, people with disabilities, families with young kids, and pregnant women. Or at least have ushers on hand to help wrangle children. They need a great deal of wrangling. XD

    • Tim says:

      The pastor’s husband or wife may be in need of assistance, that’s for sure. The best way to handle it is as you suggest, EM: get people out into the parking lot to lend a hand wherever needed to all comers..

  4. You mean these aren’t a joke?

  5. At our church, our staff parks in the far lot. It’s intentional – we want people to feel like we are happy they are there, not that they should be happy we are there.
    There is another church down the way though, that not only has a reserved spot for the pastor, but also for prominent families in the church. It sends a bad message, IMHO.

    • Tim says:

      I can’t imagine being at that other church, LP. The inner circle sounds formalized through parking signs. What a way for everyone else to feel like outsiders.

      Your own church’s practice is very similar to the way the church we went to for decades did it, as I mentioned to Laura above. I like your intentions behind it, too.

  6. Hope Happens says:

    I was that perpetually late single mom with 3 kids, but had a station wagon, not a mini van. 😉

    Parking at churches is an odd subject. I visited a church once that met in a local middle school. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was directed by attendants (wearing orange vests with orange pointers in their hands) to a specific spot. There were only maybe 12 cars in the lot, and plenty of spots, but they were very determined to tell me where I needed to park. They were also very determined to tell me where I had to sit when I went in to the service. After being asked a surprised, “Just one?!?” (because that’s what every widow likes to hear), I was placed in the front row, right in front of a huge, loud speaker. It was painful. (And I do love me some good, loud rock and roll, but this just hurt and I was apparently not allowed to move.) There were about 6 open rows of seats. The rest were set up but blocked off from use. It was terribly odd. I never returned. If I want to be that controlled, there are people and memories in my life I could return to. No thanks.

    My favorite church parking story involves a friend who is a pastor. He loved telling the story about a church where he was an associate pastor. The church really wanted to honor him with his own parking spot, even though he strongly objected. They went ahead with it anyway, and instead of posting a sign they painted the block at the front of the parking spot where the tires hit when you pull in too far. Of course, Associate Pastor was a bit too long to fit on that small spot, so they shortened it – to Ass Pastor. And he still laughs about it all these years later, and invites the rest of us to do the same. I love that guy!


    • Tim says:

      Monica, that associate pastor of your sounds like a wonderful shepherd for the church. And that other place you visited sounds like they could write a book on how not to be hospitable; it’s too bad, because I bet they thought they were doing it right.

      • Hope Happens says:

        I agree on both counts, Tim!

        I often wonder how the non-churched must process everything they see churches doing. If it’s weird to those of us who know we are free and loved, how in the world must it seem to them?? One of my friends – who calls himself my token Charismatic friend – said of my very controlled church experience, “That’s what people like me call a Spirit of Religion. I don’t think Jesus likes it.” Agreed.

  7. I heard this issue talked about before. I know sometimes well intentioned church members want to honor the pastor and respect them, so they create a reserved spot for them. Seems the longer you are part of a church or culture the harder it is to view that church or culture from the outside.

  8. Greg Hahn says:

    In my former church there was a small parking row right at the front door with 4 spaces designated “Pastor” (The senior, associate, worship, and children’s pastors apparently could take their pick.) The rest of those spaces (probably 8 spaces total) were designated either “Visitor” or “Staff”. One of the perks of working for the church- the secretary, the administrator, etc – all got to park in one of these designated spots.

    I went there several years and never even thought about it, but once the light came on those spaces bothered me to no end. I began to see them as one symptom of a lot of things wrong with that church.

    • Tim says:

      I would imagine they would be symptomatic of something, Greg. I remember visiting a church where they had just remodeled the sanctuary and the pastor was telling me that he had final say on everything because that was “his room.” I mentioned that it was good to have a well equipped place to serve God, and he reiterated that it was important he have the final say because it was “his room.” Glad I don’t attend that church.

  9. stephanielynn75 says:

    Yeah, that would pretty much make me never want to go back. As it is, I rarely…and I mean, very rarely…go to church anywhere, and seeing something like that would turn me off to church forever. Nice post, Tim. 🙂

  10. Aimee Byrd says:

    If a retail store understands hospitality and makes their workers park further away, a church should even more!

    • Tim says:

      Exactly! When’s the last time you saw a Target employee park at the front door?

    • Years ago when I was managing fast food restaurants in Sacramento, I would tell all the managers and workers to park far away. One of the restaurants had a small parking lot so they had to park in the large lot next door. One time a delivery truck driver was hours late and came right before lunch hour. I made him park in the large empty lot next door as well. He was very irritated with me, but there was no way I was going to let a large delivery truck take up the bulk of the parking lot as people tried to get in and out during their lunch hour. Bottom line is hospitality to our guest, just like you said Aimee!

  11. What is wrong with people? Are pastors getting too fat and lazy to walk or too high and mighty to put others before themselves?

  12. Pingback: “First Lady” should be banished from the church | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  13. xjm716 says:

    That Luke text is brutally on point. I once overheard a pastor’s wife lament over the fact that another staff member’s wife did not treat her with more respect because she was, “the lead pastor’s wife.”


  14. Joyce says:

    I attended an Easter service at the request of the parents of the pastor. The parents know I’m atheist but one can still glean good life lessons from a good sermon. The first thing I noticed as the cement stairs, the first a tall step meaning difficult navigation for one with bad knees. The one wood railing doesn’t appear strong enough altho so far it’s not moving. The pastor parks in the first stall around the corner. He stands inside the door, a large obese man, greeting people as they enter but fails to assist them with the stairs, even his own mother. When they have their meet and greet there’s a lot of hugging which I’m very uncomfortable with. Then as the service began he looked at me as said that there were those who don’t believe, who come for the social aspect and are wasting their time. There was also a Hindu gal who attended with her Christian (evangelical) husband. This congregation has shrunk from a full church to 30 on a good day as many have gone to other churches. I can see why.

    • Tim says:

      There are so many opportunities for churches large and small, in modern or rundown facilities, to be hospitable. It’s a shame when those opportunities are lost through word and deed, Joyce. If you were to come to church with me and my wife, you’d have a different experience form the one you had recently I hope.

  15. Joyce says:

    Thank you Tim. I’ve attended many churches over the years and this was a first. In hindsight I’ve come to realize that there’s a tight clique in this church, the pastor being very involved. He’s content with the small congregation because it gives him the status he enjoys. BTW he takes up one of the prime parking stalls There are other ways he discourages new patrons, whether he realizes it or not I can’t say. PS he didn’t mind accepting my donation which was to go toward the ramp that hasn’t been built in almost two years.

  16. The parking spots bother me to no end, but what is even more mind-boggling is the fact that there is a “church” in my city that is for those 55 and older! Talk about exclusive. And laughable!

    • Tim says:

      It seems to fly in the face of the church as the family of God if the members of the family are restricted to a certain age group, Kelly.

  17. FW Rez says:


    Posting here in response to your link in FB.

    I arrive at church early each Sunday. Each week I see several of our staff park at the far end of the parking lot in order to leave more desirable spots for those arriving later than themselves. I know you are not a fan of the term “servant-leadership” but this is an example of the kinds of things that come to my mind when I here it.

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