Washington D.C.’s National Community Church is on track to expand its presence in the marketplace by restoring and operating a fully functioning 1930s-style movie theater in the Barrack’s Row area of Capitol Hill.
The D.C. church recently purchased the historic Meader Theater from the People’s Church for $3 million and is no stranger to the business world. It has been the owner-operator of Ebenezers, the largest coffee house on Capitol Hill, for more than five years.
“We like doing ministry in marketplace environments similar to how Jesus hung out at the well,” said Mark Batterson, who is the lead pastor of National Community Church. “Coffee houses are like postmodern wells and movie theaters are like the Aeropagus, marketplace of ideas, of American culture today.”
Batterson’s church already meets in six other locations (five of which are movie theaters) throughout the Metro area of D.C., but the theater on Barrack’s Row is the first one owned and operated by the church. The theater will also be the only place to watch movies on the big screen in the southeast side of Capitol Hill.
The NCC pastor, who said he came to Christ after watching a film, believes that the country will see a growing trend among churches that will opt to not pay millions to construct new buildings.
“Why have a building that’s only used a couple times a week? I’m not sure that’s the best stewardship. So, we will have a movie house that will operate seven days a week,” he said.
Any profits from the theater will be used in the same way as the money from the coffee house is used to fund outreaches locally and globally. Batterson said the church will have a team that selects what movies are shown, including first-run, independent, family and children orientated films.
“The best part about it is that we will control the theater and what goes on the screen,” Batterson commented. “We want to show films that are edifying and inspiring. We want to celebrate the right things on the screen. We want this to be a place for families in Capitol Hill to go and have a positive experience.”
A name for the church/theater is still in the works. However, Batterson does know that he wants to create “a 1930s feel” while re-designing the structure as a functioning movie theater. There will be a concession stand with popcorn, of course, he said.
And there will be no “in your face” evangelizing. But posters and trailers before the movie will let people know about church services.
“The key is we are located on the main street (8th Street) of Capitol Hill in the historic Barrack’s Row area,” he said. “In terms of outreach, we know that people visiting the theater are more likely to come back and visit one of our church services.”
NCC, which mainly draws young adults, is considered one of the most Innovative and most influential churches in America, according to Outreach magazine.