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PA Brian Lawless
PA Brian Lawless
PA Brian Lawless
PA Brian Lawless
UK News

How would drive-in church work?

by Cara Bentley

With Ofcom looking into giving churches temporary broadcast licenses, the first stage of the gathered church meeting again could be the faithful meeting in car parks across the country. 

This has already started in Northern Ireland, with deacons in hi-vis guiding people to their parking space and worshippers bringing their own elements for Communion. 

For Elim Church Maghaberry, pastor Brian Madden stood in the porch of their church with a music stand and preached via loudspeakers to his congregation who sat in their cars facing him, as well as neighbours who overheard and the odd person who pulled over in their car to listen too. 

Each parked vehicle must have people from the same household in, only have their front right window open - to keep social distancing rules - and no one can get out of their car to use the church toilets. 

They used a big bin to take enveloped offerings for missionaries abroad, which was then sanitised. 

Pastor Brian told Premier it brought him back to a time where, as a new believer at 19 years old, he did open air preaching in Belfast: "When I was standing at the front of the church porch and was preaching through a microphone, I just went way back to when I was doing open-airs and just enjoyed myself!"

Next week Brian will be trying a radio transmitter as well so that people can tune-in through their cars, an option which some may choose as it's weather-proof and doesn't disturb neighbours. 


Chris Bright from Thinking Church, who helps churches with their mission and strategy - and recently helping churches successfully do livestreams, told Premier churches shouldn't leap at the chance to do American-movie style services unless they genuinely think it's a better option. 

He said: "The big question you're going to have to think through is why are you trying to do this? If the church exists to serve the needs of those outside of the church by making disciples, can that be achieved through drive-in services?"

He advised church leaders to think about how they are going to cater for those who do not have cars and those who are still self-isolating or elderly, as well as their capacity. 

Mr Bright added that he doesn't want churches to leave their progress behind: "From an evangelistic standpoint, the church has made great strides with online church, with it being reported that 20 per cent of the UK have been tuning in to an online service at some point during lockdown. By rushing into drive-in services, I think we risk undoing the good work that we've made with online church, 

"Online church will never replace in-person gatherings but they have become a very successful shop window for the church and it will become the logical first step for anyone that's seeking a relationship with God or looking to get involved with church in some way."

Agreeing with this, pastor Brian's solution has been to do both - by streaming the drive-in service on Facebook as well so no one misses out.  

However he added: "What I would say is the smiles on people's faces who hadn't seen anyone for eight weeks, even though they were just in cars, they were waving at each other and smiling at each other."

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