Drive-In Church: A Virginia Congregation’s Creative Solution
By Carl Stagner
Gary and Karla Campbell were praying for a vision to lead their community through the coronavirus crisis when it happened. Karla stumbled upon a photo on the Internet depicting a preacher proclaiming the Word of God from a raised platform—in the midst of a parking lot. The two leaders, shepherds of the flock at Glade Community Church of God, turned toward each other: “Why not?” they wondered. On Sunday, March 22, “drive-in church” became a reality in the community of Glade Spring, just outside of Chilhowie, Virginia.
Church volunteers helped park cars in a “predetermined pattern” on the lot to facilitate their outdoor, socially distanced worship service. Of course, the sound equipment had to be brought outside and set up under their covered porch. Congregants were encouraged to crack open their windows so they could hear and be involved in safe and meaningful ways.
“We took prayer requests by passing prayer cards to each car and collecting them during our offering,” Gary explains. “I announced that our prayer team would be praying for each request every day until the next Sunday. For interaction—and I know this seems a bit crazy, but it worked—I asked whoever had an unspoken need to flash their lights. The response was 100-percent. In addition, I asked that our ‘amen crowd’ could respond with a brief honk of their horn or flash of their lights. People loved interacting this way, and it gave them a sense of connectedness to the service and each other. The response was literally overwhelming.”
Pastor Gary realizes that COVID-19 restrictions vary state by state, and that not every church could pull off what they have. But he also suggests that larger churches could stream their service and utilize radio frequencies or Bluetooth capabilities so the message to reach families safely enclosed in their cars.
While the coronavirus remains a very serious concern, churches like Glade Community can’t ignore the financial concern. With the disruption of the traditional Sunday morning offering also comes the disruption of consistent giving. Pastor Gary Campbell says they’re putting in place online giving options, including an app called Easy Tithe. He’s thankful to observe that people actually seem to be more interested, not less, in giving during trouble times like these.
“So,” he explains, “we are now giving a specific list of our weekly financial needs and, not only asking for general giving, but also for people, who are able, to pick up particular financial needs for that week. This keeps our giving personal and they see exactly how our giving is making a difference.”
Other functions of the church continue in spite of the crisis, including member care. Pastor Gary has asked each person in the congregation to connect with at least one other person online or by phone, at least once a day. He has also challenged his congregation to adopt persons in the community outside their church—especially those most at-risk and in need—to help them pick up prescriptions, run errands for groceries, and so on.
Last, but not at all least, the Holy Spirit has not been quarantined, continuing to move from heart to heart. Life change has not been canceled at Glade Community Church and a baptism has been added to the calendar. Restrictions will limit the level of in-person participation, but not the level of celebration. Shortly thereafter, the church will share the video with the rest of the congregation.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.