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Church's Video Cafe offers new approach

May 12, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Over the years, Tri-State Fellowship has moved away from a traditional worship to all-out contemporary to keep up with the needs of the membership.

But as Pastor Randy Buchman and others have discovered, some people were starting to feel left out at Tri-State, an Evangelical free church at 13153 Cearfoss Pike.

"We were leaving some of our people behind, as well as some visitors who came to the church and said they liked everything about us except the full contemporary format," Buchman said.

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Even though they were a minority, Buchman said he felt bad about that, so he and others in the church set out to fix the problem.

That "fix" is now in place and has been dubbed Video Cafe.

"Four years ago, I heard about the concept at a church in California," Buchman said. "I tucked it away, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it."

This unique worship service, which began April 13, is held at the same time as the regular 9:30 a.m. Sunday service and features live worship with the sermon telecast from the main auditorium.

"That first week we had 140 people attending the Video Cafe," said Beth Ostoich, director of operations at Tri-State.

And Buchman said they were a real mix of age and gender. "We want everyone to at least try it," he said.

The regular contemporary service is held in a multipurpose room that seats 800. The Video Cafe takes place in an area that seats 125 to 150. It provides the option of a personal and interactive worship experience that is very different from Tri-State's larger service, where the sound is driven by drums and electric guitar.

The Video Cafe features simple guitar accompaniment and quieter song selections, and its worship leader encourages participation and sharing that is not possible in the larger venue.

"This also addresses another problem we were having with running out of space in the 800-seat multipurpose room on Sundays," Buchman said.

People often come early on Sunday mornings because they know that coffee and home-baked goodies await them as they enter the church. That hospitality will continue at both services.

The decision to hold the services at the same time was believed to be better than starting early and late services, as many other churches have done when they wanted to have both contemporary and traditional services.

Multiplying services and impact through the use of video venues is a new method being used by a small number of churches across the United States.

"The concept was pioneered by North Coast Church, an Evangelical Free Church in Vista, Calif.," Ostoich said. North Coast has a weekly attendance of 5,000 people in facilities with no single room that can hold more than 450.

It currently hosts a total of 13 worship venues in three time slots - one on Saturday evenings and two on Sunday mornings.

Buchman said the goal of Tri-State is to continue to add venues. The next possibility being considered is a very contemporary Saturday night service called The Edge. Then some exploration is planned for off-site locations.

These worship venues have been successful because they allow churches to provide multiple and varied worship experiences in ways that maximize facility use. By attending a church with different venues, worshippers can experience the feel of a small church while benefiting from the multiple programs made possible by larger congregations.

In addition to Buchman and Ostoich, Tri-State Fellowship is served by Eric Boutieller, student minister, and Tim Lester, discipleship minister. For more information, call 301-790-1774.

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