The Magic of Place

The concepts of “story” and “place” are not new concepts…but they seem to be coming more vernacular with churches dedicated to reaching their community and being intentional about communicating their unique story (which is a reflection of their vision and mission).  We are going to take some time looking at the implication, strategies and contextualization of place and story, and how they can be more than just a strategy, but a critical component to your churches DNA and culture. Let’s start with The Magic of Place.

The magic of Place has three faces: natural, constructed, and virtual.

Natural Place Magic is intrinsic to those wonders of the physical world that thrill and awe us by simply existing. It’s the stuff of National Geographic  specials that create magic through their natural grandeur. Our primary memories of these places will always be the magic of the natural wonders themselves.  Even so, skillful service magicians can subtly but measurably enhance our experience of Place Magic. A subtle balancing and blending act is the key to creating consistent Place Magic by showing off the main attraction at its best.

Constructed Place Magic comes in a greater variety than does Nature’s Place Magic. While few man-made places are palaces, castles, or world icons, even the most mundane can also be magical. There are hotels and grocery stores and retailers and automobile dealerships and hospitals and dental offices that stand above others and sparkle. People should feel attended to and comfortable in your constructed place.

Virtual Place Magic demonstrates that place is not always a physical location. Successful organizations must have a presence, a story, and a sense of experience in their virtual world, as well as the physical world. The look and feel of your online presence – your digital front door – must reflect the look, feel, and ambiance of your brick and mortar place.  Distinctive and eye-catching design is only beginning of creating a virtual place; you must also build trust and create a unique experience. From the first click, guests should be drawn in, made curious, and delighted by the virtual place you have created.

Utilizing a Natural Setting

Few organizations will have the benefit of a serene waterfront setting or a majestic mountain view. But everyone has a place that can be enhanced by the following rules:

  • Find your “natural” story – All locations have a story; what’s yours?
  • Educate yourself – Steep yourself and your team in the details of your place
  • Create an “elevator” story – What 30 second story can your team tell about your locale and its uniqueness?
  • Dabble in décor – Consider enhancing your interior with visual representations of the natural setting
  • Sensory congruence – The smells and sounds need to be in sync with the sights and feel

Creating Illusion, Amazement, and Delight

There is no better contemporary example of building magic into man-made places than the world of the theme park. And there’s no better example of this than Walt Disney, who created an entirely new approach to the concept of entertainment, a business obsessed with the customer point of view, and the precise management of the customer’s experience. With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Disney developed an obsession for anticipating and controlling every detail that will support – or detract from – his vision. He called it “Imagineering,” and defined it as the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how. It has been best codified by Marty Sklar, the first chairman of Disney Imagineering, in a set of principles dubbed “Mickey’s Ten Commandments.”

  1. Know your audience– Before creating a setting, understand who will be visiting your place
  2. Wear your guest’s shoes– Evaluate your setting from the customer’s perspective by experiencing it as a customer.
  3. Organize the flow of people and ideas– Think of setting as a story and tell the story in a sequenced, organized way.
  4. Create a “wienie”– Borrowed from silent film lingo, a wienie is a visual magnet used to orient and attract customers.
  5. Communicate with visual literacy– Language is not always composed of words; use the common languages of color, shape, and form to communicate through setting.
  6. Avoid overload by creating turn-ons– Do not bombard customers with data; let them choose the information they want, when they want it.
  7. Tell one story at a time– Create one setting for each idea to avoid confusing customers by mixing multiple stories in a single setting.
  8. Avoid contradictions; maintain identity– Every detail and nuance of a setting should support and further the organizational identity and mission.
  9. For every ounce of treatment provide a ton of treat– Give your customers the highest value by building an interactive setting that gives them the opportunity to exercise all their senses.
  10. Keep it up– Never get complacent and always maintain your setting.

You are practicing Place Magic by creating or enhancing environments that delight, support, and enliven your guests. Magical places are venues with physical attributes that attract and please, subtly enhanced by human endeavor.

Remember that as a church leader, you do have “customers” – they are the guests who come to your place every weekend.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to create a magical place in your organization!

Adapted from Service Magic by Ron Zemke and Chip Bell and reposted by permission from Bob Adams (@robertvadams) with Auxano and Curator of the  Vision Room.

Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

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