In this in-between time I’ve taken classes, read books, watched webinars, talked with people from all over the country in preparation for whatever the Lord offers us so that we point our families to Jesus. That is where we are. All of us. We are all new-church-starts. Our personal and professional worlds will continue to look different for the foreseeable future. I quickly stopped lamenting what was lost by the end of March and was thrilled at the overwhelming invite from the Holy Spirit to do His work better for this unprecedented future.

I learned that however we are connecting with our faith families, each platform for connection (not just content), is a community. If we are connecting disciples of Jesus online, we have an online community. If we are connecting disciples of Jesus through the drive-thru, we have a drive-thru community. We leveraged the drive-thru community to go the next step and began the weekly kid’s drive-in service. If we are connecting disciples of Jesus with one another through drive-in church, we now have a drive-in community. I’m not talking about separate churches, but rather different, specific communities within the same church body. There is definitely some overlap, but each is a distinct community.

If this is so, I’ve decided to look at the closed children’s ministry Facebook group as one community requiring connection and engagement AND the drive-in families as another community requiring connection and engagement. Think two faith communities, still one church.

My home church started two new churches. Home-church folks were invited to gather, train, and pray themselves together to serve as the leadership of a new family of faith and go to a new community. They committed to a period of time together to be the core to start the new church, share life, practice the holy habits of service, worship, prayer, generosity, small groups, and equip the new disciples to live as followers of Jesus in the new community, then return to the home church or stay with the new family of faith once their time was done. They were the core disciple-makers until they could equip the new disciples to become disciple-makers. Keep this model in mind and you know where I’m headed…

With these two new communities (online and drive-in) I’ve enlisted the help of several disciple-makers within the ‘home church’ to help build relationship and engagement in each community. Though there is great overlap between the two new communities, there are some very distinct ways to connect and build relationships specific to each.

Online – There are several faithful disciple-makers who are all over social media. They know the language to affirm and engage in online conversations easily. With the goal of the FB group posts to roll in feeds regularly, we need regular and faithful engagement and it can’t just be me. How can we build relationships within this community? Last Wednesday I scheduled a post to celebrate National Iced Tea Day. One of these amazing online disciple-makers posted in the comments, “Sweet or Unsweet? I prefer unsweet myself and people think I’m crazy.” Within a couple of hours there were 47 comments. We have 285 members in this closed Facebook group. That’s engagement! Not digital marketing, but digital engagement within an online community. We have three home-church disciple-makers who make sure folks are having a great time online.

Each week we offer themes for this very purpose: joke week, either/or week, share week, prayer week, and we ask questions of our ‘online family’ several times each day. Summer engagement is different than school-year and with the average person on social media 144 minutes each day, post-COVID must be intentional. We’ve learned where people can find the best vegetables (42 comments), favorite place to go hiking (39 comments), why they choose Zaxby’s over KFC (75 comments), which book of the Bible rocked their world (31 comments), and which Chick-Fil-A sauce is their favorite (90 comments). Learning some holy habits through images and godly parenting blog posts, we are equipping them to point their kids to Jesus in a way that is simple, kid-friendly, and a regular part of life, as well as getting to know one another through sharing life online where we are…online community.

Drive-In – Each Thursday we are offering three separate 20-minute services for our kids with their families. We offer song, dance, car chats, and games, but the parents/grandparents are the directors and leaders in their vehicle. This community is seeing one another, laughing together, sharing memories, and making plans together to attend. Engagement with this community continues to grow as we’re face-to-face (kinda, but not really) and find ourselves sharing an experience together. We need to communicate in ways which are intentionally kid-friendly, outlandish, and over-the-top through the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Our music is kid-friendly but has lyrics of songs their parents know because we want everyone to feel “I belong here”. We learn some holy habits through sensory experiences equipping parents and grandparents to point their kids to Jesus in a way that is simple, kid-friendly, and a regular part of life. Getting to know one another and sharing life where we are…in the parking lot.

Those home-church disciple-makers serving in hospitality for the drive-in are entire families, especially our parking/traffic team. At the first drive-in we heard from our parking/traffic team that several drivers asked if some of the people were there, by name, who they connected with online. They were! The parking leaders then connected the folks who had only connected online before…and their conversations continued, although yelling in the parking lot to safely social distance. It was awesome and hilarious. THAT’s community!

How are you engaging in ALL of your given communities, getting to know one another and sharing life where you are with your families? This is the world new church starts live in, as do we.

“But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.” – Matthew 9:31