People need people. We were not meant to live in isolation. The global pandemic that has caused citywide lockdowns and shutdowns of churches across our country has deepened the already existing problem of isolation.
While many churches have ceased to meet in-person inside their buildings for months their people have suffered. One way to ease the crushing effects of isolation is by bringing people together in a safe outdoor environment.
A drive-in movie night at your church is a simple and safe event that can be planned for groups of any size.
Even if people are limited to being in their designated parking places, they are at least in a shared space together. Shared space is a powerful thing because it breaks the bondage of isolation.
So how do you plan a Drive-In Movie Night at your church? I’m glad you asked!
Pick a Date
Check both your church calendar and your community calendar to be sure that you don’t pick a conflicting date. Remember you will need to be able to utilize the entire parking area at your church so you should not select a date while other things are on the calendar.
Two months of preparation time for a Drive-In Movie Night is ideal. One month is doable. Less than one month is not recommended.
While your date does not have to be on the weekend please not that having an outdoor movie requires a late start time. A late start time on a weeknight can be difficult for some.
Secure a Rental
Immediately after securing your date begin to call around for a rental. If you are not sure where to start Google “outdoor movie screen rental company.” It should pull up several options for you in your area. You need to do this quickly as these types of events are becoming more popular and may be difficult to secure if you do not give yourself enough lead time.
This will be the highest cost item for your event.
If you are wondering the answer is yes, size does matter! The larger the screen the better. If you have a large number of registrations, you must go big. Do not let the price deter you. That is what event sponsors are for.
Screen rentals will typically come with either an audio system and/or a radio frequency so the movie can be heard in each car.
Early promotion equals success. Don’t wait! Once you have your date and your rental secured start getting the word out about your event.
Use all the channels you typically do at your church.
- Routine social media posts (If you need some free graphics, click here.)
- Church service announcements
- Church program article
In addition to all the typical marketing platforms, we recommend you printing up custom movie tickets. Your best marketing tool is your people. Get your people excited about the event and hand them FREE movie tickets to pass out to all their friends. At this point, it is not important to have the movie selected. If you know what you are going to show you can add that to the ticket. If not, do not worry about it. The important details to include are the following: Date, Time, Location, FREE! If you can have registration information ready to go this is ideal, but you can print an initial round of tickets before then to get a jump on promotion.
The screen rental can be expensive depending on the size. To help you cover the cost we encourage you to reach out to local businesses or individuals who may be willing to sponsor the event. As an added perk you can print their name or business on the program flyer that will be handed out at the event.
Beyond just monetary donations from potential sponsors look to local restaurants, grocery stores, or other food providers to seek donations. What movie is complete without goodies? When securing donations again make sure to list any who donated on the program flyer.
When seeking food donations make sure that everything you acquire is individually wrapped for safety.
This is a great non-threatening one-time event that people will readily sign up to volunteer for. It is also a great way to recruit new volunteers for your ministry. Below are some key volunteer positions that you will need for the evening of the event.
- Parking Lot Crew: The job of the parking lot crew is to direct traffic in. Where you park for a Drive-In Movie is vitally important. The Parking Lot Crew will make sure cars are properly staggered to have a line of sight to the screen.
- Snack Cart Crew: The job of the Snack Cart Crew is to deliver all of the individually wrapped goodies! Make sure you have carts, divide things up evenly, and go! As the event begins take the goodies around. If you have leftovers partway through the movie send the crew around again. Make sure that everyone on the Snack Cart Crew wears both masks and gloves while passing out snacks.
- Photographer: Make sure to assign at least one person to capture both photos and video of the event. Photos and videos can be used on social media and are a great source of momentum for your ministry.
- Bathroom Crew: Every event needs bathroom access. It is not necessary to rental port-a-johns for this event. Since you are in your church parking lot give people access to your bathrooms. It is the job of the Bathroom Crew to stand at the church doors and help point people in the right direction. There may be guests that come to your movie night that might not be familiar with your church building layout. Bathroom Crew volunteers will also routinely check the bathrooms to make sure they are clean and well-stocked.
- Floaters: Every event has unanticipated things happen. That is why you always need to have a few floaters on standby. Floaters are flexible people that can jump in whenever needed. They may cover a volunteer shift of someone that did not show up. They may make a run for more supplies mid-event if you are running short on something. They do whatever you need. If there are no needs, they get to sit back and enjoy the event.
- Welcome Crew: The Welcome Crew is consisted of your most bubbly and outgoing people. They will routinely make the rounds to cars as people come welcoming them to the event, passing out program flyers, meeting needs, and answering any questions guests may have.
- Clean-Up Crew: Do not forget this one! If you do you will be left at the end of the night cleaning up everything yourself. Remember a late start time means that everyone will be tired at the end of the movie and will want to go home. Select a few people to stick around, clean up, and put things away.
Pick a Movie
This is the most difficult thing you will have to do for your Drive-In Movie event. Please know that whatever you pick will be met with both cheers and criticism. Brush it off and move on. We recommend you picking something family-friendly.
To be as prepared as possible you will need to create a registration process. This will help you know how much supplies you will need and how to plan your layout for the event. Add your online registration information to all of your continued promotion efforts.
Now that you have your movie and your registration ready to go add this to your promotion. Keep pushing and adding to your registrations. Make the event as large as you can! Do not limit your event to just the people connected to your church. Make this a community-wide event by encouraging your people to pass out movie tickets to this event. Make sure that registration information is now added to your tickets.
Pass out tickets to your local group homes, day programs, special education departments, county workshops, Special Olympics teams, etc.
Purchasing supplies should be one of the last things that you do. You are waiting for two things, registrations, and donations. Depending on how many items you get donated you may not need to purchase many supplies. Knowing about how many people are coming will give you a good idea of how much you will need. Always plan for more as you will have people drive up the day of the event that have not registered. That is a good problem to have! Never turn anyone away from an event.
Based upon your number of registrations, the number of parking spaces, and where the sun sets you will be able to plan your event layout. It is ideal if you have traffic cones to mark off every other space to ensure safe distancing between vehicles. In some instances, you may want to consider blocking off two spaces between cars. This will people an opportunity to bring a lawn chair to sit out in if they don’t want to stay in their cars.
Pre-Event Volunteer Meeting
Invite your volunteers to all arrive no less than thirty minutes before the event time starts. This will allow you to give any last-minute instructions and to pray over your event. Post-meeting get everyone in place and ready to greet your guests.
The time has finally come for your Drive-In Movie Night! Hurray! All your planning and hard work have paid off. Do not allow the stress of your event to overtake your joy. Wear a smile even if you have a mask on. Make sure everyone at your event feels welcomed and is blessed! Take this opportunity to give a formal welcome using a microphone or radiofrequency. Introduce yourself as not everyone will be familiar with you or your ministry. Make sure to invite your guests to be a part of your weekly ministry too.
Build on Momentum
Capitalize on the natural momentum that your event generates by intentionally pointing guests to the next big thing. Never leave guests thinking this is it. Always leave guests wanting more and giving them information on what is next. To do so you need to have your next event already planned. You will leave your guests with this information on their Program Flyer. In addition to the next big thing do not forget to also tell people about your weekly ministry opportunities. You will have guests at your movie night that are not connected to your ministry.
Pass Out Program Flyer
As people roll into your Drive-In Movie Night make sure they are greeted by the Welcome Crew. The Welcome Crew will pass out the even Program Flyer. This flyer will have all the important information about the night’s event and all future opportunities. Things to include on the flyer.
- Bathroom location
- Next planned event information
- Weekly ministry opportunities
- Church contact information
Showtime! Time to sit back and enjoy the show. From time to time make your rounds to check on both guests and your volunteers.
The least glamorous but necessary job. Hopefully, most people will take their trash with them but do not count on it. Another way to minimize trash post-event is to have your clean up crew go around with trash bags during the event to collect any unwanted trash. In addition to trash, the Clean Up Crew will help you put away any items needed post-event.
Every event needs to be evaluated. What went well? Celebrate that! What would you change? Document that! That will help you be better prepared next time around. Send an event evaluation form to your volunteers to collect important data. Do that while the event is still fresh in the memory of your volunteers.
Make sure to send a thank you card or note to all your volunteers. Remember you want to retain them and integrate as many one-time event volunteers into being routine weekly volunteers. A good way to do that is by showing them appreciation.
Since you have guest information from their registrations it allows you to reach out to them thanking them for attending. Everyone loves to be appreciated! Kindness goes a long way. This also gives you another opportunity to remind people of upcoming events and weekly ministry opportunities.
It is Ryan’s passion to equip and empower churches, organizations, and individuals to reach their disability communities for Jesus. Ryan comes to Ability Ministry with 15+ years of ministry experience. He previously worked at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio as their full-time Disability Pastor. He also worked as a Church Consultant for Key Ministry. Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8 best describe Ryan’s commitment to life and ministry.