Whether you like it or not and whether you agree with everything
its people do or not, you have to admit this: The empire of Mickey
Mouse has touched millions of children and their parents around the
world. Chances are very good you're in that number.
Take this little test: Ever bought one of the mouse's videos or
DVDs? gone to a movie made by the mouse? bought a toy for your
child made by the mouse? watched a TV show produced by the mouse?
been to the mouse's Web site?
Unless you just arrived from another planet, you answered yes to
one or more of these questions. And if you have children, there's a
good chance you've even been to see the mouse at his house in
Florida or California. If that's the case, you're not alone. In
2001, over 39 million people visited the mouse in Florida. Over 17
million visited the mouse in California. And over 17 million went
to his park in Tokyo. Yes, indeed, the mouse has made a worldwide
impact on children and families.
On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I looked around at the
excited faces of the children and parents who were anxiously
waiting to enter the gates. What was the mouse doing to attract all
these children and parents? Why would these families spend hundreds
or thousands of dollars to come here? What caused the smiles and
the excitement on their faces?
As I walked through the gate, I asked myself, What cues can I
take from the mouse that will help me more effectively spread the
most important message in the world to children and their parents?
Read on to discover 10 cues from the mouse for your ministry.
Cue #1: Big Dreams
Walt Disney was born in 1901, and from an early age he had a
passion for animation. Like all of us, Walt's passion was tested by
difficulty. He was hired to work at the Kansas City Star newspaper
as an animator, but he was laid off. He then started his own
animation studio but eventually had to file for bankruptcy. Then
one day something happened that would change everything. In the
early 1940s as he was watching his children play on a
merry-go-round, a vision was birthed in his soul. He saw a place
where children and their families could go to have fun
Disneyland's opening day turned out to be a logistical
challenge. Walt had sent out 6,000 invitations, but 28,000 people
showed up. The temperature shot up to 110 degrees, and only a few
water fountains worked. Ladies' high-heeled shoes got stuck in the
newly laid asphalt! Several rides and attractions broke or didn't
work, and there wasn't enough food. Newspapers called the opening
day Black Sunday. But Walt stayed with his vision, and Disneyland
quickly became an extraordinary park. Within 10 years, 50 million
visitors had entered and enjoyed the fruit of his vision.
What would happen if we caught a fresh vision from God for our
children's ministries? What if we began to passionately pursue that
vision? What if we pursued it through difficulty and challenges
until we saw it come to pass?
- Through prayer and strategic thinking, get a vision for your
- If God has already given you a vision for your ministry, ask
him to renew and refresh your passion to pursue it.
- Formulate a plan that will bring your vision into reality.
- Decide now that nothing will stop you from seeing the vision
come to pass.
Cue #2: Cleanliness
If you drop a piece of paper at Disneyland, an employee picks it
up. Before the park opened, Walt took a hot dog, ate it while
walking, and counted the steps. So even to this day, the trash cans
are 17 to 25 steps apart -- just the right distance to throw away a
hot dog wrapper when you've finished eating.
In the same way, our children's ministry areas need to be clean
and tidy. No matter how new or old your building is, there's one
thing you can do -- keep it clean. What a poor testimony it is for
people to see sloppy classrooms and stinky nurseries.
- Schedule regular walk-throughs of your buildings -- inside and
out. Get several people to go through classroom areas and restrooms
with you and make notes of areas that need special attention.
Prioritize that list and knock it out one item at a time.
- Train people by example to never walk by a piece of paper lying
on the ground.
- Organize a work day to do spring cleaning at the church.
Cue #3: Creativity
Outside many of the rides are signs that say, "Brought to you by
the Imagineers of Disney -- we make the magic happen." Teams of
creative people dreamed big together and then made the dreams come
It's so easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same old
programs the same old way that we miss new opportunities to
effectively communicate to today's generation. A team of creative
people working together always accomplishes more than one creative
person working alone. There are creative people waiting in your
church to come up with great ideas to help you effectively reach
and teach children. Get them together and just watch what
- Identify creative people in your church who could form a
creative team of six to eight members.
- Set a time to meet with these people on a regular basis to have
creative think time.
- Consider any programs or parts of your ministry that have
outlived their usefulness and need to be replaced with something
- Let your team's creativity flow, and list their creative ideas.
Then choose the priority items to do.
Cue #4: Seeing With Kids' Eyes
Disney's colors are bright, bright, and bright -- kid-friendly
Sad to say, but the opposite is usually true in many churches.
Children are marched into a beige room and set in brown chairs.
Often it's because the adults who picked the colors picked them
based on adult tastes. But if you want to say to children, "We love
you, and we prepared this with you in mind," then decorate with
colors they like.
- Identify children's ministry rooms, hallways, and areas that
aren't decorated in kid-friendly ways.
- Pick out kid-friendly colors to decorate with by asking
children, looking on leading kids' Web sites such as www.nick.com
and www.disney.com, and visiting local kid-friendly places such as
toy stores, amusement parks, and restaurants such as Chuck E.
Cheese's and McDonald's.
Cue #5: First-Class Service
Employees each have a badge that shows they're there to serve.
We were greeted with smiles and a here-to-help attitude. It was the
little, first-class touches that impressed us. Even when we bought
souvenirs, employees delivered them to the front gate for us to
pick up that evening.
Walt Disney World employee Jim Cunningham says, "It's 10 percent
product and 90 percent service. It's the type of service received
that usually determines the decisions customers make."
No matter how much follow-up we do with visitors to our church,
if people have a bad experience on their first visit, they probably
won't come back. We must invest time in making sure the first
experience they have with us is a first-class one.
One of the things we're moving toward at our church to give a
first-class touch is a host program. We want every new family who
pulls into our parking lot to be greeted by a host family. The host
family will be in the same stage of life as the guest family so
they'll have common interests. The host family will stay with them
during their entire first experience at our church. They'll walk
with them and help them check their children into classes and then
sit with them during the adult worship service. After the worship
service, they'll walk with them to pick up their children, walk
them out to their car, and thank them for coming before they leave.
A day or two later, the host family will call the visiting family
to ask if they have any questions about the church and to thank
them again for coming.
- Formulate an effective system to give guests a first-class
- Enlist greeters to give guests special attention. Choose
friendly, caring people who can make guests feel at ease. Station
these people at key entrances.
- Make sure you have clear signage for each room and area of the
- Train your team to personally walk guests to rooms rather than
pointing the way.
Cue #6: Fun
Children and their parents have fun with the mouse! I've met
many adults who say they'll never go to church because their
parents made them go as a child, but I've never met an adult who
says he'll never go see the mouse because his parents made him go
as a child. The truth is you don't have to make someone go where
they enjoy being!
Some well-meaning people think children shouldn't have fun at
church. Yes, children need to be taught to worship God in
reverence, but we also need to let them worship God as children
with fun, excitement, and energy. When your church is meeting the
needs of children in a fun and relevant way, kids will wake their
parents on Sunday morning, ready to go. When the opposite is true,
children won't want to come to your church.
Are children saying your church is boring? Hint: If they are, it
probably is. Are you constantly telling children at church to "sit
still and be quiet"? Do parents tell you their children wake up
excited about coming to church?
- Plan children's time at church to include lots of fun,
- Use methods relevant to today's kid culture to relay your
- Do a survey of the children and families in your church to ask
them how you can make church a more exciting experience for
Cue #7: Visible Mission
I noticed that the mouse's mission statement was clearly stated
in a prominent place for all to see. Part of that statement is "May
Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to
all who come to this happy place...a Magic Kingdom where the young
at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together."
It reminded me of how important it is to let people know why we
exist as a ministry. A mission statement unites your team, gives
you a grid to run all programs and ministry decisions through, and
provides your team with direction.
- Gather key leaders from your ministry team and develop a
mission statement. Make it short, easy to remember, and
- Post your mission statement for all to see, and ask your
ministry team to memorize it.
- Go over your mission statement with your team often.
Cue #8: The Eye Gate
It was confirmed to me again that the mouse knows this is an
extremely visual generation. The greatest example for me was when I
was waiting to get on a ride. A group of 200-300 people waited in a
theater room where a large movie screen played a film. I looked
around and saw a majority of the people intently watching the
screen. Throughout the park, the mouse used visual means to capture
people's attention. In fact, one of Mickey's 10 Commandments is
"Communicate with visual literacy."
The top three influences on people today are television, movies,
and the Internet. All these are visual means of communication. We
need to use visual means of communication as much as possible if
we're going to capture the attention of this generation.
- Find out what Christian videos appeal to children and have them
playing when children enter your area.
- Each week plan to use some type of visual communication in your
lessons and services, such as video clips, object lessons, and
PowerPoint or MediaShout presentations.
- Gather a team of computer-savvy people in your church and
create a Web site to connect with children and families.
Cue #9: Teamwork
In Florida alone, the mouse employs over 50,000 people to make
the magic happen. Walt said, "You can dream, create, design, and
build the most wonderful place in the world...but it requires
people to make the dream a reality." Realizing their people are
their most valuable asset, Disney goes to great lengths to train,
equip, and care for them. Extensive training and interviews take
place before placing people on the team.
Each new person is brought up to speed on philosophy and
mission. Training, communication, and care are high priorities.
Every team member is respected. Everyone wears a name badge. Work
is fun. They even have a private lake for swimming, sailing, and
fishing. There's a plethora of ways in which performance is
recognized. Awards, team member of the month, and peer recognition
It's not what you can do by yourself in children's ministry, but
it's what the team of people you gather around you can do to make
it happen. The success of your ministry depends on the strength of
the team you build.
- 1. Work hard to create a culture of family and fun within your
- Take time to share the philosophy and mission of your ministry
with new team members before placing them in service.
- Give your new team members a spiritual gift and personality
test so you can help them find their unique places of service. This
leads to people enjoying their place of service and gives them
- Provide regular training for your team to help them grow in
their leadership and ministry skills.
- Keep communication lines open with your team. Give team members
opportunities to give you feedback and share their ideas.
- Regularly honor, encourage, and award team members.
Cue #10: New Ideas
The mouse has kept the signature items that have worked through
the years and at the same time has continued to add fresh, relevant
ideas that'll reach out to a new generation. In the same way, we
must constantly look for new, fresh ideas. We must keep reading,
attending conferences, networking, asking questions, and searching
for new ways to minister to children.
- When was the last time you got a fresh idea for your ministry
and implemented it?
- Do you purposely take time to look for fresh ideas?
- Are you willing to look for fresh ideas outside your comfort
- Do you think you have arrived or do you have an attitude of
learning and growing?
We walked away from the mouse's house with some great family
memories. But I also walked away with a great challenge: If all
that time, energy, money, creativity, focus, and work is being
dedicated to a temporary, earthly purpose, how much more should I
give my best to sharing the eternal message of God's Word with
children and families?
Dale Hudson is the children's pastor at a church in Palm
Beach Gardens, Florida and co-author of the book Turbocharged!
(Group). Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.