On October 10, 2020, dozens of cars pulled into the parking lot of the River Oaks 5th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in West Jordan, Utah. For months, the congregation had been meeting virtually because of COVID-19. That meant no in-person Sunday services, no weeknight gatherings for teenagers, and no socializing as a congregation. Finally, through technology, they were able to safely meet in person again.
“To facilitate the event, I used the Listen EVERYWHERE LW-100 server,” said Carl Brewer of the River Oaks 5th Ward. “The idea was to give the community a way to gather while remaining physically distanced for safety.”
The parking lot bingo event was an all-inclusive, drive-in gathering. Church members remained inside their vehicles while they played bingo for prizes. Around 80 people were able to enjoy a safe game night together once again.
The master of ceremonies (MC) called bingo numbers, asked trivia questions, and joked with the community members. Participants could choose to get the audio on their smartphones or tablets or connect it to a Bluetooth device, like a car stereo or Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids. It was like getting audio at an old-fashioned drive-in movie, but with better technology and clearer sound.
How They Used Listen EVERYWHERE
The event organizers plugged the audio source into the Listen EVERYWHERE server to get started – in this case, the MC’s microphone. They then connected the server to their own Wi-Fi system, rather than using the church’s existing Wi-Fi network.
As cars pulled into the parking lot that night, Brewer explained how to download the free Listen EVERYWHERE app and connect to the system to hear the bingo night audio. He also acted as technical support in case people needed help connecting to the Wi-Fi or had other issues.
Once everyone was set up, event organizers broadcast the audio from the MC’s microphone to the players’ smartphones or tablets via the app. From there, players could listen on their devices or connect the audio to any Bluetooth device.
Brewer said he learned a few things from the event that will make future drive-in nights even more successful and simple. He suggests broadcasting the Wi-Fi from a high point so it’s better able to hit all the cars. Organizers can also use a QR code to help users connect to the Wi-Fi network, download the app, or directly connect to the audio.
There are five models of Listen EVERYWHERE servers, which can broadcast up to 16 mono or eight stereo channels. Every server accommodates up to 1,000 users, so the River Oaks 5th Ward could have had up to 1,000 cars in its parking lot for bingo night. The Listen EVERYWHERE app is also customizable, so venues or houses of worship can add welcome videos, custom content, sliding promotional banners, custom channel labels, and text banners.
Impact of Bingo Night
Holding an event in a church parking lot may not seem like a game-changer, but during a global pandemic, it’s exactly what the people of the River Oaks 5th Ward needed. All church social events and worship services had been off the table for months due to restrictions from local authorities and guidance from church leaders. Also, many of the ward’s congregants are elderly and especially susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19. Because of that risk, many of them weren’t leaving the house very often.
“I heard from several people that it was fun to get out of the house and have something to do together,” Brewer said.
Congregants had a great experience safely connecting with friends because Listen EVERYWHERE eliminated the in-person gathering barriers. Church leaders didn’t need to worry about the virus spreading through contact or common surfaces because there was no shared equipment.
“Once people were set up, they had a great time!” Brewer said. “People in our community could connect for a few hours outside of a virtual call, and we all had fun!”