Ministry Lessons from a Mouse
We [built] Disneyland with the knowledge that most of the people I talked to thought it would be a financial disaster – closed and forgotten within the first year.
– Walt Disney
Recently, our family had the privilege to spend a few days at Walt Disney World in Florida. We rode rides, watched fireworks, took pictures with characters, enjoyed the Electrical Parade, and bought overpriced souvenirs. I left "’the happiest place on earth" with those souvenirs, pictures and video of our trip, and family memories that I will cherish for years to come.
However, the trip turned out to be more than just a "fun" time off with my family. I left with more than just pictures, memories and a $20 t-shirt. Unexpectedly, I received ministry training from none other than Mickey Mouse himself. What I thought was going to be just a time of rest and renewal with my loved ones turned into a week filled with lessons that challenged me in my service to God. It may sound crazy, but I left Disney World deeply impressed to do more than ever for our Lord.
I thought to myself, “If they can do all this for a mouse, how much more should we be doing for the Master?!?” I was convicted that a secular business would care more about their work than we, as Christians, sometimes care for the work of God.
I would like to share with you seven things that I noticed during my stay that I believe turned one man’s dream into a worldwide business empire loved by hundreds of millions. These same principles could revolutionize our lives and ministries.
It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
– Walt Disney
Disney World has only been open for 40 years, yet it is known and loved the world over. It is amazing to see what has been accomplished because one man had a vision of what could be done. Back in 1950, no one had even heard of Disneyland. Disney himself said, “It was all started with a mouse.” I would respectfully disagree with him. It all started with a man who had a vision. During his weekly "Daddy & daughter date" with his two girls, he envisioned a place where adults and children could go to have fun together. He had a vision of what he wanted to provide for American families, and his vision has been fulfilled beyond what even he imagined.
What about your church? Do you have a vision of what God could do in your town? Do you still believe that God could do the impossible? Do you believe that He wants to use you to do more than ever before? Can God still build His church? Or have you lost your vision? Have you resigned yourself to the fact that America is drifting farther and farther from God, and no one wants a church like yours anymore? Has your vision to reach the world been dimmed to the point that you don’t even know if you can reach your next-door neighbor?
We need men and women of God with a vision of what God could do in this generation. God is stil l“able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Do we really believe that, or do we think that His greatest works are in the past? Let’s ask God to give us the faith to see all that He could use us to do for His glory!
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18a)
Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.
– Walt Disney
I was amazed at Disney’s attention to detail in every area. Their grounds are spotless, and it seems as if everything, down to the smallest of details has been thought of and cared for. When you are on their property, there is just something different about the way they handle their business.
God’s work deserves our very best. I don’t believe that God is glorified when we serve Him half-heartedly, always waiting until the last minute to do the least possible amount of work so that our ministry just barely stays alive. A spirit of excellence should permeate our interactions, our buildings, our materials, and our relationships with both saved and unsaved people. God’s work should be an exciting, thriving place. Every person we come into contact with should know there is something different about us and the work we are doing.
One evening, when we returned to our hotel room, Mickey had left an autographed picture for us and had folded our washcloths into little animals. When we ordered a wake-up call, Mickey was the one who called us. My youngest son was "shocked" that Mickey had actually come to our room and elated that he was talking to him on the phone. The price I paid for this hotel room and all these "extras" was less than I have paid for other budget motels in the past. I was just a "small fish" staying at one of the least expensive Disney hotels, however, they went above and beyond to make the trip special for our family and gave us memories that we will never forget.
When was the last time you did something small to make an impact on a family in your church? Have you gone above and beyond to do something out of the ordinary just to let one of God’s children know that you thought they were special? Church members should leave our churches "shocked" and elated that they were so loved and cared for. A spirit of excellence should define our ministries.
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Corinthians 14:40)
When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.
– Walt Disney
If your church members were to grade you on your level of passion to the work God has called you do, would you pass or fail? Do you have an enthusiasm and excitement that permeates everything you do for God? Are people in your community excited to see what God is doing at your church?
It is obvious that Disney workers, known as "cast members," love what they do. They are passionate about giving every one of their customers a“magical” experience and it shows through in every interaction they have.
Many amusement park ride operators that I have seen in other parks seem disinterested, wishing they could be anywhere else in the world. Disney’s workers are different. They seem like they actually enjoy their work, and are glad that they get the privilege to work for Disney and serve their customers.
I fear that too many Christian workers seem disinterested in church and the things of God, putting in their time each Sunday, but wishing they were somewhere else. Too often, we are more passionate about sports, entertainment, pleasure, amusement, work, money, and worldly pursuits than we are about serving the Savior who gave His life for us.
God’s work needs and deserves people who are passionate and committed to what God has called them to do!
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30)
You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.
– Walt Disney
It is amazing to me how Disney has been able to train their people in a way that the majority of American businesses have been unable to do. Many times, good customer service seems to be a lost art. However, Disney has made customer service a top priority with amazing success. They pride themselves in caring for their customers, and it has resulted in an almost unmatched customer loyalty. Every employee, down to the lowest entry-level positions, is instilled with a desire to care for the customer.
If you are celebrating a special occasion, Disney wants to know about it. They will give you a button to wear that lets people know if you are having a birthday or anniversary or if you are just visiting their park for the first time. Then, everywhere you go, workers will go out of their way to smile and congratulate you in a meaningful way. At times, they will do something extra special for you, giving you a small souvenir or bringing you a special treat at your meal. By the end of the day, you feel appreciated and cared for.
I understand that God’s people are not "customers." We are not serving them for what we can get out of them. However, we should strive to give the highest level of care and appreciation to every church member and visitor in our ministry. God’s people should not be neglected. They should be nourished and nurtured. No person should leave God’s house without feeling cared for and appreciated.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.
– Walt Disney
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
– Walt Disney
Disney’s success is no accident. Disney is not a result of luck or chance, but rather the product of plain, old-fashioned, hard work. Disney World is literally a city that never sleeps. They work 24 hours per day. I recently read an article that described the army of 600 painters, custodians, gardeners, and decorators that come out 365 nights per year after the parks have closed to begin their work. While the next day’s guests are fast asleep, dreaming of riding Space Mountain, Disney workers are hard at work. Buildings are constantly being repainted and repaired. Every night, workers are responsible for repairing and replacing the 800 umbrellas, 25,000 chairs and about 7,000 tables in the restaurants and snack bars at the Disneyland parks. Four certified divers collect submerged trash and make repairs on water attractions like Finding Nemo and the Jungle Cruise every night. These are things that most people do not even realize are happening on a daily basis.
When I read that, I was shocked at how hard they work when no one is watching! Could the same be said about those of us who are working in God’s harvest field? Are we diligent to care for the flock of God in ways that go unnoticed? Does the work of God consume our hearts and minds? Full-time Christian workers should be the hardest-working, most diligent people in the church.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.
– Walt Disney
Disney is never satisfied with their past successes. They are constantly growing, improving, building, remodeling, adding, and innovating. Every year, there are new rides, new parks, new hotels, new merchandise, and new marketing campaigns. They have built one of the strongest brands in the world, yet, they believe they can do more and that they can do it better.
One of the dangers in ministry is when God allows us to experience a measure of success. After months and years of working, God begins to bless in ways beyond our expectations. People come, ministries grow, and offerings increase. If we are not careful, we will breathe a sigh of relief and relax for a little while. We must determine to be like Paul,“forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” We must constantly seek to“press toward the mark” until God calls us home.
In God’s work, we must realize that our work is never done. There are still more people to be reached, more families to be helped, and more Christians to be strengthened. There may be a new ministry you could start in your church. It may be time for an attendance campaign, a new Bible-reading program, an improved training program, or a revamped Sunday school curriculum. We should constantly be evaluating our ministries, seeking to do more than we have done before, not coasting on past victories.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12)
All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
– Walt Disney
While at the park, I watched a brief biography of Walt Disney’s life. I was amazed to find out that it was the bankruptcy of his business that led him to board a train in Kansas City, headed for Hollywood to join his brother, Roy. He was an animator struggling to find people who wanted to pay him for what he had to offer. However, he wouldn’t give up. He continued to persevere in the face of great adversity, and out of his perseverance the Walt Disney empire was born. Had his business succeeded in Kansas City, Disney as we know it would have never existed.
God’s work is not always easy. Sometimes, God uses our greatest failures to lead us to even greater successes for His glory. There are times when fear and failure grip our souls. We must heed the admonition of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
This world needs pastors, wives, missionaries, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, choir members, nursery workers, bus captains, and Christian workers of every kind to decide that, no matter what, they won’t quit. God promised us that we WILL reap, if we faint not! No matter the trial and no matter the obstacle, stay in the fight! Your biggest victory may be just around the corner!
Mr. Disney traveled to Hollywood unemployed with a dream and $40 in his pocket, and he changed the world in one generation.
If all this can happen for a mouse, how much more could happen for the Master?