By Scott Cougill
Creating an irresistible, welcoming environment for young families and their children is important for any church.
However, when you are a church that meets in a rented facility, what additional things should be considered? What are the best practices?
A great first experience
When I was an executive pastor of a multisite portable church, we had a saying that went something like this: “The gospel is offensive enough (Gal 5:1, Rom 9:33); we don’t want to add to the offense by our poor planning, systems, or a visitor’s negative first experience with our church.”
The children’s environment sends a message. Think about the message I received from the church I visited with my children when I arrived 10 minutes before service time and found many adults milling around and inside the classrooms. People were still organizing the room, and a back door to the classroom was open. I got the message that this church was disorganized — and maybe didn’t think any visitors would show up today.
Contrast this with Action Church’s new campus launch in Oviedo, FL. Church leaders engaged Portable Church Industries to design their children’s area at the high school they rent so that new families would have a curbside personal welcome, easy check-in experience, a volunteer escort to the classroom (past a security guard) which was separate from the main worship area, and special treatments in the classrooms that were bright, colorful and engaging for children.
Visiting Action Church, you get the message that Action Church expected visitors and was prepared for them. Visitors will likely conclude that Action Church is this organized and intentional with all aspects of their church.
Launching a new church or campus in a rented facility offers many benefits that permanent locations don’t — lower cost, speed, flexibility, community partnership, and volunteer engagement. That said, creating an excellent and inviting children’s ministry in a rented venue requires different planning and preparation than a permanent campus. From our 20+ years assisting churches launch in rented spaces, here are some best practices of churches that launch children’s ministry well.
Overall best practices
Finding enough volunteers for children’s ministry is challenging in all churches. When you add the extra volunteers needed for setup and teardown, it is critical to take the extra time and expense to design setup / teardown solutions that are volunteer-centric — designed to maximize both the volunteer and participant experience. Churches that plan ahead and engage portability experts when designing their portable children’s ministry have better success and don’t wear out the volunteers as quickly as churches that do it on their own.
As a church that will interface with the landlord and community, you will want to be treated professionally and have a professional relationship. But, if Sunday setup requires extreme early arrivals — because you have hundreds of totes and equipment not designed for quick setup — and if that equipment is stored and transported in heavy cases built in the back garage that scratch floors, the church appears anything but professional to the school. I have witnessed over and over that when the church invests in a professional portability solution, the school / theater / community center treats them better, more professionally, and with more grace.
Theater best practices
Can you do children’s ministry well in a movie theater venue? Yes. It can be done well and is being done well by hundreds (maybe thousands) of churches across the country weekly. Valley Christian Church in Poughkeepsie, NY, is one of those churches that does children’s ministry well. They partnered with Regal Entertainment Group and Portable Church to design an excellent and inviting church environment for young families. You can learn more about their story here.
School best practices
Two (of many) best practices for schools are using treatments and partnering with the staff of the local school directly. Many school rentals are organized by the district office. But, it is the local teachers and custodians who are most impacted. Churches that serve the local school without strings attached create the most favor and best partnership experiences. A number of churches get teacher classroom supplies wish lists and make sure they are filled. Others flood the school with willing volunteers to read and serve. An interesting story about one church (Faithbridge Church) that launched strong in an elementary school is here.
Here are some photos of school treatments that create welcoming environments for children:
Scott Cougill is CEO of Portable Church Industries in Troy, MI, a company that has partnered with more than 2,000 churches to launch strong and thrive in rented spaces. Find Cougill on Twitter @ScottCougill. For more information, download a free eBook that goes into many more specifics about volunteer structure, training, setup strategies and staffing.