The Church of the Highlands, Alabama’s largest church, has booked more than 30,000 advance reservations for Christmas candlelight services through its web site.
All 13 services at the Grants Mill location, the church’s main campus, are booked.
“I know that’s created a little frustration for some of you that want to come to Grants Mill,” Senior Pastor Chris Hodges said, discussing the ticketing reservation system during his sermon on Sunday. “We had 31,000 seats taken in the first 5 minutes that those reservations were online. Some of it just frustrates you a little bit.”
Christmas candlelight services at the Church of the Highlands will begin on Wednesday, Dec. 19, and continue through Monday, Dec. 24. There will be services each of those days except Saturday, Dec. 22, when no services are scheduled.
The Church of the Highlands began in February 2001 with Hodges as founding pastor and met in the fine arts auditorium at Mountain Brook High School. In 2007, the church opened its $15 million main campus with a 2,400-seat sanctuary on Grants Mill Road near Interstate 459.
With sermons by Hodges beamed from the main campus via internet to 16 branch locations, the church has attendance of more than 40,000 per week, making it the largest church in Alabama and one of the largest churches in America.
Hodges said efforts will be made to accommodate those who show up for Christmas candlelight services at all locations.
“There have only been two services that we haven’t been able to seat people,” Hodges said.
“Of the 13 services that we’ll have here at Grants Mill, we have always had seats,” he said. “People grab seats and then don’t sit in them. People make a decision not to come when there were seats you could’ve sat in. Those reservations and tickets are neither reservations nor tickets. It gives people priority seating, but at ten till we are opening the doors to whoever wants to come sit in those seats.”
Doors open 30 minutes before the service. Those who have reservations needs to be there at least 10 minutes before the service to guarantee a seat, he said.
“We are just trying to spread people out a little bit,” Hodges said.
There is still plenty of seating at the branch campuses, Hodges said. Hodges speaks at the Grants Mill location and his message is beamed out by video to the branch locations.
“I know it seems attractive to come to this particular location where I’m speaking live and you think the experience is so much better, but I want you to know that our team is working harder than ever before to make the Christmas experience great at every location,” Hodges said. “In fact, we’re sending some of our best musicians and talent to all the other locations to have great, great Christmas experiences. So, make plans to attend where you regularly worship.”