Ministry in a Movie Theater - Advice for a Pastor
Are you looking to expand your ministry into a movie theater? In a recent conversation with another pastor, I gave him some advice as to expanding his ministry into a movie theater.
If you are wanting to stretch your ministry into a movie theater, than you must know that it is not simple. It's not easy because if there is any group or demographic that a movie theater is not set up for, it’s for ministry, especially kids’ ministry. They are little people, and movie theaters are made for big adults. However, you can do it, and you can do it well, so here are a few random thoughts that I would like to share with you.
I think it all starts with thinking through the perception of the parents that are going to be coming in here. What are they going to be thinking? I can almost guarantee that their two biggest concerns are going to be: is it really clean, and are my kids going to really be cared for? Is this environment conducive for children's ministry? What's going to happen back here? Those are some legitimate concerns. In about every movie theater you go into, you probably think that this is gross. Then think about kids that are going to be on the floor doing activities, and are my kids going to be cared for? I understand if I am going to the theaters and sitting in a chair and looking up front, but for my kids, what's this going to look like?
I wouldn’t overthink it. I would focus in on two areas: number one, the environment and number two, the people. The environment: so what's going to happen back here with my kids? Is this conducive for them? Are they going to have fun? Are they going to be sitting in these adult chairs the whole time? I would work hard at creating an amazing environment with the space you have. In this movie theater that you're looking at, is there a party room or two that you can use? Are there some wide hallways that you can use for nursery or preschool?
More than likely you're going to have kids in a movie theater or two. They're not going to sit in the chairs obviously because those chairs are created for adults, and these are little people in these theater style chairs. You're probably going to have to use that walkway between the lower section and the upper section; you're going to have to use the area in the very front, right below the screen. I would invest in some rugs because more than likely it will be a cement floor. I would invest in pop-up banners, so you can add color, add life, and add energy in the room with those visuals. I would also think about how to add balloons the first couple of months, maybe a balloon-palooza. Every Sunday have pop-up banners, have things on the screen, have music playing, but I think there's even something more important than the environment; that is the people. The people I am referring to are your volunteers.
At the end of the day, you can have the best pop up banners in the world, the greatest things on the screen, the best music, you can have 10,000 balloons, you can have candy and cake, and everything else, but if your people are lethargic, if they're showing up late, if nobody can identify who they are, it is not going to work. Your best investment is going to be in those volunteers.
They are going to need more love. They're going to need more attention then your volunteers at your main campus or in a traditional set up because they're going to be facing challenges just because of the space and the nature of where they are. Invest in them. Get them matching t-shirts; get them matching hoodies. Get them lanyards; motivate them to get there early. Have donuts and coffee for them. Have some huddle times so they get there early with smiles on their faces, full of energy, ready to greet those kids, ready to love on them and hug them, and create an amazing experience.
Honestly at the end of the day, if you had no pop-up banners, no balloons and nothing on the screen, but you have the right volunteers that love the kids and are full of energy, the kids will beg to come back next week. I wouldn’t just stop there; I would focus on both areas. Don't overthink it; don't overcomplicate it. I would encourage as you look at a movie theater as another campus to reach more people, to think about what are the perceptions of the parents going to be (which I can guarantee you is going to be “this place is dirty” and “what's it going to look like to do kids ministry here”), and then work hard at overcoming those hurdles and overcoming those challenges in areas of friction with parents, by investing in your volunteers and getting them on your team. Make sure they are early; make sure you have them in the right places (out front, at the door, in with the kids), and don't just focus on that at the beginning, but even when it's time to dismiss, have volunteers inside, at the door, at the main door telling the kids and the families, “goodbye” and, “hope to see you next week.” Then try to jazz up the space in any way you can: pop-up banners, great music, stuff on the screen, balloons, rugs from Ikea for the kids to sit on, and all that kind of great stuff.
Your #1 fan,