Sunday, June 12, 2011

Disney dreaming

My family recently took a cruise on the Disney Dream and I'm still wrapped up in the magic of it all.  Although I've enjoyed Disney movies in the past, I wouldn't consider myself a fanatic (just your average nonchalant fan).  We took the vacation with the intent of having a restful break, made possible by the children's programming that would allow my husband and me space and time to reconnect.  We also had an image of the special memories that we could create as a family and for our children.  However, I left the boat a Disney convert. 

Disney is a world in itself.  Their use of imagination ("imagineering"), their creativity, and their attention to detail draw you in to every experience.  Everything you do becomes part of a larger story.  We didn't just go to dinner; we were invited to a feast at the Royal Palace, along with our little "prince" and "princess".  There is an entire Disney culture with its own language and customs.  Conversations are ended with the phrase "Have a magical day" and you are not only given directions but are pointed in the right way by friendly "cast members" wearing large Mickey gloves.  The cast members are trained to make "magical moments" happen for each guest.  After all, their mission statement is "We create happiness."  Yes, it's a little trite (or presumptuous...or just plain nonsensical), but when you experience it, you become a believer. 

Since our return, I've studied some of the Disney model through the Disney Institute site, the Disney Parks Blog, and the book The Church Mouse: Leadership Lessons from the Magic Kingdom (by pastor Christopher W. Perry).  I have more Disney-themed books on my wish list and hopes to attend a Disney Conference someday.  I think their ideals and the way they carry them out have a lot to teach both the business world and the church.  While I know they are not without problems or controversy, the way they treat and engage their guests is a beautiful example of hospitality.  Their use of creativity seems truly magical when you're surrounded in all the elements thoughtfully put together to bring you into the story.  While I knew on one level all of this was carefully designed to get me to spend money and buy into their "product", their "brand", it worked.  I left, not feeling like I had been had, or that I was simply a consumer, but felt that I had actually experienced something...well, I'm going to stop myself from saying "magical" yet again, but it's hard to find a better word to describe it.

In his book, Christopher Perry suggests using the Disney model as a way leading in the church.  In talking about church culture, he suggests "discovering your church's mission and connect people to that story bigger than themselves" (much as Disney designs a larger story for each experience to create their own unique culture).  This inspires me to think about my own mission and calling and how to better connect those to whom I minister with a larger story, God's story.  I hope to become a better and more creative storyteller and to continue to redefine my mission and place in the story...


  1. I'm going to have to get that book! Disney is unbeatable at creating "magic." I have been dreaming of going to Disney World since I last went - 19 years ago! Seeing the "Beauty and the Beast" musical live this week was as magical as the Magic Kingdom itself. And I did leave there thinking, why doesn't church feel like this? Not that we need to pretend that the world is perfect and nothing is ever wrong or sad in our lives, but shouldn't there be some magical moments as well? What is more dream come true than that "God so loved the world..."? Hmm... it looks like I have some writing to do this weekend! :)

  2. I appreciate your comments on my book and I pray it's helpful in reaching your dream and calling. I stumbled on your blog while searching for another site. I'm glad I did.

    If you're really interested in learning more about how to apply Disney to your church I would suggest the Creative Ministry Conference held in Orlando Jan 11-13,2012. Several Disney people will speak at this conference (as will I) on that very subject. You can find out more about it at the Leadership Nexus website ( )Have a great day!


    1. Chris, I'm just re-reading this as we've just returned from our second Disney Cruise. It was wonderful meeting you at the Creative Ministry Conference in January, and I found your workshops to be very inspiring. I still reference my notes often and hope to return to another conference in the future. Blessings on your continued ministry!