I preach regularly at the Woodland Drive-In Church in Grand Rapids. I’ve been doing so for almost twenty-nine years. This church began in 1970 as an outreach of Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, which challenged their congregation to create a ministry for people not reached through traditional church programs.
The question inevitably arises: Why would people want to worship at a drive-in church instead of sitting inside a traditional church?
There are two main categories of people who attend our services: permanent (those who have made this ministry their church home) and temporary (those who come occasionally or for a certain period of time).
There are many reasons people chose to be permanent attenders of the Drive-In Church. For some there’s a continued need for special physical accommodations (e.g., reclining instead of sitting, oxygen tanks, etc.). Other people choose to deal with issues such as fragrance allergies, agoraphobia, or negative past experiences with traditional church settings by worshiping in a drive-in setting.
Some people who attend temporarily have post-surgical needs, which can be better accommodated (e.g., elevating feet or legs) in a vehicle than a pew. Others may have personal circumstances that cause them to feel too fragile emotionally to have social interactions that are part of the traditional church setting. People with such needs attend the Drive-In Church until they feel physically or mentally ready to go back to their regular church.
In the last few years I have noticed an additional type of temporary worshiper. A number of middle-aged worshipers have been taking an elderly parent to our weekly church service. These parents have significant health problems, and they no longer feel comfortable sitting in a church pew or chair surrounded by other people. Some have failing eyesight or hearing, or they need oxygen tanks, or they have difficulty walking. They do, however, find they can get comfortable in a car or SUV and adjust the radio volume to whatever it needs to be.
The Drive-In Church has been and continues to be a meaningful worship setting for up to 150 people each Sunday. I personally think there should be more of these in other cities; there are people out there for whom the traditional worship setting doesn’t seem right.
What do you think? How could a drive-in church meet a need in your community?