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Childrey Baptist Church Reaches Out with Drive-in Worship

Childrey Baptist Church parking lot

Posted: 3/25/20 at 12:00pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

About two weeks ago I was talking to a group of pastors about the coronavirus outbreak and what that might mean for churches. Rev. Jerry Stanfield from Childrey Baptist in Nathalie, VA, was in that meeting. We talked about live streaming options for worship, including Facebook Live. A pastor commented: “Most of my people don’t have computers or WiFi.”

I then remembered another option. At a church I used to serve, they offered a live Nativity every year with persons sitting in their cars, listening through their car radios, and watching the scenes on the hill above. They used an AM radio transmitter that transmitted only in the church parking lot.

I immediately began asking pastors about this option. Reverend Jim Kopco, pastor at Winn’s Creek Baptist in Halifax, had used an FM radio transmitter for church. I found out a little from him about the cost and what was needed. For less than $100, it was possible!

About a week ago, Jerry Stanfield called me and wanted to know more about how to do the drive-in worship. I explained what little I knew and asked him to call Jim. A couple of days later, Jerry called me to say that they would have a drive-in worship service that next Sunday (March 29) at 3:00 pm. I congratulated him on his passion to try new things and asked him to let me know how it went.

Jerry called me on Monday. The service was wonderful! They were live streaming on Facebook Live for the first time as well. I asked for an interview to help other pastors and churches. Here is the rest of the story:

After talking to Jim Kopco and me, Jerry relied on some younger people in his church to help “this Baby Boomer Pastor” (his words). One person knew exactly what kind of FM radio transmitter they needed to purchase from Amazon.com. They purchased it for the church, connected it to the sound system in the sanctuary for the service, and tested it.       

Another young person agreed to help post the service as a Facebook Event to promote it, and they set up Facebook Live to broadcast the service.

At the service they encouraged everyone to stay in their cars and tune to a particular FM radio frequency, specifically for the parking lot area only. They had ushers at the exits for those who wanted to leave their offerings in a bucket. (Their offerings were much larger than the offering from the week before when they had their regular service!)

They had 19 food boxes from the local food pantry on tables. Families in cars were encouraged to get a box of food if they had need or knew someone else who had need of food. Ten boxes were taken after the service.

They used Facebook Live for their first time ever, and they had 1,200 views! Viewers as far away as Michigan and New Jersey thanked them for doing the service.

I asked Jerry, “What have you learned from this experience?”

He responded, “We are blessed to have younger people in our church to help this older pastor. I know God is in control even in these times. God would not want the church to be idle, especially in these times!”

He also suggested that the deacons’ eyes were opened to new possibilities to minister through technology. They were astounded that 1,200 viewers would participate while they were having drive-in worship. Jerry went on to say, “I believe the deacons and church will be open to using more technology even when we go back to normal gatherings at church.”

I asked Jerry about what is next. Jerry’s response: “Drive-in movie night for the community. I believe we have the people to build a screen and can use the technology we now have to show movies. Now that families can’t go to theatres and feel isolated, we want to provide a safe way for them to have entertainment.”

This morning, I was in a Zoom meeting with BGAV’s Executive Director, John Upton. He made this statement that I hope all churches will gravitate towards: “The gathered Church has become the Church on mission.” May it be so!    

Note: BGAV will add information soon to our resource page with instructions on how to conduct a drive-in worship service if you’d like to try it. But before you proceed, please check with your local law enforcement to secure/confirm your plans in cooperation with them.

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is BGAV’s Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org. Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7