Thursday, March 31, 2011
Doing Church in a Movie Theatre
I’ve always loved going to the movies. If you know my husband Matt and me, you know that if there is a halfway decent movie out, that’s where we’ll be on a Friday night. The BEST date night for me would include a Lime-Cilantro Chicken salad from Nordstrom Café, a little time to walk it off in the mall (to work up an appetite), a movie (a British chick-flick is the ultimate), popcorn, Diet Coke, Jr. Mints & Peanut M&M’s.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies (the exceptions were Sound of Music and Chariots of Fire because of their spiritual content—I love you mom!). I mean, what if Jesus were to return and we were in a theatre—would I make the rapture?! But times change . . .
I married a man who loves a good story. So, even when we were practically living on minimum wage, we always budgeted for a trip to the movies on date nights. Over the years, my Regal Crown club card has earned its share of free drinks, popcorns, and movies! Now, the cinema, aka “my happy place,” is giving back in an even bigger way! How ironic that we would start a church that meets in a Regal theatre? How amazing that almost 200 churches nationwide now meet in theatres!
I’m thrilled to be part of a theatre church! If you are thinking about going to church in a theatre or starting a church in a theatre, here are the positives:
· Cup holders! We let our people bring in coffee/drinks, and this is comforting to an “unchurched” person. Seriously, when we’re clapping or raising our hands during worship, visitors can hold their cup and not experience that awkward “what-do-I-do-with-my-hands” moment.
· Huge, clean bathrooms!
· Big screens—we have 2 projectors and use the entire screen. People are so used to looking at the screen now and even prefer it. We’re betting that we can simulcast into another theatre and our congregation will still have a similar “my pastor is in the room” experience. Which leads to. . .
· Room to grow—there are multiple theatres still available. Right now, we use 3 theatres—one for adults, one for teens, and one for children. As the main service grows, we hope to have a second worship team in a 4th theatre, and we will simulcast the message.
· Non-threatening environment to unchurched people—Some people might be intimidated to go into a church building but are very comfortable walking into a local theatre.
· Unifying—Every week our set up team works hard to transform the lobby, hallways, theatres, and 3 storage rooms (nursery, tots, & pre-k’s) into a church! Some might see having to set up/tear down your church every Sunday as a negative, but I’ve found it to be incredibly unifying. These volunteers become like family. One young man came to set up after spending the evening in the ER, and he was clearly in pain. I said, “Allen, what are you doing? You should be home in bed!” He said with a smile, “I’m here for the service, the church service. That’s what we call it, right?” I was blown away.
· Forces you outside the church walls, because you don’t have any! We focus on small groups inside people’s homes; we use Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, or Panera for staff or counseling meetings; we go TO the community for outreach and don’t wait for them to come to us.
· Your people learn that the church is NOT A BUILDING—it’s the body of Christ. Where does God live? In my heart, NOT in a building. I am the sanctuary of God.
· Personally, I look forward to the set-up time each week. On Sunday mornings, my teenage daughter Skye and I drop Dad off at the theatre at 7 am and head over to Starbucks for 30 minutes of latte’s and girl time. Then, my daughter sets up all the classrooms for the little ones. This time is very special to me, and I’m so proud of my daughter really “owning” this ministry.
Want to hear the negatives?
· I miss having a larger, deeper stage area for the performing arts (I’m a sucker for cool lighting & funky background décor). On the plus side, we put our efforts into making videos since we have such BIG screens!
· I leave church craving popcorn REALLY BAD! They make a fresh batch just as we leave, and it smells sooooooooo good.