10 Tips to Finding a New Building for a Homeschool Co-op Group

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Last Updated on March 11, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin

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One of the biggest challenges for co-ops is finding a new building for a homeschool groups to meet in. As a group grows, they often need bigger space and finding a church or other building is often very challenging.

Our homeschool co-op recently needed to find a building. In the last 17 years, it has happened about 4 times. Thankfully it’s not an every year thing, but it has happened often enough that I’m familiar with the process of finding a new place.

Before you begin to look for a new space, your leadership needs to be in unified about what you are looking for. You need to be able to “speak with one voice” when you communicate with your members and with prospective churches. You also need to get REALLY honest with yourselves about reasons why you were asked to leave or no longer allowed to use the space.

If looking for a new building came as a surprise, it can be easy to point fingers or make a lot of assumptions. Neither of those are helpful. But it is helpful to make a plan moving forward.

The space that most homeschool groups use tends to be in churches most of the time. I’ll refer to looking for “churches” going forward. But in reality you may be looking at other spaces for your group to meet in.

tips to find a building for a homeschool co-op

Spaces that Homeschool Groups Meet In

  • Parks & Recreation Buildings
  • Park Shelters
  • Churches
  • Community Centers
  • Commercial Real Estate

What Does Your Group Need?

Before you approach a church or business, ask yourself what your group needs…and what are nice extras. Here are some things you might want to consider:

  1. How many children/families are in your group?
  2. How many classrooms do you need?
  3. Do you need a large gathering room?
  4. Do you need a room to eat in?
  5. Nursery?
  6. Kitchen, Gym?
  7. Number of Weeks You Meet
  8. Days that are an option to meet – be willing to be flexible if you can.
  9. What hours do you meet?
  10. How much rent can you afford? What will you do if the churches require a higher amount.

Look At Your Group From the Perspective of the Church

Before you approach anyone about the use of their building, step back and look at your group and ask if you are set up in a way that they would want to rent to you.

  • Are you formally organized
  • Do you have a board
  • Does your group have insurance
  • Do you have a child protection policy?
  • Do you have a clear mission that does not conflict with that of the church/business. (For example, some co-ops are secular or LGBTQ friendly, some allow public school students etc)

Write Up a Proposal Introducing your Group to the Church or Business

When you are preparing to contact building locations, it is helpful to prepare a proposal so that you can easily reach out to a bunch of locations quickly if necessary. A proposal is a generic document that introduces your group to any church or space you approach and gives them the basic specs of who you are, what you need and what you have to offer.

If it is well written, the person reading it will be able to tell if their space will even work for your group. That may lead to quick rejections, but you won’t be wasting their time or yours if the building won’t work.

Things to Include in your Proposal

  1. Section 1: One or two paragraph introduction to your group (history, philosophy, number of families and children, child protection policy, leadership structure and core mission)
  2. Section 2: Explain Why You Are Looking For a New Space. If you left your old space, do not spell that out here.
  3. Section 3: List of what you need in a new space (note which things are flexible or optional)
  4. Section 4: Explain what you can offer the church (Cleaning, rent, you have your own insurance, maybe you help with church projects etc)

In your proposal, I would avoid saying how much rent you expect to pay. If you end up finding a perfect space, you don’t want them to disregard your proposal because the rent amount doesn’t match their expectations. Once you have all your location options you can decide whether to move to a space based on amentities or price.

Get the Word Out & Finding Churches

Depending on the size of your group, you may have everyone looking for a new space or just a few people on your board. Having a proposal all written up can make the whole “search team” speak with a unified voice.

When you reach out, the method you use will likely depend on whether you know someone at the church or whether its a cold call. If you know someone, talk to them in person or on the phone. If its a cold call, you will likely be emailing the church.

When sending an email, write up a “form letter” with basic information about your group and asking whether their church would be open to having a homeschool group meet in their building during the week. Do not include your proposal in your initial contact. If they reply to your email, you will have it ready to send immediately.

Tips To Find Churches

  1. Choose the geographic area you want to meet in. Make a list of churches that are in that area. Note if any of your group members attend those churches.
  2. Start your search by having your members contact their own churches
  3. Expand out from initial churches by sending emails or making phone calls to other churches (or locations) on your list.
  4. Also consider churches that may have shrinking congregations but still want their building to be used well.
  5. Narrow your list down by taking tours of the buildings. It is usually better if at least 2 board members tour each building
  6. Have a “final decision” date when your group must decide or the search may become indefinite.
  7. Overcommunicate your members about the search status.

The last time our group searched for a location, we had a difficult time finding a church anywhere near the current location. The churches we were finding were 15 to 20 minutes or more away from the current location which created some difficult conversations in the group.

Depending on the direction we moved, some families might now need to drive close to an hour. The church search became a bit devisive as people realized that whatever we chose meant that some people would not likely return.

The search took several months as we gathered information and then had to wait for boards to meet to approve our group. During that time, we overcommunicated with our members to let them know what churches we were looking at, the features of each one, their locations and which ones said yes/no. Ultimately we ended up narrowing choices by voting…first to eliminate the outlier churches…and then again between 2 locations.

Nothing about the move felt easy. But communication helped everyone get a feel for the direction things were moving.

Ask for a Contract If It is Not Offered

Once you have chosen a location, ask the church for a contract with the terms of use. Sometimes the church has had one ready for us and sometimes we have needed to provide it. In that, include any terms that are important to both sides. In our contracts with churches, these kinds of things have been included:

  • Insurance Requirement
  • Weeks we were meeting and day
  • Requirements the church had for us
  • Contacts for the church and from our board
  • Any other expectations
finding a building for a homeschool group

Maintaining Good Relationship With Your Location

One of the lessons we have learned using different space is that we need to be very mindful of how we use the space we have. Our group has always been in churchs with very low “rent’ or donations. In some churches, our arrangement has been that we basically clean the whole building so that they don’t need much custodial help. In other places, we just clean up what we use.

At the end of a co-op day, people will be tired. It’s easy to cut corners on the cleanup. But its MUCH easier to cleanup than to go through the building search process again!!

Tips For Keeping a Good Relationship

  1. Have a clear plan for how you will clean the building. Work with the church custodian to get a list of exactly what they want. Some will want only basic cleanup and some will have a more comprehensive list.
  2. Clean the building…very well. Be slightly neurotic here. Go above and beyond what was asked.
  3. Have a good working relationship with the staff or owner. Be open…ask for regular feedback. Don’t let irritations build up…ask for feedback so you can fix things quickly.
  4. Board members should be the ones interacting with staff/owners. Make sure that the staff are aware of who is “in charge” so that when they have problems, they know who to talk to.
  5. Keep special requests for building use outside the agreed normal use to a minimum.
  6. Be respectful of the time you said you would be in the building. Be out of the building on time.
  7. Be respectful to others in the building who are not part of your group.
  8. Do not be disruptive to staff working in the building.
  9. Say “thank you” to the church staff. In our group, we have at different times given gifts to the church, bought lunch for the staff, brought in doughnuts for the staff, and given cards and gift cards. It costs very little to be appreciative of the gift of the space to meet in.

Churches that are generous enough to let homeschool groups use the building are often churches that tend to use their building well. In our group, we meet on a Friday. There have been several weeks that the Boy Scouts leaders have been in the kitchen prepping for a Friday evening event while we are at the church doing our co-op.

The church janitor is done before we leave. She doesn’t come back to clean before Sunday services. We have to leave the building in excellent condition or it actually makes her look bad. On top of that, it makes it difficult for other groups if we leave a mess.

Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!

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