How to Start a Preschool in 6 Effective Steps

Starting a childcare center can be a great opportunity for your church to fulfill an essential role in your community and serve as a consistent revenue generator. When starting a preschool there are some things to consider ensuring that you start off on the right foot. Here are six easy steps to successfully open your childcare center:

1. Decide What Type of Center You Will Be 

Decide whether your center will be Licensed or Religious Exempt. This single decision has many implications for your future center. For example, will your preschool be full-day, will your preschool be part-day, what director will you be able to hire, does your facility need renovations, and many more.  This is the first place to start when considering a preschool business unit for your church. Find more details on both types of centers by clicking here.

2. Prepare a Potential Budget

It’s probably time to build a Comprehensive Budget: Begin by outlining all potential costs associated with starting and running your childcare center. This includes initial costs like licenses, renovations, and purchasing equipment, as well as ongoing expenses like rent, utilities, staff salaries, supplies, and marketing. If you need some help getting started on a comprehensive budget check out this tool that Childcare Aware designed for Preschool Centers by clicking here.

Consider Funding Options: Determine how you will fund your project. While you may have a great kids space it may not be up to “licensing code.” -Let me interrupt for a second – While the cost of a project like this can seem daunting, remember there is considerable ROI for a preschool business unit. Therefore you may need to consider options like church savings, business loans, grants, or investors to start the project. Research grants specific to childcare services, as many local and federal programs support early childhood education initiatives. Here are some great friends and lenders we have worked with: Wesleyan Investment FoundationCDF Capital, and Thrivent.

Plan for Trouble: Include a contingency fund in your budget to cover unexpected expenses. This could be for unforeseen repairs, additional supplies, or fluctuating enrollment levels.

Forecast Revenue: Estimate your income based on your projected enrollment, tuition rates, and other potential revenue streams like government subsidies or additional programs. Ensure that your pricing structure covers your costs and aligns with market rates in your area.

3. Find a Location

Conduct a Site and Market Assessment: When considering any type of business venture, you should conduct a market study of your chosen location to verify the potential for a profitable business. You can do this specifically for a preschool venture by ordering a Site and Market Assessment. The team at Phase has developed a comprehensive and effective assessment using Primrose and Goddard data. A sample can be found here.

Understand Zoning and Licensing Requirements: Ensure the location complies with local zoning laws and meets the state’s licensing requirements for childcare facilities (both religious exempt and licensed have varying requirements for childcare). This includes considerations for indoor and outdoor space, safety standards, and accessibility.

Negotiate Terms: The preschool operation (business unit) should pay the church rent for its share of the expenses (utilities/repairs). In doing so the preschool P&L will reflect its actual value add and revenue generation to the church.

4. Develop Policies and Procedures

Establish Clear Policies: Create comprehensive policies for enrollment, tuition, health and safety, discipline, staff discounts, and emergency procedures. These should comply with local regulations and reflect best practices in childcare.

Create an Operational Manual: Develop a detailed manual covering daily operations, staff responsibilities, and classroom management. This will serve as a guide for your staff and ensure consistency in your childcare services.

Implement Health and Safety Procedures: Develop procedures for health screenings, managing illness, administering medication, and responding to emergencies. Ensure that your staff is trained in these procedures and that parents are informed about them.

Communicate with Parents: Establish a system (Procare, Brightwheel, Lillio, etc) for regular communication with parents, including progress reports, newsletters, and parent-teacher conferences. Clear communication helps build trust and keeps parents engaged in their child’s development.

5. Hire Staff

Determine Staffing Needs: Calculate the number of staff required based on your anticipated enrollment and state regulations regarding staff-to-child ratios. Include roles such as teachers, assistants, administrators, nutrition specialist, and support staff.

Recruit Qualified Staff: Post job listings on relevant job boards, social media, and within educational networks. Look for candidates with the necessary certifications, experience, and a genuine passion for working with children. While the proverbial “Aunt Suzie” could be a great church member, they may not be the best Preschool Center Director.

Conduct Thorough Background Checks: Perform comprehensive background checks and verify credentials for all potential hires. This ensures the safety of the children and the credibility of your center.

Provide Training and Professional Development: Offer initial training for new staff on your policies, procedures, and educational philosophy. Encourage ongoing professional development to keep your staff updated on the latest practices in early childhood education. You can check out one of our more recent blog posts on best practices for church preschool lead/lag measures by clicking here.

6. Develop a Marketing Strategy

Develop a Marketing Plan: Create a marketing plan that includes both online and offline strategies. Utilize social media, a professional website, local advertising, and community events to promote your center. Local advertising is a major component to ensuring your preschool meets revenue goals and community impact.

Highlight Unique Selling Points: Emphasize what sets your childcare center apart from competitors. This could be your christian curriculum, facilities, staff qualifications, or special enrichments (an Indoor Playground, a Gross Motor Lab, or maybe even a Gym).

Engage with the Community: Build relationships with local businesses, schools, and community organizations. Participate in community events and offer free workshops or open houses to attract families to your center.

Collect and Post Testimonials: Gather testimonials from parents and highlight success stories. Positive reviews can significantly enhance your center’s reputation and attract new families.


While this list is not an exhaustive one, it should help your church consider the many facets that go into launching a sustainable and quality preschool business. By carefully planning each step and staying flexible to adapt as needed, you can establish a successful and thriving childcare center that serves your community and funds ministry! 

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