How can a congregation not “congregate?” This is a question addressed by all churches during this time of “shelter at home” orders and “social distancing.” Some answers include offering worship experiences “online” by way of Facebook Live, YouTube, and website streaming.
Being “online” is not new for churches but some current results are. The almost universal utilization of these “online worship experiences” has resulted in many fruits of conversion. For example, one church told of a streaming service watched by a member whose unbelieving spouse prayed to receive Christ right in their living room after years of resistance to the Gospel. This kind of story has been repeated numerous times.
Another new ministry offering for churches is what some are calling “Drive-in Church.” This is when a church invites people to “gather” in cars in the parking lot. Here is some preliminary feedback and advice that has been received from more than a dozen pastors who have conducted drive-in services.
- have assistance to direct people to designated parking spots, one space apart
- have the parking assistance there very early because many want to get a “prime” spot. Jonathan Haskew at Henry Baptist said, “if possible, park the cars so all can see you.”
- make sure that the service is simple, no announcements and other extras
- have special parking for SUVs and vans in the back because they block everyone’s view behind them
- a short service (45 minutes max) because just sitting in the car, especially with children, will limit attention spans
- have lettering on instruction signs very large and limited text because drivers can’t read a complex and small lettered sign while driving
- if speaking by way of FM radio, no need to project your voice like you would normally in preaching to reach the back room. Bryan Smith of FBC Roanoke said, “Preach for persuasion and personal appeal rather than vocal reach.”
- remind them not to get out of their cars
- a drive-in service is a good supplement for an online sermon but not a substitute (online services reach far more people).
- regarding online or streaming, repeat the gospel appeal throughout b/c people tune in and tune out. As Dr. Stan Parris of Franklin Heights Church put it, “make sure that a Gospel appeal is spread through the message rather than waiting for a final culmination.”
- model social distancing with musicians and preaching
- as far as music, pick music that people know and can sing along, which can be a significant comfort at this time
These are just a few thoughts from the experience of many pastors. Let us remember our Gospel call … “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) May God continue to multiply our Gospel efforts!
Don Cockes is a regional catalyst in the Valley region for the SBC of Virginia.