10 Lessons from Disney for Church


Here is a list of lessons learned from Brian White, Director of Technology at Disney Mobile.

1. Disney thinks ORANGE – Walt Disney took his 2 daughters to amusement parks on Saturday.  He noticed how board the parents were.  He saw that ride operators were not excited to be there.  He also noticed old equipment.  Disney said, “I felt there should be a place where parents and children could have fun together.”

Do parents and children have fun as part of your church?

2. With huge success comes huge RISK and huge CHALLENGES.

  • Creative challenges – Mickey Mouse was created out of earlier business failure.  Walt lost the rights to the first company he created.
  • Financial challenges – Disney was launched during the Great Depression.  He started full length animated films in a time when studios were in financials crunch.  Snow White was 60x more expensive than any other venture Walt had taken.  It cost $1.5M to make and made $8M.
  • Morale challenges – In May, 1941 all of his artists went on strike.  A rift was created between managers and artists, but Walt knew he was an artist pushed through the challenge.

Are you taking risks and pushing through challenges or are you playing it safe to avoid challenges?

3. Honor the PAST without LIVING in it – “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” – Walt

Since Walt’s death, Disney launched into home movies, bought ABC TV, purchased ESPN, launched a cable channel, a cruise line and purchased Marvel Comics.  Are you afraid to embrace the future even though it’s scary and unknown?  Disney was afraid to go into computer animation.  John Lasseter was an animator for Disney and was fired for idea to use computers for animation.  He went to work at Apple and started Pixar.  Disney later purchased Pixar and John became the chief creative person for Disney.

Is your church stuck in the past or getting creative to enter into new markets and reach new people?

4. Be a good Brand STEWARD – a brand is like a bank account.  You can make a withdrawal or deposit for your brand.  You need to build your brand over time and invest in it, not diminish it’s effectiveness by stewarding it poorly.  You never want to cheapen your brand.  Only add value to it!

Are you trying to diminish expenses and play it safe, thus cheapening the brand? Or are you adding value to your community, city and church – thus building a strong brand?

5. Know your desired REACTION – these are the things Disney is thinking about when they create something new:

  • That’s not possible! – I can’t believe what I’m seeing
  • Only Disney could do that!
  • What will they do next?

As you plan services, ministries or events in your church, do you have a desired reaction in mind?

6. Don’t try to please EVERYBODY – the makers of the Mini Cooper are trying to please Mini Cooper lovers, not Dodge Caravan owners.

Who is your primary audience? Are you ruthless about caring for them?

7. The IDEATION process is critical.  At Disney they value the:

  • Blue Sky Meeting – no idea is judged
  • Art is a Team Sport – it takes a lot of people looking at project from all areas to make it successful: Dreamer & Implementer working together with teams to shepherd ideas

Some of the best ideas come from people who we wouldn’t consider ‘artists’. How are you tapping into people throughout your organization for ideas?


  • Are you getting into the mind of the people in your church to understand their  Needs, Wants, Emotions, Stereotypes (Compass NSEW)?  This is how Speedpass was created to help people feel like they were getting past the line.

Do you know the PSYCHOGRAPHIC map of people in your church?  (What is it they Need, Want, Emotion, Stereotype about your church)

9. The PIXAR rule – “You are not allowed to criticize an idea unless you can provide an alternative suggestion.”

How are you keeping your staff focused on solutions, not criticism?

10. FOCUS!

Disney has 5 divisions.  Everything Disney does comes from each of these.

Disney cares about 3 things: Creativity & Innovation, Application of Technology, Expansion into International Markets

Do the different areas of your church organization have synergy and work together to accomplish the common purpose?

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