Coordinating childcare is one of, if not the most common logistical hurdle for groups that meet in homes or outside of a Sunday morning. For many it is a barrier that keeps them from engaging in groups at all. If we’re going to make our groups ministry a place where the maximum amount of people can engage in meaningful discipleship, we have to do the work of helping our small group leaders solve the problem of childcare.
To help move us down the road, I’d like to suggest three different strategies for coordinating childcare that have worked for different kinds of churches. These are by no means the only strategies for coordinating childcare, but hopefully one or potentially all of these will be helpful for you.
- Don’t have childcare and involve the kids in the group
This first tip might seem like a bait and switch, but I’m listing it because it might be something you haven’t considered. Instead of finding childcare, you might consider involving the kids in the group.
For this to work there must be leaders and parents willing to thoughtfully include children, but the modifications needed to make this approach work might not be as difficult as you may assume. You can invite children to read Scripture, pray, and ask and answer questions alongside adults. You may find that you’re surprised by the insights your children bring to the group. Beyond the discipleship aspect, this is another way that families can seek discipleship without sacrificing quality time together.
Obviously, this strategy won’t work for every group, but for those groups with kids who are old enough to sit and participate it can be a great way to model discipleship and community for your children.
If this tactic doesn’t work for your group, consider the following two strategies.
- Have group members alternate weeks watching the children.
Another way to solve the childcare issue is to have members from the group take turns watching kids in a rotation. There are many ways to accomplish this.
Depending on the size of your group and the number of children needing care, you could have one or two couples or individuals serve each week in a rotation. This can be accomplished by meeting at a house with a large back yard or bonus room where children can easily gather. The people serving with the children can lead them in playing games or some other fun activity or they can teach the children an age-appropriate Bible lesson that compliments what the adults are studying.
This approach takes a higher degree of preparation and planning, but one of the benefits of this approach is that it engrains service into the life of the group. Beyond a place to be discipled and find community, the group becomes a place where service is valued and expected. This approach keeps group members from being passive consumers and makes them contributors. Beyond these benefits, this service-oriented model fosters a deeper sense of community within the group because all the members are working together to take care of each other’s children.
- Coordinate childcare at a common location
A last approach you may consider is coordinating childcare at a common location using babysitters or other volunteers.
For example, my church is centrally located in my community and most of our members live within a 10-minute drive of the church. Because of this, we’re able to open the church up for childcare for two hours each Sunday night and groups can meet in homes around the community for an hour and a half or so before coming back to pick up their children. This is accomplished through a combination of paid childcare workers and volunteers. All of the childcare workers are background checked for the safety of the children.
While this specific structure might not work for a variety of reasons, the same approach can be modified easily. If there are two people in the group who live close to one another, you might consider using one house for the group meeting and another house to watch the children. The kids can be supervised by group members or a paid babysitter. Whatever the case, all the group members need to feel comfortable with the adults who are watching their children for this to work well.
The benefit of this approach is that it gives adults concentrated time in discipleship without having to take breaks to address child care concerns or parenting needs.
Hopefully one of these approaches can be adapted for the groups at your church. Regardless of which approach you take—whether it be one of these or another not mentioned—we need to do the hard work of helping our group leaders and group members think through this important logistical challenge.