How to Improve Your Church Parking Lot


By: Stephen W. Mead

Think about it: What’s the first way to tell if a church is well-run and sensitive to visitors’ needs? Look at the parking lot.

This fact makes it important to examine how your church can design and use its “first impression” most effectively.

Parking Messages

A well-planned parking area tells people that yours is a friendly and inviting church, and that you use your resources wisely.

An excellent parking area will be:

Convenient. Is your lot conveniently located and easy to use? Are there enough spaces at the right times?

Functional. Is there conflict and confusion between vehicles and pedestrians? Can cars exit quickly?

Well-groomed.. Is the area well maintained, properly lighted, and nicely landscaped?

Effective parking solutions will help you meet these criteria–and send a positive message to attenders at the same time.

Initial Questions

As you begin your project, you’ll need to answer questions such as:

Where will people walk?
Where will parents drop off their children?
How will the elderly and handicapped access your facility?
Where will deliveries be made?
How can the parking design minimize confusion at occasions such as weddings and

Practical Considerations

You’ll probably want to seek professional help when building your lot, but make sure you have thought through the following factors:

Building plans. Make sure you have an updated facility plan that identifies both current usage patterns and future development projects. Reason: You don’t want to have to needlessly redo parking lots.

Local building codes. These codes set most of the requirements and help you identify what you’re allowed to do.

Lighting. If you can, install lights on the outside wall of an adjacent building to avoid extensive conduit and light-pole expenses. Worth considering:

* Energy-efficient lighting.
* Directional shields to keep lights from bothering neighbors.
* Light-sensor controls instead of time clocks. Reason: They don’t need to be reset.

Line of sight. When landscaping a lot, avoid blocking the line of sight of drivers or pedestrians. Advice:

* Consider low bushes or shrubs.
* Keep landscaping trimmed to enhance safety and visibility. Avoid: Planting trees where they will block lighting when they grow taller.

Natural aisles. If you have long drives, add parking on one or both sides of them if possible. Reason: You save the cost of building an aisle between rows of parking places. Note: Keep in mind line-of-sight and safety issues.

Parking angle. When space allows, parking off both sides of the aisles at 90 degrees is the most cost effective.

Waste collection. Place dumpsters and waste collection as close to the street as possible. Reason: The weight and the constant starting and stopping of garbage trucks on an asphalt drive or lot will destroy it. Worth considering: Building a concrete pad in the area where the truck stops and loads.

Drainage. Providing proper drainage can double or triple the cost of a simple parking lot. Tactic: When possible, position and slope your lots so water will run off onto grassy areas rather than into costly storm drains.

Snow removal. This will affect where you position bumpers, light poles, or landscaped islands in your lot. Where will the snow be mounded? Have you provided simple and straight plowing runs? Avoid: Placing items that will be hard to see and easy to clip with a blade.

Costs. When estimating the total price tag, remember to include the costs of:

* Drainage.
* Landscaping and lighting.
* Signs.
* Striping.
* Bumpers or curbs.
* Professional fees.

With proper thought and preparation, your church parking lots can become a ministry asset and an expression of your stewardship.


A properly built and cared-for parking lot should last 15 to 20 years. Here are some ways you can help your lot live a long and fruitful life.

Seal-coat properly. Allow new asphalt one year to settle and cure, and then seal-coat it to fill in small fissures that sometimes develop as a lot hardens. Also: Sealing protects against damage from gasoline or oil.

Fill new cracks. You’ll want to seal cracks as they develop. Tactic: Have your paving contractor demonstrate the procedure and recommend locally available products, and then do it on your own. Method:

* Sawcut or square off the crack to make a firm, clean-cut edge.
* Make sure the crack is clean, dust free, and dry.
* Apply a flexible sealant to the crack. Note: The lot and the crack will expand and contract with changes in weather. Your sealant should work as a flexible caulk, remaining securely attached and keeping water out as normal movement occurs.

Find reasons for problems. If major faults, dips, or alligator cracks (patches of broken asphalt that look like alligator hide) occur, determine the cause before attempting a repair. What to look for:

* Water runoff from your building, which may have undercut the lot.
* Dips, which may result from sewer or drainage lines sinking or shifting.

Resurface as necessary. You can resurface or overlay a new asphalt coating when necessary. Important: Overlaying a badly deteriorated lot with a poor foundation is simply a waste of money. The lot must be in reasonable condition with no foundation problems and with cracks well-maintained. Note: A fiberglass membrane can be added to strengthen the new surface.

(The above material appeared in the Mar./Apr. 1992 issue of Your Church.)

Christian Information Network