Yesterday Lisa and I visited the Life House Church which meets in Hagerstown, MD. I had first visited them about 4 years ago and got to know them and their pastor, Patrick Grach, when they used to meet in a local elementary school. Since then they have moved to the Leitersburg Pike Cinema’s. It was interesting being back in that building because I once consulted for a church that met there when the place was a real dump. Patrick and his team have done a great job working with the new owners to fix the place up and it is now a very nice building to walk into.
One of the reasons I wanted to visit is it is looking almost 100% positive that we’ll be meeting in a movie theater as we launch ExponentialChurch.tv this fall. I met with Patrick for breakfast on Friday morning and he gave me saw great tips for not only meeting in a theater but also for starting the church in general. One thing Patrick had mentioned about meeting at the theaters was that you need to work harder than normal to get people connected since they’re not used to going into a theater to connect with others in a deep, meaningful way. So one of the first things we noticed when we went in was that they pull out tons of tables and serve breakfast. Unlike most churches which simply have a Cafe type area, Life House’s entire lobby is filled with people talking and eating for extended periods of time.
Once the worship time started, the band played some oldies but goodies. I don’t know why but almost everywhere we’ve visited this summer (including huge mega-churches) have been playing old songs. Maybe it’s because it’s summer and a lot of the normal band members are on vacation so it’s easier to pull out the old stuff. In any case, the band did a good job, although something else Patrick mentioned to me was very evident…lack of audience participation. Since people aren’t used to being in a movie theater; singing, shouting, clapping, etc., you need to encourage participation even more than normal. This was probably the worst part of the Life House experience…the room was dead…hardly anyone participated. Definitely something I’ll keep an eye on as we launch.
Having preached in that theater a number of times, I know how difficult it is when you can only see people’s eyeballs because of the high-backed seats. Patrick did a good job though as he shared how we are all called to be missionaries, even if it just to our neighbors and co-workers. Altogether the service lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes and then everyone scattered quickly to get to various 4th of July picnics that Life House was sponsoring throughout the area.
I’m glad we visited Life House, I certainly learned some stuff for how we are to proceed with our launch. Patrick and his team are very creative when it comes to getting out into the community and reaching people that way. The theaters were pretty full for both of their services (on a holiday weekend nonetheless) which is a testament to the awesome things they are together accomplishing to reach the Hagerstown area.