In this vlog episode of Portable Hacks & Tips – we are doing a deep dive into thinking through ratios…How many kids to expect for your launch, how much space will you need for the kids and the number of workers/volunteers you will need to keep everything safe and functioning well.
So let’s start at the beginning. How many kids should you expect to have in your kids ministry?
As a general rule of thumb, we tell churches to expect 2% of their anticipated congregation per birth year of your church to be kids. What that means is …if you are expecting 100 people, you should expect 2 kids to be in the 0-12 months age range, 2 kids in the 1 year -2 year age range, and so forth. This rule may vary depending on the type of community you are launching in but for the most part, this is what churches are reporting. So once you calculate 2% of your expected congregation, you can then figure out the best way to group the ages and how many classrooms you need.
Two things to highlight while thinking through this is your pastor’s age and the community you live in. We have found that 80% of your church age is within the life stage of your pastor or younger. Meaning, if you as the pastor are 30 years old, 80% of the people attending your church will be in the same or close to the same life season as you. In this example, you will likely have a much larger nursery and elementary than middle or high school. So consider how old the children of the pastor are and that can help you gauge what ages you will likely have. As another example, think about any older mega church. The average age of the church has continued to go up as the lead pastor has also gone up in age (20 years ago the average of the church congregation was 20 years younger than it is now, and so on). This really only impacts your church’s needs if you are a much younger pastor or if you are a pastor with kids out of college.
Next, how much space will you need for your kids ministry?
Let’s talk about how much space you need per a child, per age group. According to the author and consultant Judith Colbert, Ph.D., 35 sq ft of usable indoor space per child and 75 sq ft of outdoor space is what is required when getting licensed for a daycare. The good news is that churches are not held accountable to the same standards as daycares because you have the children for much shorter amounts of time. However, Colbert continues on to say that if you have too much room for children they can have a hard time staying focused and calming down, and if you have too little space for children it can cause chaos, conflict, and a higher risk of spreading sickness. In portable church setups, since you are not liable to the licensing rules, we have consistently found roughly 50 sq feet of space per child to be sufficient and comfortable.
To break it down further…
A typical classroom in a school is 30′ x 30′ which is a total of 900 square feet. So divided by 50 sq ft you are capable to fit about 18 kids in that space. Once you factor in table and desks lined up along the walls you have less space and can not necessarily fit 18 children, so we suggest that 15 children (max) per acoustic space is ideal.
In the nursery room, what feels more comfortable is about 10 children. Parents and workers feel more comfortable when the classroom is not crowded and it also allows you to divide the room into a section for crawlers and a section for sleepers.
For the toddler’s room, 12 kids are the suggested limit. This allows for more space to include larger toys for gross motor skills and room for more active play!
For the preschool room, you can fit 15+ children because they don’t require as much space, you can interact with them more directly, and you are able to engage them in groups at tables, for snacks, storytime, crafts, etc.
For elementary-aged classrooms, it is completely different. And this depends largely on the format you are doing with your students. Here is what we suggest:
- Large group format – 50+ Sq. Ft. per student
- Large area for staging, teaching, kids
- Breakout spaces for small groups
- Game Format – 40+ Sq. Ft. per student
- Medium-sized area for play area
- Breakout spaces for small groups
- Curriculum format – 30 Sq. Ft. per student
- Smaller area for gathering
- Can combine more kids in smaller space, especially after 2nd grade once kids hit the readings level grades
Lastly, how many workers to kids will you need?
The child to volunteer ratio in typical settings allows for more kids per worker. However for portable environments, venues aren’t normally laid out exactly per a church’s needs, so more conservative ratios are chosen. With that in mind, our minimum suggested ratios are:
- 0 – 36 Months Old — 1:3 Ratio
- 3 – 5 Years Old — 1:7 Ratio
- K – Elementary — 1:15 Ratio
Another tip we live by — At least 2 people in every room at all times. If you don’t have bathrooms in the rooms with you, this can present a problem for accountability, safety, and security. We addressed this further in another kids ministry blog, read that post here.
To sum it up…
Yes, these are ideal situations, and can’t always be perfect. We understand that things have to flex, and you will need to consider your demographics, your community, and your launch team. But we hope that this will provide you with somewhere to start as you continue to prepare for your church launch.
As always, our church launch specialists are here to be a resource to you. They will use their experience as well as our resources to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible before you launch. So if you have any more questions on this please let us know how we can help!