Home Driveways Become Neighborhood Worship Centers during COVID-19
By Jaymie Dieterle
Roy Maxwell, a retired Church of God pastor from Ohio, and his wife, Sharon, call themselves snowbirds. While they live in Ohio during the warm Midwest months, they winter in Florida. This year, though, they are also spending their spring down south. “Ohio is still pretty closed down, so we decided to stay down here. The weather’s better!” Roy remarked.
While they are in Florida, Roy and Sharon attend a church plant near their home close to The Villages. In fact, Roy preached the recorded sermon their church used for their virtual service on Mother’s Day.
When the pandemic struck earlier this spring, and church services shifted online, the Maxwells and some neighbors decided to get creative and offer something more tangible to their community—a driveway church service.
On Sunday mornings the Maxwells’ neighbors will walk over—or drive their golf carts. Their guests follow social distancing guidelines while still gathering face to face for worship. They average around ten people on Sundays, and they had seventeen for Easter.
A typical Sunday service includes several worship songs, as well as time for prayer. Roy presents a short message each week. The driveway services are allowing the Maxwells to build relationships with some of the neighbors they might not have gotten to know otherwise.
The Maxwells launched their gatherings with door-to-door invitations to the homes around theirs. Then they invited those folks to invite their friends. They have had people attend who have been estranged from any sort of church for decades due to past experiences. The Maxwells hope the inroads made during the driveway services will continue even when congregations start meeting in person again.
“If we are willing, God gives opportunities,” Roy says. The Maxwells have made themselves available to the Lord, and their driveway congregation is the opportunity God provided. A community is growing through worship, prayer, and encouragement, right in the middle of their neighborhood.
The Maxwells’ experience inspired another driveway church service a thousand miles away. Nancy Blankenship knows Roy and Sharon from the Church of God in Ohio. Nancy had just told her husband that the virtual church services were just not working for her. “I needed something more,” she said. That’s when Nancy saw Sharon’s pictures from their driveway service in Florida.
Since Nancy has served as a worship leader, she had the equipment at her home in Carlisle, Ohio, to provide sound for their own driveway service. She contacted a neighbor who plays trumpet and told him, “I want to do driveway church for our neighbors.” When she explained the idea to him, he immediately said, “I’m in.” Another of Nancy’s neighbors is a Bible scholar. He agreed to plan a 10- or 15-minute devotional thought for the service. Nancy made flyers and distributed them around their immediate neighborhood. Due to scheduling, they had to move their service to a Saturday, but that actually worked out better. They had over thirty people attend.
“When I saw people coming out of their homes and walking down the street, I started crying,” Nancy said. “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in our neighborhood.” There was even a family from another neighborhood over that was drawn out by the music. They wandered the neighborhood to find the gathering, saying “We had to find the source of this music.”
Nancy says they want to hold another service once the spring rains slow down. A few of the people in her neighborhood haven’t been to a church in years, except for funerals, but they loved the driveway gathering. Many neighbors have been stopping by to ask when there might be another service. Because of the age of some of their neighbors, it seems unlikely those folks will be quick to return to churches once they reopen, so Nancy wants to continue to provide a place for people to connect with their community and with God.
Jaymie Dieterle is a freelance writer with a passion for books, reading, and life-long learning. She enjoys writing adult small group and Sunday school curriculum for Warner Press. Jaymie and her family live in Anderson, Indiana, and they are actively involved at Madison Park Church of God.
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.
*Feature (top) photo: “driveway worship” in Florida.