Drive-in church meetings
Some states have stay-at-home orders, but many of them still allow drive-in church services (aka tailgate church). Some states even allow attendees to sit on lawn chairs and blankets. Most people need a change of scenery to experience something different, and drive-in church provides that impetus to get in car and still see other believers. “I want to come and talk to you in person, because this will make us really happy.” 1 John 1:12. This can be a good option for households where members are healthy and have consistently practiced physical distancing methods (eg. CDC) for previous two weeks.
Is drive-in allowed for your church?
To find out, search for Twitter account of your governor or state health department on Twitter to find a link to most recent statement concerning permission for drive-in church activities. You can also request help finding this, or perhaps search online or Facebook for other churches in your state that have done drive-in services to ask them. If you are one of the first one’s in your county to have drive-in church services, contact your county sheriff’s department or emergency management agency to coordinate with them. Also, check to see if local sound ordinances will be a factor.
Some states allow windows to be open. This can allow churches to use outdoor speakers, and allow cars roll down their windows if the weather is tolerable. If your services require open car windows, church volunteers and signage should direct traffic flow and make sure people are parking at least 6 feet apart. Another option for inclement weather or for states requiring closed windows is that your church can also broadcast via its own FM or AM radio transmitter (details below), though most now are on back-order.
Some states allow up to 10 people to be out of their vehicle at a time, including those on front platform. Church volunteers need to wipe down bathroom handles, door knobs, and microphones between uses. In some cases, you may choose to require that no one should leave vehicles for any reason, and require that people use the bathroom before coming, or leave the premises to use if needed.
Some states have removed the outdoor limitation, so that any attendee can sit in a lawn chair near their vehicles or on the back of their truck.
Examples of drive-in church services
Samples are churches in Arlington, VA, Shenandoah,VA, Harrisonburg, VA, Front Royal, VA 1 Waynesboro, VA, Chesapeake, VA, Fredericksburg, VA, Lenexa, KS, Culloden, WV, Maumee, OH, Keyser, WV, Dola, WV
Those with drive-in services should still also make your service available for online audiences. This can also serve as a back-up plan due to rain or government restriction changes. Promote this drive-in service on your church’s Facebook or Youtube page or as a Facebook event.
In most drive-in services, attendees honk instead of saying Amen or clapping. “Raise your hand out your car window and wave at each other. Honking the horn is an amen. Turning your lights on means you’re moved by the spirit.” says this Alabama minister.
Using advanced livestream tools, it is possible to switch to a lyric screen during worship songs. Here’s an example at 15 minute mark using OBS synchronized with ProPresenter (instructions). It is also possible to put the chyron and church logo, like this.
Potential meeting locations
It could be in a church parking lot, a park, fairgrounds, at a hospital 1 2 or down by a river. Some say that having it off of church property can make it easier for people to visit from other churches. Depending on the location, some have had the preacher and worship team sing from a trailer, from a stage, from a platform scaffold, from the porch of the front door of the church, from the church roof, from a pickup truck, or even have the preacher high up on a scissor lift.
Whatever your solution, make sure that the wind does not blow on the microphones and overpower the audio. Consider getting wind screens for your microphone. Mics for headsets are also an option. All speakers and musicians on the outdoor platform should practice social distancing, and not sing towards each other. Here is an well-done safe example.
Communication and distribution
- offering – Text to give, online giving, rectangular offering bucket that vehicles can drive by and drop in offering.
- communion – Bring your own communion 1
- Offering can be collected or communion cups (with wafer inside) can be delivered if an usher (wearing gloves) come with small container extended on rod. (eg. narrow swimming pool leaf skimmer, or mini dust pan attached to pole, or fruit picker) Those using poles should wipe down if anyone touches ending.
- greeters – wear parking vest or special t-shirt (perhaps with radio frequency on it)
- bulletins/worship slides – Have them email designated address (or text) to receive auto-response with bulletin and worship slides.
- service duration – It could be same, or shorter. If longer, kids would need to stay home with one of the parents.
Sample template for rules you can post for those attending
Make the rules clear, and reinforce with announcements from the platform, videos or images on social media, on the church website, and linked in emails and texts. Run these by the church board and factor in the needs of your congregation, any guidelines from your denomination (if applicable), and local and state restrictions.
“1. If any members of your household have not practiced social distancing or are sick with symptoms associated with COVID19, please stay at home! Please pray for your church family and make sure to care of yourself.
2. Please pay attention to the parking attendants (wearing safety vests) and follow their instructions as you approach the church building and park your car.
3. It will be chilly in the morning. Bring blankets and jackets for your comfort in your cars. Bring your own Bibles and well-charged cell phones if you wish to also watch livestream.
4 Every family unit stays at least 6 feet apart from other people, even if you are speaking or singing through an open car window. Do not mix. We can have no more than 10 people outside of vehicles (including pastor and volunteers) As much as possible, stay in your cars in order for us to be in compliance with federal and state guidelines.
5. Do not pick up or invite people or family members into your car who do not live with you. No one exchanges anything with other households. If any household member has not practiced physical distancing methods (eg. CDC) to avoid COVID19 infection during previous 2 weeks, then anyone from that household should attend in their designated or disinfected vehicle. Shared air in vehicles causes higher incidence of transmission than at home. 1
6. The church building will NOT be open, and no childcare will be available. No one should use the playground. Use the bathroom before you come. Bring snacks and quiet activities for kids.
7. We’re live-streaming, please keep your engine off the entire time of the drive-in church service. If you think you’ll need your engine on, park far away from the platform.
8. We will be taking an offering tomorrow. Your support is needed to help our church and our faith community to minister to those around us. You can drop the offering in the offering bucket, or you can flag an usher to bring a bucket (held out with a pole) for you to drop donation in. You can also text at [text giving info] in your donation.
We are excited to see what God will do tomorrow! May God Bless You!”
Rules revised from Lake Gaston A/G
For inclement weather, radio is better than live streaming because in rural area especially, the time lag of internet streaming is not as quick as low FM. The audio from radio is real-time, so that’s an ideal option. (sample use by a church in Florida) Some churches even get local radio stations to carry the service. “The service was aired on 92.1 WSVA and on Facebook.”
For those in USA: One pastor said: “You don’t need a license. Part 15 of the FCC regulations allows low power transmitters. FM transmissions are regulated by field strength, AM transmissions are regulated by power.” For more info, you can join this Facebook group. The legal standard for the US in Ch I of FCC PART 15–RADIO FREQUENCY DEVICES Subpart B–Unintentional Radiators Sec. 15.109 concerns radiated emission limits on fm is that you can not make a signal strength in the fm band that is “more than 150 microvolts per meter”. Unlicensed FM microphones use 1/4 watt or so and some Drive-In theaters choose to remain unlicensed and use 1 watt or so to cover a larger area. Rarely does anyone receive a fine – though the FCC may drop in and ask someone to change channels and/or reduce power (change transmitter and/or antenna strength).
If you purchase one, please make sure that it a) is for the FM frequency band (87.9 MHz to 108 MHz) and b) that it says that it is FCC Part 15 compliant.
If you count on many to use internet streaming, provide external wifi access-points and blanket the parking-lot with the internet, and that those in their cars can stream the service. At a minimum, everyone doing drive-in should also either video record and upload to social media, or livestream for those not present.
Phone conference Call audio quality could be used, but it would be pretty terrible for music.
Here are some potential radio transmitters you can order: