By Chris Moon
Louisville’s Northeast Christian Church seized the opportunity.
With Kentucky loosening pandemic restrictions slightly, the church quickly organized more than 200 “watch parties”—some would call them 200 new “campuses”—to tune into the church’s worship services this past Sunday. Church members gathered groups of no more than 10 people in homes to worship, pray, and listen to the Sunday sermon.
And it certainly was a fitting occasion, since Sunday was Pentecost.
“We were just trying to help people look at weekend services a little differently given the state we were in,” said David McKinley, director of marketing and communications for Northeast.
In late May, the commonwealth of Kentucky began allowing groups of up to 10 people to gather, the first time that has been possible since the middle of March. NECC had an average attendance of about 3,800 last year.
Knowing the hosting of its full services still is likely a long way off, the church at least wanted to get its people back into the habit of gathering somewhere.
So the church urged its members to sign up to host “watch parties” in their homes. A total of 242 people registered to host. Some planned to invite their small groups to join them, and some were going to invite neighbors and friends.
“We wanted to keep it real simple,” McKinley said.
Social distancing rules still are in play for gatherings in Kentucky, including six-foot separation among group members and the wearing of face masks, McKinley said.
The hope was to make the weekend services more intentional for the church’s members, many of whom already had been tuning in as individuals or families to Northeast’s weekly broadcast.
The church sent out guides for watch party hosts that contained current safety information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The guides also provided group discussion questions related the sermon and ideas for how watch party hosts can engage further with their groups. For instance, the guides had time stamps that showed where in the worship service groups could stop the video and take Communion together rather than simply watching that part of the service online.
There also were resources teaching watch party hosts what a Communion service could include.
Each NCC staffer also was assigned a number of watch party hosts to interact with and encourage leading up to the first Sunday of watch parties.
McKinley said part of the vision was to equip new leaders within the congregation as the church, in a sense, moved back to its roots—meeting in homes to break bread and pray. The hope is that more people come to Christ as a result.
Starting on Pentecost Sunday was a bonus.
“This is kind of that restart of what Pentecost may have been like,” McKinley said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.