Woooooooooo, I made it. Wasn't sure if we were going to have an AtM this week because of all the holiday/vacationing going on, but you know, questions don't take holidays, and so I'm just a wee bit late rather than not here at all. I hope everyone had a happy and safe Fourth of July!
Now, for this week's question:
We have received an inquiry about renting space. There is a group in town working on a business plan to start up a day care facility focusing on the under-18-month age range (the current day care only takes children over 18 months of age) and possibly preschool age group for kids that need a quieter environment. Personally, I am not sure how well our space will meet their needs, but they seemed quite interested. Can anyone who has done this before share any advice/caveats/warnings/suggestions, in case we actually get to working out an agreement?
There are tons of issues, but I'd say the one that came up most for us was the issue of shared space. Is everyone clear that the church can use the space rented to the childcare group when they are not there, i.e. as a Sunday school classroom or for childcare for evening or weekend church events? We ran into problems with some members of the pre-school's board of directors, as they insisted that by paying rent, they got exclusive use of that space. What about third parties? We had an AA group meeting on one weekday night in an area used by the preschool during the day. All went well until one morning a parent volunteer found a dirty coffee cup and half eaten brownie left behind by someone in the AA group. When it got out that an AA group (and you know how filthy and germy addicts must be) was meeting in one of "their" rooms, the $%@# hit the fan in a big way. Be sure all this is clear and in writing in the lease or contract.
And a side note: If you are thinking about enrolling your own kids in the pre-school/daycare that rents space in your church, be aware in advance that this will sometimes put you in an awkward spot—for instance, when church members are ranting about how the pre-school kids have trampled their carefully planted flowers, when the pre-school teacher complains loudly and publicly about how the church STILL hasn't managed to get the leaky toilet in their playroom repaired, when it's time to renegotiate the lease and everyone has new stipulations they want to put in, etc. etc. I did this for five years—but might have pulled out had my kids not been so settled and happy with the program. It's great to have your kids on site, but there are definitely drawbacks.
At another church, we had someone approach us with a similar need. We began by getting information from our state and requirements. We ended up not going through with it, but it was because the interested party didn't follow through. But I would be sure to get the state regulations and requirements, even though some states don't require churches to go through them. It will help reassure parents who look to those licenses to know that their kids, especially that young, are well taken care of.
Another thing you can do is go around and ask other churches in the area of how they deal with day-care situations. I think if you have a lawyer they can help you with the contract agreements etc. I would recommend having an administrative board for the day-care facility. We had one at another church I worked at, and it worked very well to handle the concerns of the day care and those of the church. Bringing in another entity that is not part of the church is well something you want to be sure your administrative council is on board with. It is different than starting one up within your church.
How about you?
One of my parishes (the one I recently left, before I moved) has an independent day-care facility on its campus. I can look into getting more information on how they arranged that, but unfortunately I'm not privy to it. But I'm sure there are others here who have worked out arrangements like this and can speak on the topic. Or, perhaps you've worked at a place where it's worked out nicely and can share some examples. Feel free to share them in the comments!