On March 22, cars pulled into the First Baptist Church Kaufman parking lot, just like every other Sunday. However, instead of getting out of the car and walking into the church, people turned their radios on. FBC Kaufman held its first-ever drive-in worship service in response to the new public gathering restrictions brought on by the spread of COVID-19.
Senior Pastor Brent Gentzel explained that the drive-in service presented a unique opportunity for attendees to worship in the same physical locations while maintaining a safe environment. A stage was built on a hill adjacent to the parking lot where the worship band performed and Gentzel preached. The attendees tuned in on the radio in their cars, and the lyrics to the worship songs were available on the church’s mobile app.
“It’s always a time of joy when God’s people get together and I think this Sunday felt especially joyful… I’ve preached in a lot of different places and settings, and I could really feel God’s presence,” Gentzel remarked.
Gentzel used the drive-in service to remind the congregation of God’s continued presence throughout the COVID-19 restrictions and started a new sermon series, entitled “The Great Reset.” The series will focus on using this season of disruption to the fullest and using it as a wakeup call to end spiritual bad habits and begin good habits.
“In every crisis, there’s an extra opportunity for growth,” Gentzel explained. “In this case, it can be an opportunity to reset and reprioritize. If you know you need to be a better person and break some old habits, this is a great chance to do that.”
In addition to receiving spiritual nourishment, drive-in participants also had a chance to see their friends and wave at each other through their car windows. These small, but much needed, interactions were an important way to encourage people struggling with the isolation, which was one of the goals FBC Kaufman hoped to accomplish when they began organizing the drive-in.
Transmitting the message through the radio had a few important rules the church had to follow. For other churches interested in having a radio broadcast, Gentzel explained that the most important part of the process was ensuring that the church found an available frequency to broadcast on and did not interrupt any pre-existing broadcasts, which would be a breach of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protocol. Gentzel cautioned that this could be harder to do in large cities. The transmission also had to be contained within the church property. In order to reach those who could not attend in person, the service was also streamed on the church’s website.
For their first drive-in Sunday, the church hosted their Southern Gospel service, followed by a contemporary one. Following the success of this week, they plan to also offer a Spanish service starting next week. They plan on continuing the services as long as they are safe and allowed.