Unconventional Churches in Hawaii

Holy Hot Spots: Churches aren’t all steeples and stained-glass windows anymore. From arcades to strip malls, check out these five unconventional worship spots around Oahu.

Innovative Concepts

It’s Sunday morning at Dave and Buster’s. A crowd of 20-somethings heads to the showroom to set up mic stands and instruments for the worship band. After the service, the young congregation disperses into the arcade to play games and drink beer. “We want to be relevant to the community,” says senior pastor Daven Hee. The 9-year-old church has held services at Aloha Tower, Hawaiian Brian’s and the now-closed nightclub Paparazzi. “Our vision is to help local businesses,” explains Hee. Occasionally, the church holds open-mic events with comedians, musicians and slam poets. “It’s easier to invite people to places they’ve been to before; it’s not so intimidating.” Hee adds, “Alcohol helps!” ichawaii.com, 944-4669.

New Hope Oahu

Every week, 24,000 people attend New Hope Oahu’s mega-churches across the island, none in conventional church buildings. New Hope’s sheer size has forced it to be creative, turning to 17 public-school campuses for services. “With the difficult economy, people are searching for hope and answers,” says evangelism director Justin Smith. Farrington High School accomodates more than 5,000 people, and church staff members arrive two hours early to set up a projector screen, a tent and chairs on the lawn for the 500 more who can’t fit in the auditorium. For those who’d rather avoid the crowd, services are streamed online. enewhope.org, 842-4242.

Word of Life

Word of Life churchgoers spend their Sunday mornings at the movies. Each auditorium at Kapolei and Millilani Theaters has 201 seats, and the congregation uses up to six auditoriums weekly. Because people can’t fit into one room to see the pastor live, they go next door to watch the service onscreen. Youth also get a separate room for their own service, complete with Dolby Digital Surround Sound and 35mm projectors. “Attendance has been high despite the recession,” says Jonell Cockett, marketing media manager of the church.
wordoflifehawaii.com, 528-4044.

Hope Chapel

Waikiki Community Center isn’t just for karate or line-dancing classes. Every week, Hope Chapel meets for church and, although the congregation is older, the service is hardly traditional. For example, Pastor Dennis Sallas preaches without shoes. “Our thing at Hope Chapel is to come just as you are,” he says. “I don’t like shoes so I come barefooted.” As a “cultural” church, it holds services every three months on the beach, with Hawaiian chants and conch shells whenever “the Spirit leads them.” hopechapelwaikiki.org, 927-1632.

Honolulu Worship Center

You might not expect a church in a strip mall, let alone above an adult toy, store, Sensually Yours. Pastor Andrew Littlejohn of Honolulu Worship Center says the strip-mall location has actually proved beneficial. “We’ve had people going to different facilities in the mall; they’ll see our information and they’ll stop on by,” he says. He laughs at the mention of Sensually Yours and says, “We hope there haven’t been any problems with the location … there’s no association with us.” clgi.org, 469-7796.