Drive-in Church Service is a Great Alternative during a Pandemic!
Words that none of us who are in ministry ever thought about when we started the year of 2020 with tremendous hope and optimism and, of course, vision!
After all, “vision” and “2020” go together almost like “peanut butter and jelly” or “ham and eggs”! (Sorry, but I'm stuck on food analogies). I even shared a 4-part message series on vision in January, yet if I knew then what I know now… Well, enough of that.
On March 15th, we had our final service in the Sanctuary, and even though we are not in a State which required churches to close, we decided to take the precautionary step and do so. We felt we wanted to have a community that we could minister to following the pandemic who didn't feel like we were “above the rules”.
I'm a reasonably technical person, and we had already been broadcasting online for a few years, so the transition to online-only would have worked out fairly well.
Then, I received a text from a couple in our church who have been in ministry asking if I thought about a Drive-In Church using an FM Transmitter to broadcast the audio to the vehicles much like a Drive-In Theater would do. I told them that I had not thought of that, but would explore the possibilities!
We soon decided that a Drive-in Church Service format was going to be our “home” for the next few weeks, which turned into months! But what a blessing it has been!
GET THE RIGHT TOOLS
So, I immediately went to Amazon and bought 2 FM Transmitters. The reason we bought two of them was so that hopefully, at least one would arrive in time for the next Sunday. Well, both of them came in time, and we used one and returned the other to Amazon. (I could have sold the second one at least ten times as they soon became tough to find).
It seems they are slowly coming back in stock and if you would like to check them out, here are the links, and yes, they are affiliate links:
Signstek (This is the one we returned).
Rangestar (This is the one we decided to keep and is pictured below).
So, the FM Transmitter worked great in the early days of the Drive-In Church since it was a bit chilly, and car windows were rolled up. Even now, at times, the windows are rolled up, but it's more due to the need for air conditioning now!
Yes, we have a sound system set up so that people can listen without the transmitter as well. We tend to “crank it up” anyway, but again, the transmitters have been a great answer for car broadcast through the radio.
“You Raise Me Up” may be a great song, but we also soon realized we needed to be elevated a bit for the people to be able to see us, AND we also wanted to see the people. For the most part, we tried to keep the taller vehicles in the back and the smaller cars in the front.
So, one of the men in our church who owns a construction business offered the use of a flatbed trailer he was able to modify a bit, and it soon became our platform. We usually would have 6-8 members on our worship team, but we scaled way down to have our worship Pastor lead with keyboard or guitar. Our drummer accompanied him on an electric drum kit. We then placed a “cafe table” on the platform, which became the pulpit, and evidently, it's the “in thing” nowadays anyway! (I've never been too concerned with the latest and greatest).
We purchased a couple of 60″ TV's to show lyrics on, but with them being outside, they were nearly worthless, so we uploaded our lyrics to the website as well as placed in a bulletin to give out. (Yes, we still produce a bulletin). I wouldn't recommend TV's for this brief time in a parking lot, but if you do get them, you may want to use them elsewhere when things return to NORMAL!
We broadcast via Facebook and our Church Website as well. We had numerous people watching, and in fact, we have reached MORE people in this period than we ever did before! Exciting times!
I have found Canva to be an excellent tool for many projects. Both for the church, as well as personally. Here's a link if you don't use it already. It's what we use to create all our Social Media Graphics too!
Promote your services via Facebook for free and ask people to share the link. Here's an ad we did and just modified the picture in Canva each week.
If you can spare a few dollars, it's incredible how far a targeted ad will go as you share to a zip code, or age groups, etc. We also use a fantastic tool (and have for years), called Voiceshot, and we can call our entire congregation in a matter of minutes to update them on changes, prayer requests, etc.
One of the great tools we started using and will continue to use for a long time is the ability to broadcast by telephone from PhoneLiveStreaming.com! This helped many of our home-bound elderly people connect even if they didn't have the internet to watch our services.
GET THE RIGHT TEAM
We are blessed with a great team of people, and while a couple of them are staff members, they pitched in with a beautiful spirit of teamwork to make things happen.
Here are the various team members for our Drive-In Church Service:
– The Worship Leader and Drummer
– Children's Pastor would share a 5-minute message for the Children in attendance
– Ushers who also doubled as Parking Lot Attendants. (We have an amazing Head Usher!)
– Parked the cars in the best way for the service
– Handed out Tithe Envelopes and Bulletins (In the beginning, they used gloves and masks, but lately, as we have gone “yellow,” then, “green,” they've backed off some on that unless they want to wear a mask.
– They also helped people leave in an orderly manner
– Computer Tech Person – Even though the TV's were a bit dim to see, the image was still broadcast online, so the people there could easily see the song lyrics and PowerPoint.
– Sound Technician – We have a portable sound system that was rolled out and provided excellent sound every week.
While ALL those things and people may not be an option for you, the KEY is to take what you have and ask God to multiply your efforts! Don't dwell on what you “don't have,” but ask for wisdom to use what you “do have.” You know, the whole “lemons out of lemonade” thing.
GET THE RIGHT TIME
We wanted to do our best to continue starting our service at the regular time of 10:30 AM, so that's what we did. When we were in the Sanctuary, our general service would be about an hour and a half in length. The Drive-In Service made us re-think that, and we tried our best to keep it about an hour long. As we transition back into the Sanctuary soon, we will probably keep it to an hour, at least for a while.
GIVE THE RIGHT TEACHING
I desired to have each Drive-In Church Service Message be an encouraging time for the people, so especially in the beginning, the messages were speaking to the need for encouragement and assurance.
The message titles for the first few weeks were:
“The God of Hope”
“Trusting During Turmoil”
“The Power of Praise” (Palm Sunday)
“The Greatest Comeback of All Time” (Easter)
“Matters of the Heart”
“The Value of a Soul”
(All these messages are available in the Pro Membership area of ChurchLetters.org for all active, paying members). Just log in and download them if you'd like to share them!
We have used the disposable communion cups and wafers – You can find them here or just search on the internet, and you are sure to find something. Order enough as many of these items get short on supply quickly.
We do not take time during the service to receive an offering. The ushers simply stand at the exit as people leave with a bucket. Most of our people are giving that way, but many have started to give online despite the fees that are charged. We use Tithe.ly, and with that tool, the people giving can choose to absorb the fee or have the church do so. There are many applications available for giving online or via text.
– Dead Batteries!
We have had an average of about one car per week need a jump start. Just be ready with that by having jumper cables available to assist them with the problem quickly.
As things get warmer and a little less restrictive, we've had people sit outside their vehicles. Some sat on a bank we have where trees provide some shade. Others sat in front of their vehicles, or right in the parking lot. For those who are sitting in the sun, umbrellas become a necessity and provide a great way to meet needs.
Disclaimer: This article may update from time to time depending on things we may have forgotten, or even suggestions from your experiences!
Also, please note that every church and area is different, so what works for us may not work for you.
Again, whatever lemons you have, make your own lemonade!
We have ENJOYED having Drive-In Church Services, and while we are looking forward to going back inside, they have been a wonderful answer for us.
If it's an option for you, and you can't meet inside yet, go for it!