BELTON – There’s a stereotype about Baptists and fried chicken, but if a stereotype builds relationships and gets people in the door, you might as well embrace it.
South Haven Baptist Church here has been hosting what they call Drive-Thru Thursdays this summer, each time offering a different treat to anyone who will drive through their parking lot and ask. Some weeks they give away ice cream, other weeks it’s BBQ or burgers. But twice this summer, it’s been 200 chicken sandwiches donated by Chick-fil-A.
Most of the approximately thousand people who have “driven through” this summer have never been on the church’s campus, said Richard Young, senior pastor at South Haven.
“Most probably didn’t know we existed,” he said.
Each car that comes through stops at three separate stations manned by South Haven volunteers. At the first stop, the car gets a packet of information about the church, and whatever events are upcoming such as Vacation Bible School, Upward Basketball/Cheerleading, Men’s Conference, etc., as well as a bottle of water.
At the next stop along the drive-thru, those in the car get as many sandwiches as they need. Before they go, volunteers from South Haven ask the guests if they have a church home, invite them to join in worship Sunday morning, and ask if there are any concerns the volunteers can pray for. Nearly every car answers with an enthusiastic yes and pauses to pray.
There’s also a place for drivers to park, and staff are on hand to give tours of the building, show potential newcomers where Sunday School classes meet, where children can be dropped off, etc. In the week running up to VBS, the church set up a laptop and registered kids on the spot.
“South Haven’s mission is ‘Inviting people to find Hope in Jesus Christ’ said the church’s pastor of discipleship and mobilization, Victor Boll. “This takes away that initial fear of a new place and building. Now they know where to go, what it looks like, where our guest parking is and what door to come to.”
“It has been a small investment of time, energy and resources with an incredible return,” Young said.