It's easy to think of preschool ministry as simply "babysitting," but I see a bigger picture: I see a vision of little children worshipping freely and getting their first glimpses of what it means to follow Jesus. I see kids learning the foundational biblical truths that they will build on and plant seeds in their hearts for the rest of their lives. I see a place where kids can wiggle and run and laugh and feel loved and accepted, all while being pointed to Christ in every aspect.
Preschool ministry is SO much more than just babysitting. It is one of the most important ministries in a church, and one that often gets pushed to the back burner. If churches can grasp the importance of reaching young kids and their parents, they will experience growth and church health, and they will see young parents flock to their church. Preschool ministry builds a foundation of faith and trust in the church in young kids, a foundation that is built stronger in elementary ministry, and stronger in student ministry. If we can be intentional to reach kids and impact them through key milestones and moments in their lives, and partner with parents to build a strong faith from the very beginning, we can make a bigger impact and grow disciples that stick with their faith.
A few key points to remember in a great preschool ministry:
SAFETY: For most of my 12 years in children's ministry so far, I have focused mostly on Elementary Ministry. While elementary ministry must have safety policies and procedures in place, it is EVEN MORE VITAL to have simple, yet comprehensive, and enforced safety policies in preschool ministry. There are even more risks, with things like diaper changes and potty accidents, injuries, sippy cups and germs, snacks and allergies, crying children, cleaning toys, check-in and check-out, and moving rooms if you move from small group to large group. There are more things to think about in preschool ministry when it comes to safety, and it is absolutely essential to have leaders who know and enforce all the safety policies and procedures. It took me a few months to completely understand and wrap my mind around the differences in preschool vs. elementary policies, and now I am even more convinced that this is important in a great preschool ministry.
SHORT ATTENTION SPANS AND FUN: Preschoolers have even SHORTER attention spans than elementary aged kids. This can he a big challenge when it comes to engaging them in activities and curriculum, and because of this, many people in preschool ministry almost "give up" and just let kids have free play for most of the worship hour. But I look at it as an opportunity for us as leaders to sharpen our skills and look for fun and creative ways to keep kids engaged from the time they enter the rooms until they go home. We can play games, use puppets, do fun crafts, have snacks, sing songs, and do all kinds of fun activities to help connect kids to God. Everything we do can help point them to the Lord and His love. I love working with my volunteers to find fun ways to engage kids, even as young as two years old, and help them have fun while learning. We do a large group worship services for our preschoolers, as well as small group time in classrooms. You can be as silly and funny as you want with preschoolers. They have endless energy, and they love fun!
WORSHIP: One thing preschoolers (almost all of them) love is worship! They love singing, dancing, wiggling, and worshipping! You can sing songs all through the day, about everything! We sing songs about prayer, about praising God- about anything. Church should be a place where preschoolers love to come and have fun.
CONSISTENT LEADERS: One of the best ways to help preschoolers feel loved and safe at church is to have consistent leaders that they see week after week- people who know their names and greet them by name and notice when they aren't there. We ask our preschool leaders to serve every week. And it is amazing to see how kids connect with "their" teacher, and run to their room each week to see their special person at church who knows them and loves them.
Those are 4 things I believe are important in making a preschool ministry great. What do you think are some other things that make preschool ministries great?