Here in the South we are known for our faith, football, and fried chicken. Many of our preschool and childcare programs are connected with churches, either as a ministry or as shared space. At last year’s annual conference, SECA began conversations with providers from these settings in order to better understand how these programs differ from publicly-supported, or independently-operated private centers. SECA also wants to help connect professionals serving in these programs with the wider early childhood community, so that all of our voices may be heard. Finally, SECA wants to learn what kinds of support are needed in our faith-based early education settings. We are extending these conversations here.
In this post, we wonder why our members think that faith-based settings are important to children. Those who engaged with us at conference feel that sharing values during the early years is just as much a part of whole-child development as the other common domains. Growing them in faith and knowledge, and helping little ones build a foundation is part of spiritual development. Just as the first years give us opportunity to give children the skills to love reading, solve problems, feel competent, or take another perspective, we can also utilize this time to help them understand the world and themselves from a place of purpose.
Some of our church-based settings can extend the community of the church, as church members participate in the program activities together; serving as volunteers, sharing needed ideas or items, enjoying the successes of our children’s growth. Community can also be extended to non-members of the church in the same manners. These programs can serve as ways to reach out, connect with resources, and to develop trusting, nurturing relationships among all involved. When managed well, early childhood settings within the church can truly be a vital ministry of the church.
What do you think?
- How important are faith based settings to children and why?
- What are some ways that church sponsored (or housed) programs can be beneficial to children and families?
Kathy Chase Young has served as a childcare director for twelve years, nine of which were in a faith based non-profit center for single parents and low socioeconomic families. She spent nine years teaching in a church-based preschool classroom. In 2010, she developed a program called “Creation Exploration” which is an exciting annual event pairing children with science experiences from a biblical world view.