Written by Rev. Becky Brown
A growing preschool ministry = A growing church
I’m sure no one has noticed the construction zone on our church’s side yard. Who am I kidding? Everyone in town has noticed! Countless people in our church have been curious about the new construction and have stopped in to ask staff questions. Countless people from the community have stopped in to ask what we are building and why. Our new modular building and covered walkway have been the talk of the town.
Let’s be real. Not everyone has said positive and uplifting things about our new construction. We have heard our fair share of complaints and have listened patiently while people have shared their negative opinions about the project. And that’s okay. Really, it is. Change is a difficult thing, especially when it involves something or someone you care for deeply. We all love our church, and we all love our hometown, just the way they are.
As a working mother of three, our church preschool has been a constant blessing for our family. Caroline started attending FUMC Preschool when she was 20 months old. In 2012, she was in the Mother’s Morning Out program that is managed by the preschool. At that time there were 3 other preschool classrooms. One for 3 year olds, one for 4 year olds, and a Transition to Kindergarten Class. Our little family was so relieved to have Caroline in a safe place, with people who loved her dearly from the first moment she walked in the door, and who poured into her DAILY the love of Jesus. The tuition rates were so much more affordable than other daycares in town. What struck me the most was that this little preschool was more than a place that managed kids and followed the rules mandated by the state. This little preschool was (and still is) raising up sweet little souls to love and care for one another and their community. This little preschool genuinely loved every child that entered the doors. This little preschool was a ministry, not a daycare. The preschool receives no profit, and often is in the red because of accommodations made for children in need. This little preschool had something, a feeling, that other places like it didn’t have. And these little souls were graduating from this little preschool absolutely prepared to enter Kindergarten with a bang.
As time went on, Caroline spent 2 more years in the preschool that shaped her. The preschool began to grow as more families were in need of excellent care and schooling for their children. The demand for childcare in Haywood County had just begun to rise, and our church needed to answer. So, we began to add classrooms and hire more teachers. By the time our son Jack started in the same Mother’s Morning Out program in 2014, there were 6 classrooms in the preschool. The little preschool continued to grow. That school year, it became clear that we needed to add an additional Mother’s Morning Out classroom. Simply put, our church was growing and there were several new babies born into our church family. We didn’t have enough room to provide care for our own babies. We definitely didn’t have enough room to provide care for other families in need in our community. If our preschool’s mission is to be a weekday ministry, then we HAD to have room for more children. Our creative and visionary church staff came up with an idea. There was a rather large janitorial storage room right within the preschool rooms. That summer that closet was transformed into a bright and cheery preschool room for 2-year olds. Our sweet little Jack was one of the first 2-year olds to call that classroom home. I was proud to say that our son went to school in a re-purposed janitorial closet because of what this would mean for our community and our church family.
This little preschool has continued to grow. It’s not all that little anymore. At in-house registration this past February (open only to church members, returning students, and siblings of current students) it became apparent that there was no room in the inn. There wasn’t room to serve our own. Once again, there was no room for new families in need. The staff realized there was no where else to expand to. That’s when the word “modular” started to be tossed around. We recognized a need for new space, and space to grow. Growth keeps happening. 3 years ago, the Master Plan Team met with community leaders of non-profits and schools nearby to ask what we could provide as a church to support the community. One desperate plea was for more access to affordable childcare. There are many more children in the community than there are spots for in childcare facilities and preschools. Most homes these days require both parents working to be self-sustaining and afloat financially. A safe space for children is a must.
So here we are. We are near the end of our modular construction which will provide 6 new rooms. 4 of those rooms will be full of children. One will be the resource room for teachers’ supplies. And one will be open, because next year we will probably be planning to use that space for another classroom. I couldn’t be prouder for our little Jack to be one of the first students to have preschool in the new building. He will be in Mrs. Downs’ transition to Kindergarten class! He has watched the construction from the playground all summer, and can’t wait to see the finished product. Our 3rd child, Wyatt, will be starting in the Mother’s Morning Out class this school year. So, yes. Our family is part of the reason we need more classroom space in our preschool!
I know the new construction drastically changes the way our building looks from Haywood Street. I am so thankful to serve as a pastor in this congregation that is always asking critical gospel-led questions. How can we be the church for our community? How can our church continue to reach out to the families in Haywood County, provide them with more affordable services, and raise up children to be great students who are ready for Kindergarten? How can we continue to be the place people call home, and experience the never-ending grace of Christ? Friends, our church is a growing church. Thanks be to God. We are growing because of our stellar preschool ministry. Each of our preschool teachers see the children in this school as beloved children of God. ALL the children are ours, and we claim them, even if they’re only in our building Monday – Friday. When children are brought before the church for baptism, the whole church makes these promises to them:
With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.
We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others.
We will pray for them, that they may be trues disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
Our teachers are living into these promises with each and every child. We have received dozens of families into membership in our church, the past 8 years alone, because of their connection to the preschool. Dozens of children and babies have been baptized here – children who were preschool families first. Let us not forget our call to be the church for the community children too. My prayer is that our whole congregation will extend our baptismal promises to all 120 children who will start school in our buildings the last week of August. And let’s keep making room for more.
So, when someone asks you what’s going on at FUMC, share joy with them. Celebrate the ways God is moving among our church preschool. Give thanks for our membership who has worked so hard to make this new building a reality. The architect, the construction management, and the project manager are all church members who love their church and whose children attended (or will attend) our preschool. Join me in prayer for all of our teachers and staff as they prepare for their big move into their new rooms. Join me in prayer for all the new children who will be walking our halls and worshipping in our sanctuary for preschool chapel. It’s exciting to be the talk of the town. Now’s the time to share our story. Now’s the time to share our story of God’s amazing power and love.
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