It looks as though we’ll be launching Grace Hills’ weekly public worship services in a movie theater – Malco Rogers Towne Cinema to be exact. And I must say, I’m very excited about the opportunity ahead!
We will have three auditoriums: a 149-seat auditorium for worship (until we outgrow it) and two 83-seat auditoriums with open floor areas for kids’ worship and childcare. I have to praise Malco’s people. They offered, without our asking, to keep the slasher film posters at the other end of the theater and stated they didn’t want us to stay forever, not because we weren’t welcome but because, in their words, “if you outgrow us, we’ve done our job in helping you plant your church.” Cool.
Even before our first preview service (October 16), we are looking ahead to some of the benefits of meeting in a theater. As we thought through the decision and prayed for guidance, we listed out some big advantages…
- People love walking into theaters. Some cultural barriers between church and the non-churchgoer are already out of the way.
- It’s a location central to shopping, eating, and neighborhoods – it’s in the center of an area where people are doing life.
- The rent is per Sunday, so we aren’t paying prohibitive costs on a building that sits virtually empty six days per week.
- There is plenty of room, without the feeling of too much room. I once led a church of 100 in a building seating 220 and we faced the vacuum atmosphere – the empty feeling. Here, we can move to a larger cinema within the building and nearly double our capacity, but we have an optimum size for our first services.
- Big, easy-to-find bathrooms, which is a different approach than the average traditional church building.
- No build-out necessary. We don’t have to finish or remodel anything, allowing us to spend resources on ministry to people rather than maintenance and upkeep.
- We can get loud and no neighbors will complain.
- No political issues. Right now, we’re praying for other church plants located in schools whose meeting space is now under possible threat because of church-state issues.
- Traditional “church” people might find worshipping in a movie theater to be a bit uncomfortable. This is a benefit because, while we welcome people who feel led to help us launch, our real goal is to reach people not already involved in church. If you can’t get past the atmosphere for “spiritual” reasons, there is probably a great church for you elsewhere.
- This particular theater is located in one of the few spots where there are not very many churches in the immediate vicinity.
And of course, there are some disadvantages as well, which we’re thinking through all the time. We don’t own it, so we can’t change much. We only get it until noon on Sundays, so we need other space for our Life Matters classes and other meetings. And it’s temporary. Even if we extend the contract, it’s still not going to be our permanent home. But as I’ve stated many times before, we want to focus on people long before we shift to thinking about buildings.
We shopped around at a variety of spaces – office, retail, warehouse, and educational. For the kind of church we hope to launch, that communicates the timeless gospel in a culturally relevant way, we believe we’ve found the ideal home. We will need to supply our own sound and video equipment and childcare supplies, so pray that God keeps providing for us.
If God prompts you to help us, no amount is too small, and you can give online, securely. But as I told some potential partners yesterday, while dollars can buy equipment and rent meeting space, prayer can move the arm that moves the whole world, so please pray that God would set before us an open door to share the good news of Jesus with northwest Arkansas and the whole world!