Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Go Southwest

While out in the Palm Springs area for Adult Conference, some of our church staff and their spouses were able to take some ministry excursions to visit three different local church services. Because we are always involved here at Grace Church on Sundays, it is a very rare time that we get to check out another local church ministry in order to be refreshed, motivated and to learn how we can be even more effective in doing what God has called us to do right here at our own local church in Lititz, PA. Southern California has many effective and innovative ministries that God is using in great ways.

On the Saturday night of conference we headed just a few miles away from the hotel to Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, CA. This is a church that runs between 4000 and 4500 people each weekend through 8 worship services. Their main worship services are held in their auditorium that can seat up to 1900 people. These take place on Saturday nights @ 5pm and Sunday mornings @ 9:15 and 11:00. These three services are blended in style with the Saturday night program being a bit more contemporary than those on Sunday mornings. On the weekend we were there, the Senior Pastor was away and the Pastor of Celebration Arts spoke in his place.

They also have 3 additional services on Sunday mornings upstairs in their facility which they call their “Video Café.” This is a very intimate setting where everyone sits at round tables and eats and drinks during the service. The worship is done live and is more rock oriented, interactive and participatory. With the exception of the earliest service at the Video Café, which involves a live speaker, the message part of the Video Café is done via video from the service happening simultaneously in their auditorium. They also have a Spanish service on Sunday mornings in a separate room of their facility and a service on Sunday evenings that is geared for 18-29 year olds.

We had a great time afterwards at the Elephant Bar restaurant in town discussing the things that we were most impressed with about their service. We were most impressed with their emphasis on “first impressions.” Southwest has a full-time staff member that focuses primarily on this area and you can tell. They had 5 different welcome centers at key intersections in their facility. All of their greeters were very friendly and helpful. The signage on the inside of the building made finding your way easy and inviting. As our staff ran into their staff and explained what we were doing, they all went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and to answer any questions that we had for them.

We were also very impressed with their children’s registration process. Each child has a picture taken of them and their parents with all of the pertinent information about that child entered into their computer program. The parent is then given a key ring card like you would have for the local grocery store. This card is scanned when you drop your kid off and when you pick them up so that the worker can see the picture on the computer and know that the right child is always going to the right parent. Go Southwest! May God continue to bless your efforts to see people come to know and grow in the Lord.

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