After years of planning and praying, it’s finally time to launch your church plant. The sermon series is prepared, the chairs are set up, and the coffee station is stocked. You’re expecting a few kids, and you’ve prepared a space and secured volunteers for them. But have you considered how to develop a biblically robust, safe, and nurturing childcare plan for your church? Excellent childcare is vital for even the smallest churches. It reflects God’s care for all his people.
In 2012, my husband and I left full-time staff positions at a large church and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend seminary. We joined Imago Dei Church (IDC), a brand-new church plant meeting in a shopping center. When IDC transitioned to portable church in a gymnasium, my husband and I got up before dawn to pull the trailer full of supplies because we were the only ones with a big enough truck!
Fast forward a few years. Our church has its own building, and I have the privilege of serving on staff, leading a ministry with 120 preschoolers. I’ve gone from large church to simple church to something in between, and I’m frequently asked to help church plants create a childcare plan to serve their families. Below are several areas both new and transitioning churches must think through to provide excellent childcare.
There are many different security options out there. If your church already has a database, begin by exploring the check-in options it offers. Planning Center Online, Elexio, and ACS all have check-in options but require different hardware requirements. Our church uses Elexio Community with iPads and Wireless Brother printers. Elexio is a great option for portable churches because everything in the system is wireless; you can set up wherever you’d like your check-in station to be. Whichever system you use, be sure it allows you to match parents with their child and contact parents quickly in case of an emergency.
Start your childcare program right with a detailed Policies and Procedures Handbook. The handbook should cover everything from emergency procedures to how your church volunteers will handle crying babies. Feel free to use our church’s Policies and Procedures Manual as a guide to help you develop a handbook specific to your environment and state regulations. To easily train volunteers in the above policies and procedures, we create and upload our training videos on MinistryGrid. As volunteers complete the training sessions, we can track their progress.
Decide how you will enlist volunteers. Will you recruit, require all capable church members to serve, or develop a rotation among parents? Whatever you choose, be sure the volunteers all have background checks and are thoroughly trained. Protect My Ministry offers complete background checks and volunteer screening services for churches. Choose a system for your volunteer database. We love Planning Center Online for its scheduling capabilities.Excellent childcare is vital for even the smallest churches. It reflects God’s care for all his people. Click To Tweet
Many visitors will determine their opinion of your church by the people they encounter, especially those caring for their children. Choose volunteers who enjoy children and lovingly and helpfully greet and interact with visitors. Place those individuals who are exceptionally gifted in this area at the visitor check-in station.
The choices for curriculum are endless. I’ve provided a few popular options and a summary of each. Even though this guide is specific to children four-years-old and under, I’ve included curriculum options for both preschool and elementary-aged children. It’s never too early to begin thinking through elementary options to help provide continuity between the two ministries.
The Gospel Project for Kids
- Free trial: https://www.gospelproject.com/sign-up/.
- Cost: Digital content is available through a monthly subscription. $25/month for preschool, $42/month for elementary, or $65/month if you bundle.
- Free offer: For church plants two-years-old or younger, Lifeway offers curriculum for one year through Ministry Grid. To access these resources, visit https://newchurches.com/offer/.
- Age group: Preschool and elementary
- Overview: The Gospel Project is a weekly Bible study that helps kids dive deep into the big story of the Bible—God’s plan to rescue his people through his Son, Jesus Christ. It’s designed to help kids see how the whole Bible points to Jesus and the gospel, uniting the big story and themes of Scripture.
- Summary: The Gospel Project has been our church’s go-to curriculum for the past several years. While the curriculum can seem overwhelming at first glance, it’s very adaptable for small or large groups, whether you’re using videos or volunteers to teach. We chose The Gospel Project because of its chronological aspect. It covers more than just the well-known stories of Scripture, and it delivers what it promises—every lesson points to Jesus Christ and the gospel.
- Free trial: https://free.thinkorange.com.
- Cost: $510 annually for the preschool starter, plus $412 for the add-on media package. Double that cost to add elementary.
- Free offer: Through the Church Plant Initiative, churches two-years-old or younger receive six months of free access to any/all of their curriculum, plus access to the media packages that correspond with the curriculum. To get the deal, visit https://orangespecialists.org/amyg/.
- Age group: Preschool and elementary
- Overview: Based on Jesus’s command in Matthew 22:37–39, the Orange curriculum teaches kids three main things: love God, love life, and love others.
- Summary: One of the real benefits to the Orange curriculum is the philosophy of church and home. The content is engaging and easily adapted to any ministry type.
- Free trial: https://growcurriculum.org/free-trial/.
- Cost: $597/annually
- Age group: Preschool and elementary
- Overview: The Grow Curriculum goes beyond Sunday morning teaching times to help develop a strategy for your entire ministry.
- Summary: The curriculum was designed for ministries that have few volunteers and low budgets. The curriculum also goes beyond just weekly lessons and provides help with everything from developing a ministry strategy to planning events. Note the creators originally worked for Orange.
New City Catechism
- Free trial: http://newcitycatechism.com/books/curriculum/.
- Cost: $51.49
- Age group: Suggested for 8 to 11-year-olds
- Overview: Lessons come with three different outlines for 30, 45, or 75-minute sessions. The components are a “big idea,” leader’s notes, a memory verse, a supply list, instructions for two activities, an expository Bible lesson on a passage related to the catechism question, discussion questions, a virtue application that ties in with the passage, a memory activity, and a closing prayer.
- Summary: Despite the lack of bells and whistles, this can be a great, low-cost, solid curriculum to consider, especially for elementary students.
There are many different ways to approach classroom setup, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. I’ll cover some of the necessities to help spark your creativity. You can find many used baby items in fantastic condition. For older childcare classrooms, don’t be afraid to invest in some good quality things because, believe it or not, church kids can be rough! At the end of this list, I’ve also provided a few websites where you can find classroom items.
Carpet squares or tiles are safe, easily cleaned, and easily replaced. A hard surface is also easy to clean, but you should be prepared to cover large surface areas with carpet rugs (especially in the younger classrooms).Put parents and guardians at ease by providing safe, smart, and nurturing care for their little ones that mirrors the loving care of our heavenly Father. Click To Tweet
Colors have an emotional and psychological effect on us. While bright colors like red and yellow may seem exciting, painting the wall with them can have a negative impact on children. Instead, choose light shades of blue or green to create a calm environment. If you add pictures or murals, remember that children primarily see at their eye level. Everything above their eye level would be for the benefit of volunteers or parents.
Items for infants
- Changing table
- Extra diapers (in a variety of sizes), wipes, and diaper cream
- Age-appropriate toys and books
- Pack-and-play (or a crib)
- Soft flooring, specifically a cushioned mat for babies to lay/sit on
- Bumbo (if you buy one with a tray, it can double as a high chair)
- Rocking chair for volunteers
- A place to store diaper bags (this may be as simple as wall-mounted hooks)
Items for toddlers
- A rug for circle time
- Age-appropriate books and toys: blocks, trains, Little People, dolls, push and riding toys, and toddler-height play kitchens or houses
- Adjustable-height table and chairs
- If you have the budget, soft play, indoor playhouses, and toddler-sized kitchens are wonderful additions to a toddler space.
Items for 2 to 4-year olds
- Preschoolers thrive on centers for learning. Even if you don’t have a formalized preschool program, you can still facilitate learning by adopting some of these centers for when you won’t be doing curriculum activities. Basic centers to consider: home living, blocks/building, trains and train tables, dolls and dollhouses, and reading/books.
- Adjustable table with chairs
- A rug for circle time
- A place to store curriculum supplies such as crayons, glue, scissors, markers, and so on. You don’t need to purchase every craft item available. If you’re using a curriculum, you’ll begin to see a pattern in the most used items. You can store those things in shoebox bins and begin to build a resource center for volunteers.
Websites to Check
While this guide is certainly not exhaustive, I hope it provides a starting place as you begin to develop childcare for your church plant. Serving the smallest people in your church is an honor and should be done with excellence. Put parents and guardians at ease by providing safe, smart, and nurturing care for their little ones that mirrors the loving care of our heavenly Father.