This is totally your call as a group leader! You only should provide child care if you want to, and if you are up for the added complexity (and benefit).

Also, ask your group! By simply asking everyone their thoughts at your first meeting, beforehand, or before a new session, you learn more about people's lives and situations, get the chance to make a "group decision", and potentially uncover potential needs or challenges in people's lives.

If you choose to provide child care, it's a session-by-session decision! You are never locked in to that decision. Things change, situations change, seasons change - you can decide session by session how your group will do it.

And be ready! It's not always easy, but it can provide a huge service to your group and make it more possible for everyone to attend group on a regular basis.

helpful hints for making it work

There are lots of ways to set up child care so it works well for everyone. While there is no prescriptive way that Mission Groups provide child care, here are some helpful ways that other groups have chosen to set it up:

  • Charge $5 per kid. It definitely doesn't have to be free! Anyone with kids is used to paying for child care, and $5 per kid will feel like a welcomed discount! But, with enough kids in the group, the sitter can feel like it is still worth his/her while.
  • Ask a young couple to watch the kids. Two is always easier than one... especially with little ones or babies in the group. When it's a couple, they both get the money! It feels better than splitting it with someone else! 
  • Have an old kid in the group watch the kids. Maybe you have an older kid that can handle the kids in the group, and you can call it a hangout day! Get creative - maybe one old kid watches the younger ones, and another old kid takes the other older kids to play outside. Do what works for what you've got in your hand!
  • Ask someone else in the group to host the childcare, while you host the group. Some groups drop off the kids at one house, then meet as a group in the other house! If you feel comfortable with your sitter, this is a great option that makes it easier for both hosts! 

sidestepping the challenges

Child care is not always a perfect system. Life happens, people cancel, people with kids don't show up, the sitter is there but no kids are, the kids are there but the sitter's not... 

Providing child care means that you have to be ready to deal with the potential challenges as they arise - but here are some ideas for sidestepping those challenges in the best way you can! 

  • Set it up so parents can only bring their kids if they respond to your weekly email/text on time. Don't shy away from setting up a rule like this! Again, people know that child care is an added benefit. And you can get stuck with a sitter on site and no kids there last minute! No one wants that for you, but if you don't set up a rule about it, no one will think it all the way through! This way, you can always plan accordingly.
  • Ask people to pre-pay as much as they can; and set up a paper chart to keep track. Systems help. A lot. Pre-paying and a physical chart means that...
    • you have cash on hand if people have to cancel last minute.
    • people are more likely to attend because they already paid for the sitter.
    • people stay accountable and you can do less work remembering who has or hasn't paid.
  • Point people toward the childcare reimbursement form from Mission. This isn't something we provide for everyone in a group - but if you know that the unique situation of an individual or couple warrants, that's why it's there! We don't want paying for child care to be an obstacle for anyone being in a circle at Mission. We'll reimburse up to $20 per meeting they attend. They pay up front (group-provided childcare or their own), then fill out the reimbursement form afterward. We'll get them a check within the week.