Q: Is the drive-in method legal during COVID-19?
A: As of April 6, 2020 the answer is yes, but check with your governing authorities every week to ensure it is legal and helpful to your community. Governor Abbott’s executive order GA-14 reminded it is legal in the State of Texas to gather in this manner for worship. If this were to change, we encourage you to comply. Wise leaders should evaluate decisions beyond merely legality. It is not only what is legal or easier to accomplish, but also what is best for the well being of your congregation while honoring the Lord.
Q: What are the pros and cons of drive-in?
- A face-to-face element
- Potentially easier for seniors to attend
- Low technology dependence
- Can be produced without extra purchases
- A fun change for many communities
- Will feel closer to normal for some churches
- Subject to inclement weather
- Can be challenging to achieve a quality audio and visual experience via FM (see below)
- It may not reach as many new or lost people as online worship services
- Discourages minimized travel and social distancing
- Attenders may be safe at the worship service, but it is not as safe as staying at home
Q: What is the easiest way to execute drive-in worship?
A: Move your sound system outside and ask participants to roll the windows down while parked in your church parking lot. Consider maintaining an element of evangelism by encouraging your congregation to text an invite to lost friends and family. Encourage all families to attend in their own family vehicle.
Q: What precautions should churches take in this method of gathering for worship?
A: There are several wise steps you can take:
- Let your people know the building will be locked, including restrooms
- Ask participants to bring their own snacks and beverages, instead of serving them
- Do not have a greeting time that requires close proximity
- Ask cars to park every other space while the windows are down
- Make an after service announcement reminding participants to take their family home before running any errands
- Ask each family to stay in their own car for the duration of the service
- Have a contingency plan for inclement weather
Q: What about low power FM broadcasting?
A: FM broadcasting can be a good option if done legally. It will not carry the same audio quality as online streaming, but is worth consideration in certain contexts. A bonus to this method is it allows broadcast from inside your building on a rainy day. Costs for an FM transmitter range from $150 to several hundred dollars online. For FCC regulations visit https://www.fcc.gov/media/radio/lpfm-frequently-asked-questions.
Q: Will the FCC really fine my church for illegal FM broadcasting?
A: Yes. Make sure your broadcasting device is up to date and in compliance. Use only legal frequencies. Again, visit the FCC website to ensure compliance.
Q: Are there additional audio options for attendees beyond a live stage or FM broadcasting?
A: Yes. If the church property you are gathered on has reasonable cell phone signal, you can broadcast music and preaching online. Many people now use their phones (and connect them to a car sound system) to listen to podcasts, music and other media. Use a platform like Zoom (since many are adopting it for Bible studies already) and provide a link to your congregation via email to open for listening to the worship service via conference call.
Q: How do I prepare an outside stage?
A: Safety and simplicity are the two keys to a good outdoor worship service. First, safety must be your highest concern. The most obvious concern is proximity to water with electrical equipment. Make sure the stage, wires, microphones and power cables are off the ground and away from water. Simplicity will help the flow of setting up and tearing down each and every week. When considering placement, attempt to be in the best place possible for visibility. Be careful to keep dust and dirt out of your cables or it will create extra expense later on.
Q: How can we provide the opportunity to give?
A: There are three options that work for this method of gathering.
- Provide a drive-thru option for cars as they leave. If you choose this option, be wise with security. Because this may be an extended season it may be worth permanently affixing, providing security oversight, and empty the contents immediately after collection.
- Provide an address for mail-in giving (help here: https://sbtexas.com/mail-in-giving-q-a/).
- Develop an online giving tool (help here: https://sbtexas.com/online-giving-q-a/).
Q: How can I collect decisions and regular ministry information?
A: This is similar to the giving question. Consider collecting information via drive-thru drop box, text and/or email. During your service announce the number or email address several different times. Create a graphic and post it on social media or communicate the information via email during the week. Moving from car to car as you collect or distribute items increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 to attenders.
Q: Should we consider traffic flow?
A: Yes. It is helpful to create and communicate a plan for cars arriving and leaving campus. Enlisting a health-screened team of parking attendants can be a great option to fill all of your spaces and provide order. Many churches will experience the most traffic congestion at the conclusion of the service. Consider dismissing by row or a similar plan. Always consider the safety of children in your planning and communication.
Q: What about communion?
A: Be advised to ask participants to bring their own water or juice and bread or crackers. It is recommended to avoid serving anything from car to car.
Q: What about song words?
A: Print and email a PDF, post lyric links on social media or rent an outdoor projector. The projection location should be in shade for maximum effectiveness.
Q: At what point should our church move totally online?
A: The SBTC recommends exploring some form of online worship as a backup plan while you enjoy drive-in worship services. Online would become the only option should a mandatory quarantine be enforced in your community. It would become very important if the quarantine lasts for an extended period of time.