People hate waiting in line. I do. Don't you? If you need a reminder, visit your local DMV for a refresher course.
Each weekend, there are 3 times that have the potential to cause people to get "stuck in line" at your children's ministry. These are 3 times that you should monitor closely.
Time #1 - First-Time Guest Registration. You want to make the registration/check-in process for new families as quick as possible.
One way you can shorten the time is by having a separate check-in area for first-time guests. Don't make them wait in line with your regular attendees.
Another way to shorten the time is by having a simple registration form. The more information you have to collect from them, the longer it will take. Trim down your registration form to the basic need-to-knows. You can also do away with paper registration forms and collect the information on a computer or tablet. It's quicker to type it than write it...and you get the added bonus of being able to actually read what it says versus trying to decipher someone's handwriting.
Two weeks ago, I timed the check-in process for a new family. Literally. I took the stopwatch on my iPhone and timed it. It took 5 1/2 minutes from the time they stepped up to the registration table to the time they arrived at the classroom door.
Not bad...but not great either. I'm working to get it down to 3 minutes. We are preparing to move to a digital form like I mentioned above. I believe this will shave off some of the time.
Time #2 - Check-In for regular attenders. How long does it take your families to check in? How long do they have to wait in line? Monitor this closely. If you have lines backing up, it's time to add some additional check-in stations. If you're using digital check-in, how fast is it? Are the computers or tablets running at optimal speed? Do you need to get a better internet connection? Update some computers? Invest in a new check-in system? Regular attenders should be able to check in with a time frame of 1 minute or less.
Time #3 - Pick-Up. Having to wait after service can be even more frustrating than before service. Families are ready to see their kids...ready to go eat...ready to get home.
Monitor this. How long are parents having to wait to get their child? Are there lines? Are parents getting impatient?
One way you can shorten pick-up time is by being prepared for service to be out. Have someone keep you informed about how far along the adult service is so you can know when to wrap up. Have someone give you a 10-minute and 5-minute warning. When parents are arriving is not the time to start organizing take-home papers or start wrapping up the lesson. Have everything wrapped up and ready before the first parent comes to the door.
Another way is you can shorten the pick-up time in preschool is by placing the take home papers outside the classroom. We have created "clothes lines" on the wall outside the door and this where we hang them for parents.
Honoring ratios and room capacities is another important factor in cutting down pick-up time. If a room is overcrowded, the pick-up time will naturally be longer. Make sure you maintain a proper volunteer-to-child ratio as well as honoring room capacities.
A few weeks ago, I timed how long it took parents to pick-up their 4-year-olds at one of our campuses. It took 6 1/2 minutes from the back of the line to the door. That is not good. The big reason was we didn't have the other 4-year-old room open. Hence the long wait. We have corrected this and last week I timed the same room and it was down to 3 1/2 minutes. Better...but I'm hoping to get it down to 2 minutes or less.
It's important to remember that people decide in the first 8 minutes of they are going to come back to your church or not. You don't want them spending those first 8 minutes waiting in line.