Is your children's ministry sharing space with a preschool, day
care, office, school, or theater? Portable churches abound.
Benefits such as location, ample parking, low rental rates, and
neutral meeting places all appeal to churches. The challenges of
the portable church are many and unique, though. How do you respect
someone else's property while making it feel like "your" space when
you're using it? Use these guidelines to maintain temporary spaces
while creating a kid-friendly environment that makes a crucial good
first impression on potential members.
• Invest in the right equipment. Cabinets and shelves that fold,
lock, and are on wheels are perfect for easy access to your
supplies and are easily secured and transported. Tack strips or
grip strips (available at craft, teachers supply, and hardware
stores) display children's art and are unobtrusive when emptied.
Companies such as Church On Wheels (www.churchon
wheels.com) and The Portable Church (www.portablechurch.com)
sell wheeled shelves for bins, and they'll custom-create the
cabinets to fit your specific needs and equipment. Once you've
organized your equipment and cabinets, take a photograph, laminate
it, and attach it to the equipment. Volunteers can then see where
everything belongs and refer to the photo when packing supplies.
Our church had talented carpenters, so we were able to make our own
cabinets. They added lockable wheels so the cabinets stayed put. We
got really creative and used them as walls and partitions between
classes that met in a long hallway. We carpeted our partition
cabinets to absorb sound.
• Provide a focal "wall." One church's youth area doubled as the
children's space, so they added a metal track to the ceiling and
hung two visually appealing curtains. That way, depending on the
group of kids, a simple pull of the curtain could set the tone for
either youth or children's ministry.
• Bring in safety equipment if it's not provided. Display
directional signs so your children's area is easy to locate. Post
your emergency protocol. And even though it means more stuff to
haul in, take out, and pack up, don't skimp on providing age
appropriate toys or equipment. Label all supplies by age group.
This will ensure that toddlers don't end up with a box of Magnetix
building toys, Lego blocks, or other choking hazards that were
mistakenly put in their area. Provide first aid kits for each class
and area. Supply a tub or bin with cleaning and disinfecting
sprays, wipes, and other supplies. Arrange access to custodial
supplies in case of emergencies such as vomit and spills.
• Do a kid-friendly facelift. You can easily dress up a rented
space so it's appealing to children. Bring colorful tablecloths,
hang appealing decorations and posters, or plug in fan-powered
inflatables -- things that can be packed flat. If your facility has
ceiling tiles, consider purchasing transparent ceiling tile hooks
(available at office and teachers supply stores) that you can leave
in place from week to week. Hang colorful flags and decorations
from these hooks each week.
• Inspect for safety. If you're meeting in public facilities, pack
a healthy supply of outlet covers and child locks. Do a safety
check in your areas before each meeting or event. Look for sharp
edges, broken items, electrical cords, and other hazards. Use
furniture that's age-appropriate. Move unsafe furniture or
equipment out of kids' path. When our toddlers were meeting in the
social studies classroom of a middle school, we moved the
student-size desks against the wall to create space for our toddler
supplies. To our toddlers, though, the desks represented
irresistible climbing equipment. So we found ways to keep the desks
out of sight. Hang curtains across areas you want kids to leave
alone. Use child safety gates, plastic or mesh fencing, or
interconnecting play yards to create safe boundaries.
• Rugs create comfy spaces. Rugs add warmth, reduce noise, and
create cozy multipurpose areas. They come in convenient sizes and
add a splash of color. Best of all, they're portable -- just roll
'em up and pack 'em away.
Complex Space Conundrums
Do you have space or organizing dilemmas you just can't solve?
Where can you go for ideas or to find solutions to complicated
• Open your mind. To spur outside-the-box thinking, visit
kid-friendly restaurants and play areas. Connect with other
children's ministries to see what they're doing. Chances are,
they're trying to solve some of the same space issues. Put your
creative heads together -- it's energizing and productive.
• Ask God what to do. Pray about it. One of the more challenging
space issues we dealt with while renting a school was having our
preschool class meet in a gym lobby -- near exit doors and a circle
drive. We had more than 30 preschoolers in close proximity to exits
and vehicle traffic, with foot traffic of people coming in and out
of the gym doors between services on top of that. It was daunting,
to say the least. But the school wouldn't open any other areas for
this age group. So I prayed. And I give credit to God for waking me
up in the middle of the night with the idea of hanging a 54-foot
curtain on PVC pipe which could easily be disconnected for
portability. We sectioned off the space we needed and kept the
children safe. We used that curtain for a year until the school
hired a new principal. I prayed and then went to talk to the new
principal. And he opened another hallway for our preschoolers. Ask
God to help you think creatively when it comes to your most
frustrating space challenges.
Deb Vos is a coordinator of curriculum and teaching at
Crossroads Community Church in Schererville, Indiana.
Space Management Resources
Visit these Web sites to find solutions for all your space
• www.cinemeetings.com-Ideas, resources, and help
for churches meeting in theaters
• www.ChurchOnWheels.com-Products for portable
• www.portablechurch.com-Products for portable
• www.kaplanco.com-School and children's ministry
• www.adirondack.com-Reasonably priced school and
• www.merchinv.com-Ceiling, shelf, and display