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?
Great First Experience
When I was the 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 visitor’s negative first experience with our church.”
The children’s ministry environment sends a message. Think about the message I received from another church I visited with my children when I arrived ten minutes before service time and found 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, Florida. They engaged Portable Church Industries to design their children’s ministry area at the high school they rent so that new families had 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 the kids. Visiting Action Church, you get the message that Action Church expected visitors and 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 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, in heavy cases built in the back garage that scratches 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 a thousand) of churches across the country weekly. Valley Christian Church in Poughkeepsie, New York 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 read their story here.
Here are some photos of other churches’ children’s environments in theaters.
School Best Practices
Two (of many) best practices for schools are utilizing treatments and partnering directly with the staff of the local school. 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. Here’s an interesting story about Faithbridge Church that launched strong in an elementary school.
Lastly, here are some examples of school treatments that create welcoming environments for children’s ministry: