Outreach Church Communications and Marketing

Yes, You Can Host a Summer Movie Night with Social Distancing


Your Church Presents….

Use these summer movie night ideas to connect with your neighborhood—COVID-style.

Groceries, toilet paper, and…something to watch! As stay-at-home orders began last year, paid subscriptions for streaming TV and video—Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime—increased more than 30% (Recurly, Inc.)! Big-name studio Universal Pictures made its movie “Trolls World Tour” available for rent on-demand on its original theatrical release date, and other studios are now doing the same. 

As distance learning concludes and summer officially begins, most people are no longer required to stay at home. Yet lots of places—like movie theaters—remain closed and activities cancelled through the summer. Capitalize on the power of movies by hosting a safe, socially distant movie event!

Why Movies

Movies have no age, gender, cultural or religious limits. They can inspire hope and ignite laughter amidst any crowd. Few forms of entertainment have that capability. And perhaps now more than ever, we could use a positive, heartwarming movie that emphasizes goodness and compassion.

Movies inspire empathy. Famous film critic Roger Ebert once said, “Art is the closest we can come to understanding how a stranger really feels.” And isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians? To humbly try to understand those around us and share Christ’s love as we do it? Movies make us step in others’ world for a while and consider how our neighbors feel. Perhaps a dose of this would feel good right now, too.

And lastly, some people may have zero interest in checking out your church, but they might want to see the movie you’re showing—or bring their kids to see the movie you’re showing. You’ll have an opportunity to introduce yourself and your church to someone who may otherwise not have the time or reason to come to your church.

How to do Movies Now

At the Park. Show a film on a large screen in a local park. People can bring their own lawn chairs, blankets and snacks. Prior to the event, mark spots (with spray paint or stakes and ribbon) six feet apart where individuals/families can sit. You provide the hand sanitizer and flick. For movie ideas, check out Outreach.com/films and for reviews, Dove.org.

Drive in. Some churches have already been holding drive-in services. You can do a similar set up for a movie. Choose a location around the perimeter of your parking lot so that once parked, people are able to view a large screen. An open field can also work. Families can face forward or pop their trunk and view from there, but everyone remains in vehicles.

Inside. For smaller crowds, you can show the movie inside with all the same social-distancing measures taken for your church services if you’ve resumed regular worship. This could work well for a small group and their friends and family, or a Sunday School class looking to invite their neighbors to something at church. 

Using Caution

COVID Rules. Each state—and sometimes county—has different social distancing rules and guidelines on number of people per gathering, what’s open and when, etc. Be sure to adhere to the most updated mandates in your area.

Licensing. You might already have a license, but is it current? And does it cover feature-length films? You can purchase a movie license to show a film through Outreach; this license allows you to promote your church movie night to your community using film artwork, the title and the actors’ names.  

Hygiene. Have hand sanitizer readily available, as well as face masks if you’re doing an inside event.

Other Details

Advertising. People aren’t hanging out with their friends in person as much as they did pre-COVID, which means word-of-mouth advertising will not be as effective. So, create an image with the basic information that people can post on Facebook to let their friends know about the event. If you have small groups still meeting via Zoom, encourage group leaders to put a plug in for your event at the end of calls.

Registration. Have a simple registration a couple weeks in advance to gauge interest and number of people. Make sure you have enough spots for people to sit/park. If you don’t, you may need to show the movie two or three times at different time slots and/or dates.

Prayer. Kick off the event—and the movie—with a quick prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to meet as a group again and asking Him to use the movie for good.  

Farewell. As people leave your event, thank them and offer them a prepackaged bag of microwavable popcorn for their next movie night; a travel-sized hand sanitizer; or small packets of antibacterial hand wipes—all affixed with your church’s name and contact info. These giveaways should be set out on a table ahead of time for easy access and limited contact.



With a mission to share God’s love and empower the Church to share the message of Jesus Christ, Outreach has quickly grown to become the largest provider of church outreach products and services in the world. Join the Outreach Weekly for the latest tips, tools, ideas, and deals to help you reach your community for Christ.

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