Churches are being called on more and more to reach into their communities in positive and proactive ways. The new $3 million Windsor Park Baptist early childcare centre is one such outreach.
“We call it a legacy project,” said Pastor Grant Harrison. “The childcare centre is tied up with our church’s goal of creating diversity, contributing to our wider community and creating ways to economically fund our wider initiatives – such as the Freeset crèche, which we already support but want to increase.
“It is a commercial undertaking that was financed through Baptist Savings. Part of our vision is to create viable business that, in time, will create additional income for other community activities and mission.”
Named ‘Small Fries,’ the new childcare centre is on East Coast Road on Auckland’s North Shore, on the site of a McDonald’s restaurant that relocated recently.
“We identified it as a strategic site and so we wrote to McDonald’s here in New Zealand asking them to let us know if they ever decided to let the site go,” Grant said. “We received a letter back a month later, which essentially said: ‘Funny you should ask that…’ It turns out they were planning to relocate, and the rest is history.”
Grant says that Windsor Park Baptist already has a large, full-time café on the neighbouring church site, which is designed for families. Mums bring their children to the café and it has become an integral part of the community.
“Small Fries is a way that we can continue to connect with families where both husband and wife are in employment, because we would love to care for their children in a Christian environment,” Grant said.
Small Fries officially opens in January 2012. Because it is being marketed as a Christian early childhood centre, they have had solid interest from parents.
“We commissioned a viability study which came back and said that, if we were building a conventional early childhood centre, we would find things difficult,” Grant said. “The Albany basin, which we’re on the edge of, has the highest concentration of early childcare facilities in the country. But because it is overtly a Christian facility, they said, ‘Go for it.’”
The centre took four months to build, and Windsor Park Baptist is interviewing for a centre manager. The facility is licensed to take 90 children and covers four large rooms.
“We effectively doubled the size of the building,” Grant said.
“Our dream is to become a hub here on the North Shore because of our central location. The curriculum and philosophy is Christian, and that will reflect in the special character of the place, in how we staff it and in how link it into the church.
“Baptist Savings supported and financed the whole deal, which qualifies as the second biggest project the church has ever undertaken. Now we’re going to work hard and make it a success.”
Reprinted from Issue 3 December 2011 of ‘The Good Investor,’ with the kind permission of Baptist Savings.
There are some good learnings from this story:
- Make sure your community ministry projects are aligned with the church’s goals.
- Where possible, look for sustainable funding models that will support the ministry (and possibly even contribute to the church’s wider mission).
- Ensure there is a genuine need for the service you intend to launch and that another local group is not already meeting that need.
- Dare to believe in the improbable – if Windsor Park had not had the gumption to write to McDonalds on the off-chance that their building would become available one day, the church may have missed out on the opportunity.
- Look for ways you can build on your existing connections in the community.
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