1,000 Gallons Of Water On Your Head


My family recently discovered one of our new favorite family fun destinations: the Great Wolf Lodge. My thrifty wife, Emily, had discovered a Groupon late last year and we decided this would work for our “experience” gift at Christmas. (Every year we try to give our children an experience to provide memories of family fun for when they are trying to decide later in life whether or not to appreciate their parents and siblings.) So we decided that a trip to what looked like an awesome water park would fit this purpose well.

While at the resort, Emily was gracious enough to allow me some time to enjoy the “big boy” waterslides as our children are currently too young for the big slides. Riding the Tornado with two teenage girls (stranger danger!) was slightly awkward, but as I was screaming like a teenage girl, I started thinking about what makes the experience of GWL so awesome. I discerned at least two dynamics that make the the resort so impressive:

1. Simplicity

As soon as you enter the resort, you receive a wristband. Aside from something to cover the parts of your body as required by law, this is really all you need for the rest of your stay. The wristband has a transmitter built right in so you can swipe it everywhere—from the arcade to the onsite Dunkin Donuts—to pay for everything. Of course this is smart, because it separates you from your money without the emotions experienced in handing over cash, but for a minimalist like me, it was heaven. The wristband even unlocks the door to your room. Awesomeness!

2. Training

The Great Wolf Lodge is filled with staff—from lifeguards to maintenance personnel to storytellers—there are people doing a job everywhere and doing it well. As the boys and I were walking the halls at 6:00 a.m. there was a maintenance man roaming as well. He was shining a light on the walls and carefully noting imperfections. No dirt, spot, nor smudge lasts long anywhere on the premise.

I also noticed something about the lifeguards that I found peculiar. Most lifeguards at your local pool (for whom I’m very grateful) are sitting by and keeping watch. If they happen to notice a child running or some inappropriate horseplay, then they respond to the situation. There is a passive nature to their work. The guards at the GWL, however, were much more active in their guarding. They would walk a predetermined length of the pool, inspect certain areas, then give a short blow on their whistle to signal all-clear—over and over and over again. Their movements were almost robotic. I was intrigued. So, me being me, I approached one of the guards to inquire about their routines (stranger danger!). He explained that the training itself is not very difficult, but it is very specific and each employee is expected to maintain the muscle memory  this style of guarding requires. Bottom line is that I, as a parent, felt as though my children were in great hands in this place.

The Great Wolf Lodge focuses intensely on providing an easy and injury-free experience for their guests so that families can have fun without much worry. Our goal at 801South is to provide a compelling and distraction-free experience in hopes that our guests will have an encounter with God that transforms their lives.

We are beginning a long process of training and producing materials that can be easily reproduced—each explaining the why and the what of everything we do.

What else can we learn as the church from the way a resort provides a very intentional experience for families?

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