By Leah Woodbury
The decision to open a childcare center in a church is one that will have a long-term impact on your congregation. There are many regulations that daycares must follow, and opening one takes a big commitment, both in time and financial investment.
If your church is considering entering the childcare industry, read on for some helpful tips on getting a daycare off the ground.
A Church-Based Center with a Long Record of Success
Before we dive into the logistics of opening such a center, let’s take a look at a successful church-based childcare program in Parker, Colorado, a suburb of Denver.
The Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church Early Learning Center has been teaching and caring for children for decades inside its church, widely known as PEPC (pronounced like the soda Pepsi).
The church’s childcare program has grown through the years, with 221 kids enrolled for this fall.
“We offer a Christian curriculum, and we have the ability to help parents in need,” said Jennifer Tucker, the childcare center director.
PEPC offers scholarships and financial help to families who send their kids to the church’s daycare.
The center uses the Orange Bible Curriculum in all of its classrooms. The curriculum’s message is simple: church + home = greater impact. It combines the light of the church (yellow) with the heart of home (red) to create orange.
The curriculum’s offerings include a monthly theme, a memory verse and interactive songs to help children memorize important messages in the classroom. Each week, the children learn a different Bible story, as well as crafts and activities to go along with the story. Kids also attend chapel twice a month, and the worship service is broadcast live over its Facebook page so parents can participate.
When deciding whether to open a center, think carefully about how much space you have to support it, said Holly Sprague, the PEPC childcare program’s assistant director. Most churches already have classrooms being used for Sunday School and other children’s ministries that could serve as daycare rooms.
Six years ago, PEPC had to reconfigure its building to accommodate more kids. Before that, the center didn’t have infant rooms. It added them to fit the needs of the families they serve. And Tucker said they could use four more classrooms now.
When asked what advice they have for churches considering opening a childcare center, they said not to make it a separate entity from the church.
Both women stressed the importance of finding great staff. PEPC focuses on finding staff from within its congregation or who attend a church with similar core values.
“Staff is what keeps this program doing. And without good staff, a program will fail very quickly,” Tucker said.
PEPC doesn’t do much advertising and gets new families by word of mouth. And it’s frequently recommended on Facebook by happy families. That kind of name recognition is something every new childcare center must earn.
If your church is considering taking the leap into daycare, check out these tips and questions you should ask yourself before opening your own.
Create a Daycare Business Plan
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to start a childcare business, the first thing you’ll want to do is create a business plan.
A business plan is a written document that explains the goals of your business and how you plan to achieve them while turning a profit.
Here’s what to include:
- Create a mission statement for your childcare.
- Outline your childcare philosophy and values.
- Research other childcare businesses in your community – what can you learn from them? What will you do differently?
- Create a budget for launching your daycare operation.
- Decide what services you will offer and how much you plan to charge.
- Create a plan to market your business in the community.
- Set financial goals for your business.
Creating a daycare business plan helps you establish a vision for how your business will earn money by providing services to your community.
It also allows you to clarify details about your business, including where you will operate, what services you will provide and how much you will charge.
Find a Great Location for Your Daycare
Location plays a major role in the success of your childcare operation.
You’ll want to pick a location that’s easy for families in your community to access. Setting up your childcare in a neighborhood with schools, or near a big employment center, is a great way to make your childcare services more convenient for parents.
You can also check out this digital map of American childcare deserts, which could help you identify an underserved community with high demand for childcare services.
Once you’ve chosen a location, you’ll need to consult with your local and state zoning offices to find out whether the location you want is properly zoned for a childcare center.
Read Child Care Rules and Regulations
Once you’ve settled on a location, it’s time to get familiar with the childcare rules and regulations that apply in your area.
As a daycare operator, you’ll need to fully understand and comply with the childcare rules and regulations in your state to obtain your childcare license and remain in good standing with your state regulatory agency.
You’ll learn about things like:
- Staff-to-child ratios and group size requirements
- State learning and curriculum guidelines
- Required health and safety training for childcare providers in your state
- Recordkeeping requirements for daycares
Taking the Plunge
Should you decide to open a center, you’ll need to apply for a childcare license (requirements vary from state to state).
You’ll also need to complete background checks, obtain a health evaluation and complete required training for childcare providers as part of the application process.
Then you’ll need to create a detailed floor plan so you can purchase furniture, equipment and supplies.
And, as mentioned earlier, staffing is critical. Check within your congregation, search online job boards and confer with local colleges with early childhood learning programs for referrals of recent graduates.
You’ll also need to do marketing. Here’s how to get started:
- Get in touch with schools near your daycare and ask them to refer parents in your neighborhood who are looking for childcare services.
- Add your daycare to Google My Business and you’ll start appearing in local search results and on Google Maps, making your business more visible to families in your area.
- Create a Facebook page for your business and ask friends to share it with families in your community who may be looking for childcare services.
- Set up a simple website for your childcare center. Make sure to include pictures, highlight what makes your center different, and make it easy for parents to contact you.
Opening a daycare in your church could be an incredibly fulfilling way to serve your community. If you think it’s a good fit, don’t be afraid to reach out for help to start on this new path for your congregation!
Leah Woodbury is a content writer at Procare Solutions, a software company specializing in helping childcare businesses manage all aspects of their centers, from parent engagement apps to collecting tuition, www.procaresoftware.com.