Local Church in the United States thrives on drive-thru services

A few minutes after 12:00 p.m., it was “game time”. There was no turning back now. James Doggette, pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Chapel on Patmos in Apopka, Florida, USA, grabbed his tablet from the table and headed for the door.

Doggette took a deep breath and walked down the steps to the podium. At the metal podium, he looked across the parking lot at cars, minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks. He took the microphone and welcomed those present. Car horns blared in unison – music to his ears. The first Saturday (Sabbath) car service had begun.

A cameraman helps broadcast one of the drive-in services from the Patmos Seventh-day Adventist Chapel. [Photo: Curtis Walker]

Days earlier, Florida’s governor issued a statewide stay-at-home executive order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. Doggette immediately began thinking about ways to maintain the worship experience with a network of young pastors he was mentoring. He reminded them that the solution had to comply with the governor’s restrictions and ensure the safety of the members.

One of the young pastors, Doggette’s son, James “JD” Doggette Jr., suggested that his father hold drive-in church services and informed him of a church in Daytona Beach, Florida, that was holding drive-in church services. drive-thru religious services long before the pandemic began. The next day, Doggette traveled to Daytona Beach to meet with the pastor of the church. The meeting proved instructive. As he drove home, Doggette realized, “We can do this.”

Working with church elders and other church leaders, a worship service was designed that would not replicate an indoor worship service. Instead, the service was reduced to the pillars of divine worship – the opening prayer, praise and worship, offering and sermon. One thing had not changed: the Holy Spirit is present at every service.

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James Doggette, pastor of Patmos Seventh-day Adventist Chapel in Apopka, Florida, United States, leads one of the drive-in services. [Photo: Curtis Walker]

“The experience was thrilling and exhilarating,” says Doggette. Week after week, an average of 180 vehicles show up in the drive-in church parking lot, and the service has an average of 3,000 online viewers.

Although the drive-in church has proven to be a success since the start of 2020, it has presented some challenges. One of the biggest challenges has been finding innovative ways to meet the spiritual needs of children and youth while Drive-In Church unfolds. “Creativity requires improvement rather than maintenance,” says Doggette. “We got lazy and acquired rights. This virus [COVID-19] forces us to be involved in the process of creating the new normal. Shrines may no longer be a place where church members gather on the Sabbath. Churches could eventually become studios to broadcast services to people around the world. We must be part of this change. [Church] leaders will have to think differently for the future. There are new opportunities to invest in ministries and outreach.

Fast forward to the present. Drive-in Church has grown from a once-in-a-lifetime weekly service to a vibrant weekly experience that caters to all ages. A video screen has been installed on the building facing the parking lot to improve the viewing of worship participants.

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The drive-in church has grown from a once-in-a-lifetime weekly service to a vibrant weekly experience that caters to all ages. [Photo: Curtis Walker]

Church members and leaders have joined forces to streamline and differentiate the worship experience to meet the spiritual needs of all attendees, with the addition of The Droplet and The Drip. The Droplet is an hour-long church service filled with songs, activities, crafts, and a meaningful lesson designed just for kids 12 and under. The Drip is an interactive weekly experience designed for ages 13-22 and includes songs, prayers and discussions aimed at deepening their relationship with God.

“The Patmos Chapel Drive-In Church continues to be an innovative and spirit-filled worship experience as many congregations around the world seek new ways to spread the gospel in the midst of a pandemic” , church leaders said.

the original version of this story was published by Southern News.

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