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?

Motivation from Straws & the $1 Store

Months ago, I realized that I was becoming a ‘nag’. I would find myself telling my kids:
“Clean up your room.”
“Watch out, you’re going to get hurt.”
“Don’t treat your sister that way.”

Then, I realized I had the power to create a positive, motivating environment for my kids. I bought 100 straws for $.99 and put 2 cups on the kitchen counter; one cup with each kids name on it. I told the kids that they could earn straws by doing 2 things:
1. Obey their parents right away, all the way, and with a happy heart
2. Treat each other with kindness, respect and loving/encouraging words

At the end of the week, if they had 25 straws in their cup, they could go to the dollar store and I would buy them anything they want. They were in awe that they could get anything in the entire store (they don’t yet understand that everything in the store is a dollar.)

I may only have a year or two left in the lives of my kids to utilize straws and the dollar store, but hopefully by then, they will have received enough positive motivation to be living out #1 and #2 above.

It’s amazing what $1 and some straws can do!

How are you creating positive motivation for the people around you?

The Joy of Giving!

How many of us get excited about giving money away?

Today my son gave a bag of money he’d been setting aside to give to our church. He was so excited about giving it to God that he told everyone as he was walking through the halls, up the stairs, in the courtyard at church: “I’m giving money to God!” If I did this as an adult it would be seen as pride or arrogance, but when it comes from the pure heart of a child to give their heard earned money away, it’s a reminder to “give cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Haiti 2 Years Ago

Do you remember where you were 2 years ago today? If you were in Haiti, you’d never forget. Over 300,000 people lost their lives on this day in the Haiti’s worst earthquake. But tragedy often helps people and organizations raise to new heights. After the earthquake, I had the opportunity to start serving with Mission of Hope in Haiti. It’s been remarkable to see the organization that has emerged from the crisis. In the last 12 months, here is how they’ve made an impact in Haiti:

– Seen 540 people come to faith through their church outside Port au Prince

– Introduced 13 Voodoo priests to a relationship with Jesus (and help them start a new career)

– Delivered over 15 million meals to school children and their families through a partnership with Convoy of Hope

– Provided a quality Christian Education to over 3,000 students

– Opened two new Mission of Hope Campuses

– Worked with over 100 other churches to spread the hope of Jesus to every man, woman and child in Haiti

Values While Downsizing

A year ago we went through a low-point financially and had to let go of several valued team members.  Thankfully this year, we’re moving into more positive territory, but my hope is that we never have to walk down that road again. We didn’t do the downsizing process perfect, but below are the values we tried to live out:

Be generous – offer as much as you can, including as many weeks of severance as possible, job placement assistance, and health benefits. I was appreciative that our Board of Directors released resources to help our people.

Be personal – do it yourself. I tried to have as many of the layoff conversations myself. If we had 2 conversations going on at once, our HR director led the other meeting.

Be thoughtful – a week after layoffs, we had each team take the person who lost their job to lunch so they had time to celebrate their contributions.

Be helpful – try to make connections or referrals with people in your church who might be looking for good employees.

Be upfront – as soon as we knew we might have to do layoffs, we let our staff know our financial situation. It put people on edge, but at least it minimized surprise.

Be available – our lead pastor and I made sure we were in our offices the afternoon after layoffs so that remaining staff could stop by to ask questions or process what they were thinking.

Be quick – once we knew we were doing layoffs, we tried to move as quick as we could to reach decisions and meet with affected staff. We met with each person that was losing their job within the span of 3 hrs. Then we pulled our remaining staff together to let them know layoffs were over.

My prayer is that you’ll never have to tap into these values, but they helped guide us during a challenging season.

Light without Electricity

In countries like the Philippines, those living in extreme poverty often can’t afford electricity. But even if they could, they often have to spend what money they have on food. So who would have thought that a 1-liter bottle of water and 5 minutes of work could produce the equivalent of a 50 watt light bulb. Watch this to see how!


Do you take time to celebrate progress? This week our staff is celebrating the conclusion of a season of hard work. For the last several months our staff and volunteer teams worked to provide an amazing Christmas experience and raise food and funds to advance the mission we’re on together. We labored in prayer together, spent long hours planning, and shifted people into the right positions to produce the best results possible. This week we (and I’m) taking time to celebrate what God did through our efforts. Do you celebrate with your family or team at the end of a challenging season or project? It’s worth it!

Flying Blind?


I recently had the opportunity to go flying with a friend. Several key things I noticed that apply to my everyday life:

1. Checklists are important – they help you remember critical details no matter how many times you’ve done something
2. Dashboards help – if you don’t have the right indicators in your view, you could drift off course, run out of gas, or run into someone else
3. Good communication is key – someone to guide you who can see things you don’t see can help you navigate safely to where you are going
4. Have a contingency plan – you never know when something may happen you don’t expect. Be prepared to take an alternate route.

Pivotal Questions

Gallop did a survey of 80,000 managers in hundreds of companies to find out that really there are 12 questions that determine the strength of your working environment.  And really out of those 12, there are really 2 pivotal questions :

1. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

2. Do I have a best friend at work?

When you think about it, working in the zone of your strengths and having a strong friendship while you’re ‘in the zone’ really does make a huge difference. 

Here’s the link to the 12 questions.

Swimming in Circles

Ever feel like the organization you are leading is going in circles and not making progress? We used this Mythbusters video to highlight a few key principles we need to keep in mind as leaders:

– If you don’t have a clear vision or can’t see the target you’re aiming for, you’ll probably not make the progress you desire
– You may have a target in mind, but if you don’t check your bearings along the way, you may drift off course
– Movement doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed in the right direction