Attending a Drive-Thru Church

For many years a lot of Christians have joked about a “drive-thru” church. When churches start moving meeting times around based on people’s extra-curricular activities we joke that soon we’ll just be able to get drive-thru church. 

Pull up, order the service you want, grab it in a brown paper bag, and drive off it.

It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

Yet isn’t that what many people are already getting out of traditional church services?


We offer a menu of sorts. You can choose from Sunday school, traditional worship service, contemporary worship service, prayer meeting, Bible study, small group, youth group, children’s ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, and this list could go on for a long time. 

All of these menu items are created to draw the consumer closer to God. They are designed to allow the consumer choice in how they learn, how they worship, and how they serve. Not one of the items on this menu is bad for your spiritual health.

So why did I paint this picture of the traditional church as a drive-thru?

What happens when you go through a real drive-thru?

1) You order into a computerized box fronting for the person 
     you’re really speaking to. Sometimes the message gets skewed 
     because this isn’t a conversation directly between two people.

2) You pull around the building, wait in a long line of others just 
     like you but entirely separate, to hand over money to an 
     individual waiting with their hand out at the window.

3) Receipt in hand, you pull to the next window where another 
     stressed-out, harried employee will thrust your paper bags and 
     beverages out the window and into your vehicle. They’ll try to 
     smile and be friendly, but the truth is in their eyes. It’s been a 
     long day.

4) You pull off. Not happy. Not sad. Not changed in any way. You 
     got what you expected.

Does this sound at all like what goes on in a church on a weekly basis? Do you see why it’s drive-thru instead of dine in?

There aren’t any relationships.



Let’s say Jorge chooses Sunday school, contemporary worship, and youth group from the menu. As a thirty-something-year-old male, he’s made some good choices! A time to learn, a time to worship, and a time to serve.

However, his Sunday school class is large in number and the teacher is a retired college professor. Old school. There isn’t really any conversation in this Sunday school class. 

Then when Jorge attends worship, it’s filled with families. Jorge is single and no one in his family lives in this area. He attends church alone. 

On Wednesday nights Jorge serves in youth ministry. He has been assigned a small group of seventh grade boys to meet with. He teaches them every Wednesday night and makes an effort to make it to something extracurricular one of them has at least one other night a week. He has yet to form any relationships with adults through this ministry.

Jorge isn’t unhappy at church. He’s getting exactly what he expected. I doubt he would even consider saying he attends a drive-thru church.


However, if we simply pull up to the church, do what we came to do and then leave having given and received exactly what we expected, then hasn’t our church became a drive-thru church?

If we hurry in, hurry out, and have no real connections in between, then we’re definitely just driving-thru church. (TWEET)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 
Romans 12:9-10

Love God. Love people.

Those are awfully hard commandments to keep when we never form any relationships with people because of our drive-thru society.

What steps can we take this week to stop driving-thru life and instead form relationships with those who are around us?

You can read part 2 of this series here.

photo credit: WadeB via photopin cc

14 responses to this post.

  1. You could apply this theory to lots of things in life. How many things do we just “drive thru” and not enjoy or receive anything to better ourselves from the experience?! I rush through a lot of things and need to remind myself to slow down.


  2. Posted by Carissa Pelletier on February 6, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Insightful post. This makes a lot of sense. In the example, Jorge might be a better model for the young people he meets with if he interacted with others the way you describe.


  3. I never looked at church from this angle. It really deserves a lot of thought about how we approach our Lord and our spiritual growth.Great post! You should send this off to a Christian magazine if you haven't already, Carrie!


  4. I love the analogy of drive thru church in regards to our relationship with the body of believers. Too often people don't “truly connect” with other believers – it's a legitimate, human struggle! And real person to person community is something we need to foster in our technological age.

    For me, there's a tension here. I believe something greater is happening at church when God's Word is being proclaimed, sung, preached, read, confessed. God is interacting with His people – and this is a relationship that doesn't have to be drive thru in a seemingly drive thru church. This relationship is God's gracious gift to us, regardless of how connected we are with others. This is the tension in my mind…God's gifts drive us to others, and we tread dangerous ground if we hoard these gifts to ourselves.

    Thanks for driving us toward authentic community. Imagine what it would be like if we had that type of Christian community! Come Lord Jesus 🙂


  5. This made me stop and realize how disconnected I am from my community. I don't attend a church right now, and I know that I should. I live in a neighborhood where nobody even waves! A sense of community is important. I'm not from Dallas originally, and have grown apart with the friends that i made here when I first moved. It's hard to get out and meet people when you aren't the typical social butterfly.
    Thank you for the post!


  6. Krystal,

    How right you are. I think our society encourages this drive-thru mentality. Get this done so I can check it off my list and move on to the next thing.

    We don't know what it means to develop relationships with other people anymore.

    Please come back to chat again!


  7. Carissa,

    Thank you so much for joining the conversation. I empathize with Jorge so much. None of his details are mine, and yet I have just recently discovered how superficial most of my own relationships with fellow believers truly are.

    Please stop in again!


  8. Amy,

    Your compliment surprised and excited me immensely! I don't share much about my blog with my teenagers, they're too cool for a blogging mom, but I read your words out loud to them. 🙂

    I intend to do a few posts on relationships in the church. My desire and His will don't always match up, though.

    I've never tried to publish…it's a dream, but I'm not sure I'm there yet!

    Please drop in to chat again!


  9. Brandy,

    Thank you for joining your voice to the conversation. I agree that there is a huge disconnect between believers in the congregation. I actually deleted the word technology from my #1 in the actual drive-thru steps. 🙂

    I think that the body of believers has a division that is pushing more people away than it is drawing people in. Our desire to do His will should cause us to draw people to Him. I read a post recently that emphasized we can't say we aren't being fed at a church because with today's technology we can get any sermon, any teaching, any concordance, and worship music. It really upset me. Are we really trying to push people away from the church?

    Non-Christian people typically don't come to church to find God. At least they don't know that's why they're coming. They come to find relationship with people in their community who can help them. (I think I know what I'm writing about tomorrow, so I'll stop there.) 😀

    Thank you so much for opening this dialogue! I wish we could all dig in and discuss like this all the time!!! Please come back to chat again!!!!


  10. Delaney,

    You are not alone! Community has taken on a whole new definition in our society. I live in a very rural area and can't tell you many (if any) of my neighbor's names.

    I am going to pray that God will open a door to community for you, and that you will clearly see it and walk through it! While I am “outgoing”, I am NOT a social butterfly. I don't do small talk, and I don't just merge into groups. I need someone to pull me in. I wrote about that yesterday.

    That doesn't mean we quit or give up. God wants us to have community. Until then, and then, He is enough.

    Please come back and let me know how He opens doors for you!


  11. Sometimes it's hard enough just to get to church with two young ones let alone maintain the relationships we have there. But lately, things are much better. It helps that we see our church friends outside church too.


  12. While rushing to get morning tasks in the home complete (Our service is early afternoon), taking a moment to read over a message that will be shared today, I stumbled on to your blog….I've always thought of myself as 'all in' so to speak, but am going to be so much more cognizant of how I 'take' my churching! Thank you!
    I'm very glad that I found your blog today, am now following, and can't wait to read more.
    Hoping you'll stop by and say hi sometime.


  13. Grace,

    I so remember those days. I wish I could tell you it gets easier with teenagers, but the activities multiply by the minute, and just getting teenagers to stop doing their hair…

    Yep. The struggle changes, but it sure doesn't end. 🙂

    Thank you so much for adding your voice to the conversation. Come back again!


  14. Karen,

    Thanks or dropping by to chat! I will most definitely hop over to visit. It's so nice to know that God can take our words that seem so inadequate, and in my case are usually a mess, and use them to bless someone else.

    Please stop in to chat again!


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