Safely Host a Drive-In Worship Service

With stay-at-home orders in place for nearly every state, ministries are searching for creative ways to host worship services. Many ministries are choosing to livestream or host pre-recorded services. Some ministries are hosting drive-in worship services either on ministry property or at alternative local venues.

A drive-in worship service works like a drive-in movie theater, allowing services to be held while still respecting social distancing. Attendees park in your parking lot or a grassy area and stay in their vehicles and tune in to a live service broadcast via a local radio station, through a local FM transmitter, or through live streaming.

Before hosting a drive-in service, there are some important safety considerations.

  1. Follow stay-at-home orders. Some states or counties may have stay-at-home orders that do not allow for a drive-in church service. Check with your local officials before organizing an event.
  2. Determine broadcast capabilities. Are you planning to livestream your service or broadcast to FM radio? If you’re planning to host an FM radio broadcast, you’ll need a radio transmitter. These can typically be purchased for around $200 and allow you to broadcast an FM signal within approximately one mile. Consider asking a local radio station if it has interest in partnering with you. Many stations are friendly to the local content you can provide.
  3. Control traffic flow. To minimize the risk of a fender-bender, use volunteers to guide vehicles in an orderly fashion. Fill the parking lot from front-to-back to maximize space.
  4. Be visible. Make sure any staff or volunteers wear hi-visibility safety vests so they can be easily seen by vehicles. Make sure volunteers and staff maintain at least six feet of separation from others. Also, you may want to emphasize the use of masks and gloves among staff and volunteers to convey an extra measure of safety and care.*
  5. Let people know to shelter-in-vehicle. Communicate to attendees that they must stay in their vehicles with windows rolled up. This maintains appropriate distancing and avoids the temptation to talk to friends in neighboring vehicles. Encourage drivers to “clap” or greet each other by beeping their car horns.
  6. Keep your facility or the off-site facility being used closed. Communicate with attendees beforehand that restroom facilities and child care will be unavailable.
  7. Don’t use printed programs. To minimize exposure, send attendees the service information via email or post online so they can view it on their own devices. Alert attendees prior to the service to bring their own Bibles.
  8. Get creative with collecting the offering. Don’t pass offering plates, instead, use collection buckets located at the exit for attendees to drop in their offering as they leave. Sanitize the buckets between uses and wear appropriate protective gear, particularly gloves, when counting the money.
  9. Offer worship music. While some ministries may use pre-recorded music, others may prefer live music with their worship band. If you’re using live music, make sure performers are practicing appropriate distancing during the worship. If you can’t project lyrics onto a screen, skip distributing hymnals and choose music familiar to attendees. Make sure you have proper licensing to use the music. You can read more about licensing on the Brotherhood Mutual Safety Library.
  10. Alert local authorities beforehand so they’re aware of the gathering.
  11. Maintain safety equipment. Make sure you have safety equipment on hand, such as fire extinguishers, in case of a car fire, or AEDs in case of a medical emergency.
  12. Refrain from communion. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to maintain social distancing during communion. It may not be practical during a drive-in church service.

By following some practical guidance, ministries may still be able to creatively host worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic. While drive-in worship services may be temporary for most ministries, for some, it might just become a creative outreach activity.

*Familiarize yourself with CDC guidance regarding cloth face coverings.

Posted April 7, 2020

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.