Because of the COVID19 safety restrictions, we have shifted faith formation for little people from inside the building this summer to the parking lot. Children remain in their vehicles to celebrate Jesus as a family.
I’d spoken with many churches doing drive-in church well for their adults knowing there were children in the vehicles. We wanted to do drive-in church well for kids knowing their adults were in the vehicles. Considerations were multi-sensory, hands-on, all-skate, Bible reading, give tools and practice for family prayer, car-chat discussion, games, a noisy offering response, kid-friendly contact collection, follow-up, a sound system, smooth traffic flow, a take-away, aimed at an audience of 3rd grade boys, 20 minutes, Jesus content, leave ‘em smiling. Three services at 6pm (1st grade & younger), 7pm (2nd & 3rd graders), 8pm (4th & 5th graders). If a family has multiples, they pick their service.
We shifted to a different location due to rain at the start of the first service. By the third service we were blessed with a rainbow in the sky. God’s goodness was waiting for us. The volunteers close to the vehicles were masked and gloved. We used our current Sunday school curriculum as the starting point for planning.
Hospitality – Colorful signs and familiar Sunday school music as they arrive and park.
Welcome – Each kid gets a registration form and black balloon at arrival to pop later. Inside each balloon is a piece of paper with the scripture inside. Registration form asks for family name, how many in the car, email address. Kids fold it into a paper airplane to fly at a target at the end of the service in the world’s largest offering plate (kiddie pool).
Game – The Masked Dancer (3 animal masks; choir robes) to Can’t Stop The Feeling.
Song – Taught sign language to Amazing Grace, then played the 2 minute Sunday school music to do the signs together.
Game – God created our bodies so let’s play Simon Says and see how well your body works (air guitar, lift legs as high as you can, hug yourself, hug your family, pat your head, kiss your tummy, touch your nose with your tongue, etc.)
Pop the balloon – Find out where to look in your Bible, Psalm 139.
Pray in song – O Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.
Bigs read Psalm 139:1-14 – Psalm 139 was written by David and known as a man after God’s own heart. David wrote people are wonderfully made because of who made us: God! Share the story of how Milk Duds got its name. We are not duds, we are wonderfully made by a wonderfully, perfect, and loving God.
Car Chat – We learn that God is our creator and He sees our thoughts and actions. Is that a good thing? Do we really want God to see us all the time? Does God know you? How does it feel to know that God created you? (Leave space in-between each question.)
Personal Testimony – The things God made about us were made that way for a reason. I shared about my Dad’s big voice. I have that same big voice because God knew one day that I’d need a big voice to tell kids about Jesus. Even the things you might not like about yourself can be part of God’s purpose for you and He can use it so you can tell others about Jesus.
Closing Prayer – Hand-stack prayer: everyone in the vehicle stacks hands on top of each other. The person whose hand is at the bottom of the stack goes first, praying a single sentence prayer as they pull out his hand and place it on top of the hand stack. Then, the next person prays and pulls her hand out and places it on top of the stack until everyone gets to pray aloud then all close with AMEN.
Leaving activity – Receive offering and fly the registration form paper airplanes into the kiddie pools carried around the parking lot. Kids get small boxes of Milk Duds tossed into the vehicles from someone who is gloved.
Lessons learned to put into place next week – Each person who speaks introduces themselves (not everyone in the vehicle will know us); wireless mic for the speaker rather than a hand-held to facilitate greater movement; pray for no rain so we can use the larger space and all can see the speaker when necessary.
We plan for each week to look differently and the experience to be different. Example: emcee added to week #2; drive-in stations for each vehicle on week #4; send-out station at the end on week #3; end with a drive-thru pool party and water on week #4.
Text messages were sent and received on Sunday from the big people of several upper elementary boys sharing what their boys remembered and enjoyed at the service so we know what to focus on next week as most memorable. The hand-written follow-up postcards were mailed out the following Monday to mailing addresses as a thank you for coming and an invite to come back followed with an email reminder for the next Thursday to go out on Wednesday morning. If no address is known, we will contact by email to introduce ourselves and make connection the next day. Content is not king. Connection is king. It’s all about the growing of our relationships. This was a natural next-step in discipleship for those who came to know us at the drive-thru.
Jeff Henderson is an entrepreneur, speaker, pastor, business leader, and author of Know What You’re FOR: A Growth Strategy for Work, An Even Better Strategy for Life. In a recent talk about Three Strategies For Re-entry, he said, “Don’t let your customer grow accustomed to doing life without you.” We don’t have customers; we have disciples of Jesus and we are responsible for one another. We need each other, we’re better together, we’re wired for community, and drive-in church on Thursday evenings this summer will allow us to continue to safely do life together with littles and their bigs.
The biggest win? The big people in the lives of our little people are the heroes here. These bigs are leading their kids/grandkids to keep their eyes on Jesus and their eyes out for other people. We are just providing the setting and the sacred space.
“I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:23