Is your church a portable church? You know, the one you have to set up every Sunday morning, and tear down right after because there is something else happening in the building you are renting? My church began in the common area of an apartment, moved to a hotel, then moved to a movie theater before finally having a building of our own. I was a kids ministry volunteer during those movie theater years, and it was always interesting. Week to week, we didn\’t know if we were going to have to move theaters or tear down early because there was a movie showing at 12:05 and church was over at 12:00. Many of the resources we used called for supplies that we didn\’t necessarily have on hand in our boxes that had to be packed up and put in a trailer each week. And there’s no place to make photocopies at a movie theater!
There are some lessons that I learned while teaching in a portable church:
1. Preparing ahead is extremely important. There’s no resource room to fall back on, so if your game calls for 6 ping pong balls, you better know that ahead of time!
2. Set boundaries for your space. Running up and down the stairs and through the rows of the movie theater was a big temptation for the kids at my church. In a non-traditional setting, you have to establish boundaries for kids in order to keep things from spiraling out of control.
3. Assign specific set up and tear down tasks to volunteers. After a while, every portable church will get into a rhythm of set up and tear down. When you add volunteers who aren\’t in that rhythm, make sure you give them specific tasks: "Can you roll the carpets and move them into the loading zone for the trailer?"
4. Don’t let the "temporary-ness" of your location keep you from investing in the spiritual development of kids. As churches are planted, many times kids ministry is an after-thought, but there has to be a plan for spiritual development in order for you to reach kids and families!
I want to hear about your portable churches. What is working well for you? What are your biggest issues? Are there needs that we at Lifeway Kids can help you with?
Hey Becky, thanks for the post. It is always helpful to hear from other people who are or have gone through the same things. I am the Children’s Ministry Director at our church. We currently meet in a middle school. Our Elementary age meets in the Art room and our Pre-K group meets in the Media Center. The one thing I am really struggling with is creating a warm environment. One of the things that I am struggling with the most is a lack of volunteers. I have been in this position for five months and I am just finding that because we only have one service, people don’t want to miss the service to serve. That is part of what I have to change though and I get that. I am excited to hear what other people say about how they are making it work. Thanks!
Hey Mike – praying that God will call people in your church to make a small sacrifice to invest in the lives of kids! It’s so worth it!! Thanks for sharing.
Becky, when you guys were in the movie theater, did you have one service or more than one? If you only had one, how did you get volunteers to sacrifice hearing the message to serve in Pre-K? What did you do to make sure they were getting fed?
Although it didn’t start out that way, when I began working in kids ministry, we did have two services, and our pastor encouraged (and still encourages) members to worship one hour and serve one hour. I can see how it would be harder when there is only one worship time. It’s also hard for to create relationships outside of kids ministry volunteers and parents when you are in the kids area during worship. In my case, it was being in a small group that helped me begin to connect to others in the church and to be fed.
Also, we did our best to create an “environment” in the movie theater by using rugs and lamps that we would set up and tear down each week. It’s so much harder when you are in a school environment because you are dealing with stuff on the walls that you can’t tear down. We did do VBS in a middle school one year, and it definitely wasn’t the ideal environment, but we did what we could to keep kids focused in one area of the room and not distracted by everything else going on in the room.
I don’t think there’s a “golden ticket” solution for this – we are still dealing with space problems at my church, even in our permanent building – but finding those volunteers who see the importance of investing in the lives of kids is key.
I know that your job is not easy but I also know God is faithful. And I’m so thankful for you and for leaders and volunteers across the world who are investing in the future of the Church.
We meet in a gym of a middle school. The gym is set up with folding chairs, piano, sound system, etc. I teach children and we meet in a hallway that leads outside. A table and chairs is set up for us and ifk I have activities that are messy we can go outside on the table & benches that are just outside the door.
The only inconvient thing is I have to carry all of my teaching supplies, art supplies, etc back & forth each Sunday. I use a plastic tub and a tote bag to put everything in. We do have to not be too noisy because the adults and young adults meet in the gym just outside where we are, but it is working. We are a small class at this point and I do have other adults helping me. I love what I do.