When New Hope Church opened the doors of their new building in 2008, we knew we wanted to reach our community by serving them. We discovered that what they physically needed most was quality childcare. The Lorton area was packed with two working parent families searching for a safe place to keep their kids either before or after school. Many were on wait lists and some resorted to leaving their kids home alone for a few hours. We saw this an in-road to serving our community and giving them what they really needed – Jesus. So, we began our first summer camp in July of 2008, then our before and after care programs and preschool that fall.
We had several goals in mind when we started. We decided to run camp for eight weeks during the summer with extended care before and after to provide twelve hours if needed. We started our before and after school programs with similar hours and bussed our kids to and from the area elementary schools. Our goal was to make it easy for parents to drop off their children and get to work and back in this crazy Northern Virginia traffic. Another goal we had was for our kids to feel loved, safe, and to have fun while in our care. So, we designed our building with them in mind. We built an indoor playground, an outdoor playground with a shade, blacktops for games, a computer lab, a game room, and space available to do homework, have quiet time, and eat. We installed a camera system throughout the building, security locking doors, and an electronic check-in/check-out system. We also wanted our families to know we cared about them. We worked hard to get to know moms and dads, hanging out at the front desk during drop off and pick up. We reached out to families and provided for physical needs when necessary as well as a listening ear and prayers when families were struggling. Finally, we wanted to intentionally include Jesus in our programs. We didn’t hide the fact that we were Christian and guided by biblical values. We taught bible stories and Christian character during our programs. Eventually we learned to line up what we taught during the week with what we were already teaching on Sundays. Kids wanted to come on the weekends to learn more of the story. Kids and parents started asking questions, and families started coming to church. Every one of our baptism celebrations in the last four years has included at least one person that traces their story back to something that happened to them or their kids in one of our business lines that provides childcare. I think in large part it’s because of the goals we set at the beginning. We provided for their needs, we got to know them, we showed them love, and we introduced them to Jesus.
It’s easy to see childcare as a way to bring in revenue or a way to make use of your building during the week. But, linking church and your business lines into a close-knit community that works together to serve the families in your area brings you so much more than money. It takes a well thought out plan, loads of communication, and a service-minded attitude to work successfully, but it’s worth it!