I am a Disnerd.
My family and I love all things Disney – the movies, the parks, the merchandise. In fact, as I write this blog I’m wearing both a Walt Disney World hat and t-shirt. Part of our love for Disney is that just so much of what they do is family oriented. The films are for kids, sure… but they’re also a lot of fun for adults too. The parks are places where Walt’s vision of families doing things together are fulfilled. And maybe more importantly, the stories that the Walt Disney company tells, in its movies and its theme parks are so well-written. It’s easy to care for cartoon characters who are charismatic, engaging and sympathetic. Walt always said that the story needed to come first. Write a good story and the film will make itself. Tell a good story and people will come from miles away to hear it or experience it.
Without question, this is a major factor in the success of a company that is already one of the biggest media giants in the world today. Tell good stories, provide excellent customer service, and include the whole family. Now let’s be honest with ourselves – these are pretty good ideas for how to run a successful church too, aren’t they? The church doesn’t just need to tell good stories, we already have the greatest story ever told in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We need to tell that great story in every way possible, in all the places we can, at every opportunity that arises. But above and beyond the salvation story, we should be able to tell that story’s impact in each of our lives and how we continue to live this story out every day. We ought to be able to relate how our church is living out the salvation story as well. What do we do that speaks the reality of Jesus’ resurrection into the world? What ministries do we offer for people to experience of that reality?
As to customer service, the church ought to be able to do this better than any business in the world. We are called by God to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is the highest possible standard of customer service. It is service for the sake of living out God’s love. And of course that means providing that same service and welcome to everyone, all members of any family with whom we have contact. The church should be able to provide a welcoming and open place for anyone and everyone. We should be able to tell great, compelling stories that draw people to God and to Jesus Christ. If the church could function more like Disney, if we could apply Disney principles to the regular practice of church ministry… imagine the how the Kingdom of God could be grown, nurtured, and flourish in a world that seeks those Disney qualities. How might we as a Christian Church apply Disney Imagineering to what we do, and make our lovely little church home a magnet to people from all walks of our community? Dream with me, won’t you?
So to answer my own question, no… I don’t find Disney to be an explicitly Christian company. They certainly adhere to some standards and values that coincide with Christian standards and values like family, care for the least/last/lost, and reaching people far and wide. But they are not a faith based company and have at times published a film that is less than family oriented. Still, there is much to learn from Disney’s example and perhaps the church could benefit from Imagineering some of what it does too.