Doesn’t have to be a headache
You may already be in a portable (or “load in”) church situation, or perhaps your church is moving in that direction. A portable church allows great flexibility with fewer overheads than owning your own space, but it doesn’t come without its challenges, especially for those leading kids’ ministries.
I had the opportunity to lead a portable kids’ ministry for eight years. During that time we met in a total of five different locations—a senior activity center, early education building, high school, a freshman building, and a warehouse. Here are some of the things I learned on this portable journey.
The space you use for your kids’ ministry needs to communicate clearly that “This is a place for kids!” It needs to say, “We were expecting you.” How is this accomplished when meeting in a place that you don’t own? How do you accomplish this in a limited amount of time with limited volunteers? You have to get creative and resourceful.
- Student of displays
How do you transform a boring high school into a bright kids’ ministry? Visit retail stores and study how they hang displays from their ceilings and walls. Become friends with the managers and ask what they do with their seasonal store displays. Usually, these displays are tossed in the garbage. If they hear you work with kids, most likely they are honored to donate to your cause.
Many stores use magnets or clips to hang large displays. Magnets can be a kids’ pastor’s best friend in a portable space. I once counted that we used 85 click magnets in our kids’ ministry space each Sunday! They can be used for hanging colorful fabric and signs on your walls, lockers, or ceilings.
Fabric panels can hide boring grey walls and bring warmth and fun with minimal effort. Don’t sew? Simply send an SOS out on your social media for help and tell friends what you’re doing. I guarantee people will step up and be excited to help transform the kids’ spaces.
Tip: Long colorful fabric panels with a PVC or metal pipe at the top and bottom will help keep the fabric straight. Hang these from the ceiling using magnets and thin chain. Roll them up to keep them wrinkle free each week.
- Trade show merchandise
Check out online trade show merchandise and retailers to identify products and signs that you could set up and take down quickly. Usually, these products are made with durability in mind.
Tip: Stretch fabric table covers are available in a multitude of colors and are great for folding tables. They can often be customized with your logo.
Make sure your signage stands out from the school or organization that you’re renting from. This is important and will reduce any confusion on the location of your kids’ spaces. Use A-frame signs or outdoor feather flags to indicate family parking as well as any important directions that you need to communicate (main lobby, kids’ check-in, etc.) Professionally made signs throughout your kids’ spaces will keep your spaces looking polished and put together. Personally, I’m a fan of retractable signs. They roll out easily and can be stored quickly. They often come with a hard case to protect the sign when in storage. Various sizes are available, and if you have tall ceilings or open spaces, the bigger the sign, the better!
Tip: Be sure to keep all fonts and colors consistent for a uniformed look.
Music has a way of filling a space. Make sure you’re playing high-energy kids’ worship music in your halls during drop off and pick up time. This tells families that you’re open for business.
Tip: Don’t forget to play music during your load in and out times as well! This is a sure way to keep your volunteers energized.
Designated carts for each area are important. Recruit a handy team to build carts if you can’t afford to buy online portable church equipment. Keep in mind your space restrictions for storing. To ensure consistency, the entire church should use the same team for building carts. All your bins, signs, and equipment should go on these rolling carts. All carts should be labeled with what room they go to and clear instructions on what goes on each cart.
Tip: If you don’t have a place to hide your carts during your kids’ Sunday experience, spray paint them fun colors and leave them in your spaces.
- Label everything!
Always think through the lens of a first-time volunteer. Take a picture of what a successfully packed bin and cart look like and post these pictures on your carts.
Tip: Take a picture of your kids’ spaces pre-setup and post-setup. Place these on your designated carts so your teams know exactly what they’re trying to achieve.
After you’ve built a trusted relationship with the organization you are renting from, ask if they have any unused space that you could store things in. This will not only save you time during load in and out, but valuable energy.
Don’t expect each Sunday to be the same. Inevitably, there will be unexpected obstacles. You never know what challenges you may encounter upon arrival. Perhaps, you find out at the last minute that you can’t use certain classrooms, halls, or the gym. Perhaps, there is a basketball tournament at the same time as your church celebration. How do you handle kids’ security? Make a list of possible scenarios and how you would solve them keeping in mind safety and security of the kids at all times.
Leave It Better than You Found It
Finally, it’s always best to leave your rented space better than you found it. If you arrive and the space is filthy, always make it better before you leave. The organization that you’re renting from will soon learn that your church is an asset and these actions will foster a long lasting positive relationship. This rule is imperative when renting classrooms. Teachers are particular about their spaces and it’s vital that their classrooms are put back exactly as they were left and possibly even better.
Tip: It’s helpful to map out the exact floor plan of the space you are renting to be sure to put it back where it goes. For example, if you’re in a school, use the floor tiles as a guide for putting things back as they were.