Early Childhood Ministries
Director of WELS Early Childhood Ministries Cindi Holman discusses the booming outreach opportunity of early childhood programs.
Q: It seems there is a growing trend toward early childhood programs in general. What are the contributing factors to this?
Holman: “One factor is the changing dynamics of society. In a typical home today, it’s more common that both parents would be seeking employment outside the home, which often leads to the need for child care.”
“Another factor is the research that has been done on understanding how children develop. We are learning more about what and how young children learn and the value of rich experiences in the home and in early childhood centers.”
Q: What sets WELS early childhood programs apart?
Holman: “It’s an understanding of early childhood education as a ministry where those serving view what they do not as a job, but as a ministry. There’s a servant attitude that looks at early childhood ministries as an opportunity to serve not just the child, but the whole family.”
“WELS early childhood directors and teachers strive to provide a loving, nurturing environment that’s motivated by Christ’s love for us.”
Q: Why would you consider WELS early childhood programs as mission fields?
Holman: “When you look at early childhood ministries, particularly when you look at the statistics and the many families being served, this truly is a ministry. Early childhood ministries provide both nurturing of families and their children within the congregations as well as reaching out to community families and children. With the number of people from the communities that are in need of early childhood, it’s a natural mission field.”
“Almost every community is looking for preschools and childcare centers. This provides an opportunity for a congregation to connect with families in their communities that they may not otherwise have a connection with.”
“When I was a child, when I thought of mission work, I thought of Africa and Japan and all those wonderful exotic faraway places. I never imagined that two- and three- and four-year-olds would be a great mission field right here in our backyard.”
Q: What draws non-WELS community members to our early childhood programs?
Holman: “I think society still views a Christian organization as a safe place, even if they don’t have a strong conviction towards Christianity.”
“I also think that so many of our early childhood ministries strive to provide excellence, and parents are certainly looking for excellent, high quality programs.”
Q: What are the challenges facing early childhood ministries?
Holman: “Supplying our congregations with people trained to serve in early childhood ministry is definitely a critical issue. There are not enough people qualified to fill all the positions at this time. It’s something the Commission on Lutheran Schools and MLC are concerned about and working on. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about the new Early Childhood Learning Center at Martin Luther College in New Ulm. The new center will be a wonderful facility to train students who are already considering early childhood, but I’m hopeful it will also spark interest in early childhood.”
Q: What are the blessings of an early childhood ministry?
Holman: “One of the great blessings is what we learn from the children, especially about matters of faith. And certainly another blessing is all the children and their families who have the opportunity to hear the gospel every day because they’re connected with an early childhood ministry. The goal is summed up in Psalm 78:4 We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. To him be praise.”
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