Not wanting our families to grow accustomed to doing life without one another, we find Thursday night drive-in church the sacred space to nurture those and new relationships. Guidelines were provided by our denominational leaders. We’re a few weeks in and plan to offer these weekly memorable experiences throughout June, July, and August. This is drive-in church for kids with adults in the vehicle, not drive-in church for adults with kids in the vehicle. Each week finds us in edit-to-excellence mode and this is what we’re learning:

Keep the service short
Keep the services at twenty minutes. Families arrive up to ten minutes early to get settled. Families are lingering after the services especially if the weather is fantastic. One of the goals of the services is to offer space and time for re-connection, yet we need to make way for the next wave of service families and remain deeply hospitable. Stick with the most important holy habits to share in this season with most of the activity taking place in the vehicle: game, prayer, Bible reading, and music. Twenty minutes is the limit.

Intentional visual memories
Children recall memories in visual form accentuated by how they feel. Use a lot of beach balls, make big foam board pizza and walk it around. Bubble machines and balloons in clusters. Music with masked dancers and use the church’s choir robes, decorate you with the theme or a tutu or a chef’s jacket. Bring out a huge measuring tape to stay mindful of six-feet-apart in a humorous way. Name tags are good for inside the building, but what does a greater visual look like to recognize who the leaders are? We had black aprons made with our logo embroidered largely on the chest so it can be seen from far away. We’ll use these when we return to inside-the-building children’s programming as well for visual hospitality moments since we won’t be able to high-five, hug, or be physical. We’ve also ordered some handheld signs to use to transition from the parking lot to inside the building. Already looking down the road at what can we bridge from outside the building to inside the building when we can return to inside programming.

Introduce yourself
Whoever is speaking, introduce yourself. Not everyone will know who you are. Say your name and speak of your family as who is connected to you. It’ll build connection between you and the families in your audience. Add a story of what your family did the last week that relates to the service theme: cooking theme/your family’s favorite pizza, then turn it around to a discussion prompt for each vehicle. We have a young man as our one of our emcees who grew up in our church as a kid. When he introduces himself, he speaks of his family and how his family members share the love of Jesus in the world and in our church: His Dad leads an adult Sunday School, his sister served in the Asian mission field, his Mom is a super servant on our Children’s Ministry Dream Team. I overheard a conversation between several older elementary students share, “We could do this one day when we grow up!” (Insert hand on heart here!)

Incorporate elements of what our kids did inside the building
Our students presented the Apostle’s Creed and the Gloria Patri in American Sign Language in our traditional service pre-Covid. We lead one or the other each week just before the Bible reading. Our Ambassadors who are serving on the parking lot team get to be the visual leaders of this. They do this best! We introduce this with a shout of three times of “Christians, what do you believe?” or “Followers of Jesus, what do you believe?” These amazing Ambassadors hold a sign which reads, “Flash your lights if this is your first time!” Since their families are the traffic team, we position these ambassadors nearest the first time vehicles for the kids in those cars to want to learn the signs to these elements that may not be familiar. Kids want to do what other, older kids are doing. 

Leverage what you know kids like
Knowing kids like to get things, kids like to pop balloons, and kids don’t like waiting to do something but will wait since it builds excitement. Investing in a Ryobi Inflater/Deflater, we blow up balloons most weeks with a rolled up piece of paper with the scripture location. Each kid gets a balloon and a registration form when they drive on the lot, but can’t pop the balloon until later in the service. Needing to capture contact information, each kid gets a take-away from each service AFTER they fly a paper airplane made from the registration form (they fold and fly it from their vehicle) into a kiddie pool. Take-aways include bags of popcorn (we say when we toss them into the car window, “Thanks for popping in!”), star bubble rods, cold Smart Water and Gatorade for our VIPs (Very Important People: Dads & GrandDads & Uncles & Spiritual Dads) for the Thursday before Father’s Day), helium balloons to be tied onto mailboxes of church shut-ins and saints as they leave to ‘spread the joy’ after the Psalm 100 service.)

We are learning something new each week. Stay tuned!

“I am carrying on a great project and I cannot go down.” Nehemiah 6:3