Every now and then, you might hear someone in your church refer to your preschool programming as “childcare.” While yes, leaders and volunteers do take care of children in preschool ministry, many of us know it’s truly so much more than that. Your church’s preschool ministry strives to influence far beyond simply giving preschoolers a place to go on Sundays.
In fact, we have five important reasons why your church’s preschool programming should not be viewed as or called “childcare.”
A preschooler (age 0-5) is rapidly growing and developing. A child’s brain is developed to 80% of its adult size by age 3. It is so important to teach and lay the foundation needed right from the start. Between the ages of 3 to 4, a child will learn between 200 and 2,000 words. That’s a lot of words! So we want to intentionally choose vocabulary that gives preschoolers words to reinforce that God made them and loves them!
The truth is that ministry to a six-month-old is incredibly important. Babies are learning, growing, and absorbing everything. They can mimic smiles. They can clap while you sing. Infants are watching you carefully and understand way more than you think. Take time to educate your leaders about each phase, reiterating what children at each stage are capable of, and how important each year is for growth.
2. The Team
If your preschool programming is called childcare, you will not attract leaders who want to invest in teaching the next generation. Instead, you will attract people who want to sit and supervise. Use words that show your team’s value—call them leaders or Small Group Leaders instead of childcare workers, workers, or even volunteers. Calling them leaders shows they have an important role and job at the church. They are not just filling a seat—they are fulfilling a purpose!
When you cast the vision and use words that continue to reiterate that vision, you will grow dedicated, consistent leaders. Preschoolers need friendly and familiar faces who show up every week to let them know they matter. When you create a place that has purpose and value, leaders will want to be there every Sunday to show each child that they care and that each preschooler matters at church. When you have a vision for your preschool ministry and it’s not viewed as childcare, more people will want to step up to the calling and be a part of the team and purpose.
Parents look for the best pediatricians, schools, food, and toys. They are definitely going to investigate to make sure you are the best church for their child. And, parents have choices. Parents also know their child is smart. (They’ve probably felt outsmarted by their two-year-old too many times to count.) They want people and places that will come alongside them and support them.
Many parents rely on daycare or childcare all week long, so they don’t want their child to simply go to another hour of “babysitting” on Sunday. And, every parent has the desire to be a better parent. Parents want a community to help educate and raise their children in the best possible way! Give them a place that will encourage, support, and equip them. Remember, preschoolers cannot drive themselves to church. Show parents that you are a place worth their time through high-quality preschool programming.
4. The Church
Show your church (the adults, the seniors, the teenagers, the staff) that people of all ages are an important part of the church. They are all made in God’s image and are invited to the table. We need to model Jesus, and Jesus wants everyone—including children—to come to Him.
Our language reflects our values. Using terms such as “Nursery Ministry,” “Preschool Ministry,” or “Children’s Ministry” shows that your preschoolers are a part of your church. You are not just changing a diaper or feeding a baby. You are communicating that each newborn baby has value and worth in your church and to God! Don’t forget that the child in the toddler room covered in glue may in fact be your next senior pastor! Preschoolers are the future church! Let’s make that known in how we talk about our preschool programming.
5. The Home
A preschooler is always learning and growing. They don’t just learn when you schedule it. So, lay the foundation and equip the home to keep the education going! At church, have a routine and a schedule that teaches the phrases applicable to a preschooler’s life. Then, send home resources that are manageable for a family so they can continue teaching and practicing those key phrases and memory verses at home.
We have one hour a week at church and parents have 168 hours (minus naps and sleep) a week at home. When we view our programs for preschoolers as a ministry, we will support a preschooler’s ability to learn. So, cast the vision now and design your ministry to support your preschoolers so they can learn all week long.