How a faith community loves the children in the neighborhood matters – really matters. Loving the children of the neighborhood is well beyond tolerating them. Loving children is well beyond making a congregation feel good about the future viability of the church by parading cute kids up the center aisle for children’s time only to be dismissed afterward so they won’t be disruptive for the rest of the worship service. We are reminded in Matthew 18:5, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (CEB)

What non-verbal messages is your church sending to neighborhood children? Are there signs posted in the parking lot such as “No Skateboarding” or on the playground stating “For First Church Use Only” or has the net on the basketball rim been missing for four years? How welcoming is your church to the neighborhood children? Do all the programs, signs, building use policies, and acts of the congregants lovingly welcome and embrace every child and their families of the surrounding neighborhood? Afterall, Dr. Seuss reminds us, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Have we noticed how today’s young families with children are struggling? As if parents didn’t already have their hands full, the pandemic created yet another layer of complexity for parents to navigate raising their children. With the closing of more than 16,000 childcare centers across the country in an already underserved industry, parents are struggling to find childcare availability, let alone affordable childcare. Add to this crisis the delayed learning caused by the closing of schools or the transition to virtual learning. In addition, parents are overwhelmed with balancing work and family life, making the family budget balance as inflation escalates, and the division and polarization of the country on issues of politics and racial justice.

These parents of the Millennial and Gen Z generations are increasingly spiritual but not religious, missing from mainline churches, and are searching for safe spaces to explore their spirituality and help them raise spiritual families. Yet, data from Pew reports, “Gen Z really wants to help people” and “shape the future,” but “when we see religious aspects of the church or other religions just tearing that down and oppressing people or hurting people, instead of showing how the church or religion can be used to help people, they [younger generations] just don’t want to associate with that.” Thus, the church finds itself in a difficult position of trying to reach these two generations who want help in nurturing their children’s faith but are reluctant to associate with the church.

To have the privilege and opportunity to journey alongside parents who are searching for assistance with resourcing their children in their spiritual development, the church will need to first show up and offer help where it is needed (childcare), build relationships (love our neighbors), and then slowly over time by building trust, the faith community can be invited into spiritual conversations and help parents develop confidence through providing resources, programs, and tools to develop their children’s faith.

Childcare Crisis Facts:

● According to over 71% of mothers are employed

● Over 62% of the married couples with children, both parents are employed per the Bureau of Statistics, 4/20/22.

● 51% of Americans live in communities classified as childcare deserts, Essential US Childcare Statistics, September 2022

● Per, nearly 32% of US children under age five can’t access a childcare slot

● The current childcare system places a $98 billion burden on the US economy per Essential US Childcare Statistics, September 2022.

With the childcare crisis, some innovative churches are rethinking their call to children’s ministry. Is your church providing full-time care for children along with kindergarten readiness and summer programming? Are you fully leveraging your facility for this ministry? Is your church intentionally and effectively integrating families from the childcare center into a spiritual community? Is your church taking a holistic family approach with the child care center? Does the staff of the child care center see their role as a ministry? Is there at least 20% of the tuition left to reinvest back into the ministry after all overhead expenses have been paid?

If you can’t answer each of these questions with 100% certainty, consider a Childcare Analysis of your existing center or preschool. Or contact us for information about becoming part of a growing network of new centers who are living into this ministry model. Info@Children’sTable