Phoenix Church Hosts Socially Distanced Drive-in Movie
By Kevin Spear
In the current climate of social distancing and restlessness, it can be very challenging for churches to find creative ways to hold events. Arcadia City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, found a way to keep their families connected and reach out to their community, while respecting social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea came to Pastor Michael Fay at a birthday party. He and his wife Christy copastor the Phoenix congregation. Michael said, “I was driving my eight-year-old to a drive-by birthday party parade. While we waited in the line of vehicles, I noticed how my son longed to get out of the car and be with his friends. He wanted to just hug them. It struck me how boys don’t tend to show how much they long for connection, but it was obvious they all wanted to be together.”
Michael began praying about a way to encourage that connection. He recalled some previous events when his church held movie nights for families. He thought, “What if the church hosted a free drive-in movie at the church?”
Michael presented the idea to the staff. At first, they were hesitant. The month of May is already hot in Phoenix, with an average high of 92 degrees. Besides, some feared it was too soon to gather, even if everyone stayed in their vehicles. But Michael believed the church and community needed this and that the people would turn out. The staff eventually agreed.
They went to work preparing equipment and getting popcorn and candy. They planned how to keep health and safety parameters. On the evening of the event, it was warm and breezy. The inflatable screen waved with the wind gusts. But the families didn’t mind. They were just glad to be together and enjoy the evening.
Sixteen families attended, including three that weren’t connected to the church. Since the event, one family began attending the Facebook Live church services. “We were thrilled,” said Michael. “We didn’t expect it to be an outreach event, so that was awesome to see the added participation.”
Ashley Hopkins is a regular attendee at Arcadia City Church. She and her husband have three children. She said, “Our children were beyond excited to be out and doing something special. We recently had a baby and have been very careful about who we encounter and what we do. So, this was a perfect outing for us!”
When asked about how other churches can host a similar event, Michael encourages others to just try it. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Our screen kept swaying with the wind. The sound could have been better. There will always be technical issues to address. But what people want is to feel a human connection. In this cultural moment of social distancing, perhaps we are all Zoomed out. Just focus on safety and having fun.”
The church is excited about the turnout and hopes to have a similar event in the fall when temperatures begin to cool in Arizona.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Kevin Spear has worked for Warner Press and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. He is a ministry partner with his wife Paula, who is an ordained minister in the 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.