Early Childhood Ministry: When Does (and Doesn’t) It Make Sense, Cindi Holman
In the last twenty years, early childhood ministries (ECMs, which refer to preschools and/or childcare centers) have grown significantly in WELS. Congregations have expanded their facilities to include these ministries. Martin Luther College developed programs to train ECM educators. Why? For some, the thought was that ECMs would present outreach opportunities. However, throughout much of this past decade, WELS congregations that had a preschool were no more likely to have adult confirmations than those that did not. For the majority of congregations, having an ECM did not lead to new members joining the congregation. It causes leaders to ask the question, “Does it make sense for us to even have a preschool?”
This is a key question for congregational leadership. ECMs consume resources. They require an initial investment in infrastructure. They are not always self-sufficient, but typically need financial support from the congregation. They make use of valuable volunteers. Is this the best use of resources? Does it make sense?
In this session, we will see that congregational leadership plays a critical role in establishing a clear mission and vision for an ECM. Is the aim only to proclaim the gospel to children and their families who might not otherwise hear it? Is the aim also to reach the parents and attempt to welcome them into the church? If so, how exactly does that happen? How do you help parents to understand that it is not enough to give their children a head-start on their ABCs and 123s? How can the ECM be assessed regularly to keep the focus on the mission and vision?
This session will include best practices for establishing a “harvest strategy,” a systematic approach that uses the efforts of multiple people to attempt to connect families with the Means of Grace and understand the parent’s important role in the spiritual development of their child.
Cindi Holman currently serves as the WELS National Coordinator for Early Childhood Ministry. She has been serving young children and their families for over 30 years. She has a master’s degree in early childhood education. Her early childhood experience has been in South Dakota, California, and Milwaukee, Wis. Her current role provides the opportunity to serve and support congregations, early childhood ministries, and early childhood educators throughout WELS through consulting, mentoring, and professional development.