Dreaming, risk-taking, and
diligence -- here's what you can learn from the man who pioneered
family entertainment experiences with passion and
A few weeks ago I revisited one of my favorite places -- Walt
Disney World. It was a working vacation (honestly!), as I looked
for ideas I could use in my ministry from the masters of connecting
with kids and families. I even did my homework, picking up a
biography of the mouse mastermind himself: Walt Disney: an
American Original (Disney Editions) by Bob Thomas. I read the
book. I scrutinized the park. And I realized that not only can
children's ministries learn from Disneyland's success, but leaders
too can learn from the man behind the vision, the man who
effectively touched the hearts of millions of children and families
Walt Disney lived to bring joy to others -- but he was also an
incredibly driven, principled, precise, and visionary leader. It
was Disney's principles that helped make him one of the 20th
century's greatest pioneers and most effective leaders. Let's look
at how his principles can impact us as leaders, dreamers, and
Friends, family, and colleagues say Disney was the driving force
behind the creative genius of his company. He regularly worked late
at the studio, investing himself and his time into what he believed
• Do you have a go-the-extra-mile attitude?
• Are you dedicated to your ministry?
• Are you and your team known as hard workers?
Don't rest on past accomplishments.
Keep your eye on the future.
Disney rarely engaged in retrospection. He was focused on the
future, preferring to explore new mediums and dream new dreams.
Once he'd mastered one medium, he was on to the next, more
• Have you grown content with past successes?
• What's the next mountaintop you're climbing?
• Where do you want your ministry to be three years from
Maintain a radical commitment to
Disney wasn't a man who showered praise on people; he simply
expected excellence -- and received it.
As a result of Disney's commitment to excellence, Disney parks
have a worldwide reputation for cleanliness and friendliness.
• What qualifies as "excellent" in your ministry? What
• Are you content with "good enough"?
• Do people associate excellence with your ministry?
Gather talent that'll make the vision a reality.
Disney's dreams were on a grand scale, and to accomplish
his dreams he took pains to assemble the right talent.
• Do you attract quality people to your team?
• Can your current team make your ministry's dreams a
• Who do you need on your team?
Gather positive people around you.
Disney once witnessed a staff member treat park guests curtly.
Frustrated, he told an assistant, "See if you can't give that
fellow a better understanding of the business we're in. Try to
cheer him up. If you can't, then he shouldn't be working here.
We're selling happiness. We don't want sourpusses around."
• Is your ministry known as a positive, happy place?
• Are you willing to deal with negative team members and
• Do you and your team spend more time dwelling on the positive or
negative aspects of your ministry?
Create a place families can experience
Disney's dream for his first park was ultimately simple. He wanted
it to be a place where children and their parents could find
"happiness and knowledge"-a place where families could share good
• Does your ministry provide experiences families can enjoy
• How do you equip parents to explore faith with their children
outside church walls?
• How can you make your church a more welcoming environment for
families with children?