5 Factors that Create a Dad-Friendly First Impression of Your Church
Whether we want to admit it or not, our children play a significant role in the selection of the church we attend. If our children enjoy the teaching and activities offered at a particular church, this typically influences our decision about that church.
As the father of a young boy and girl, these aren’t the only factors I take into consideration when deciding which church to attend. Whether I’m choosing a church or designing one, I want a church that’s dad-friendly—that understands the challenges of getting little kids from the parking lot to Sunday school as efficiently as possible; that is designed with safety in mind for children; that recognizes what fathers need in order to make going to church a positive experience for the whole family.
Most of us pick up on these cues the first time we visit a church. As a church architect, I try to incorporate the same factors I look for as a dad into the designs we propose to churches. In recognition of Father’s Day, here are five factors that create a dad-friendly impression for first-time visitors:
It can be difficult holding one child’s hand while carrying a diaper bag or car seat in the other hand. And when it’s raining or snowing, it can be nearly impossible. Having an exterior canopy over your children’s drop-off area, or positioning church staff near this area to receive your kids is a great way to make that first impression count. College Park Church and The Vineyard Church in Urbana utilize two drive-thru canopies to help transition people into their buildings.
In designing ministry space, try to see it through the eyes of someone coming into the building for the first time. It can be intimidating for a dad who’s never been to your church to quickly identify where to go and what to do once he arrives on your site. Along with convenient canopied drop-off areas, comprehensive site signage and lighting can help first-time visiting dads get the lay of the land. If it’s difficult for visitors to navigate and find check-in points, that’s what they’ll remember about your church.
After dropping off kids at the nursery or in their classrooms, dads (and moms) want to know that their kids are safe. Create one or two security barriers that one must pass through before getting to your children’s areas. When we’re designing ministry space, we work closely with church leaders to make certain we address security concerns. Consider utilizing access card readers for church staff and volunteers, installing locks on classroom doors that are controlled at a master location in emergency situations, and providing a person at designated entry points. Any or all of these steps can give dads that level of comfort they need to enter and participate fully in worship.
If you’re building a new facility or doing a remodel of an existing space, be sure to add baby changing tables in the men’s restrooms and family restrooms. No one wants to change diapers on the floor or go back out to the car to do so. Baby changing stations are low cost items that can go a long way in making your dads feel welcome.
It can take some time for kids to warm up to a new environment. Consider creating a space for dads to hang out with their kids before checking them into the nursery or classrooms. At Hamilton Hills Baptist Church and The Vineyard Church in Urbana, Aspen Group designed interactive spaces for kids outside the main check-in area, providing kids and dads the needed transition time to help make drop-offs go smoother.
Father’s Day is just a few days away. Some of these changes can take some time to implement, but others can be added right away. See what you can do to make the dads visiting your church feel welcome!