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Church after-school programs: a ministry to children, families

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Christian after-school care programs represent an opportunity churches can’t afford to miss in reaching children while their hearts are open to the gospel, said Anne Moor, director of the School Age Care Program of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tenn.
Addressing an Oct. 18 workshop preceding the National Preschool-Children’s Convention, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, Moor said, “There is no better way to make an impact on these wonderful children than in a Christian after-school care program.
“When else do we ever have so much time with the children?” she asked.
“In Sunday school, you will have the children for one hour, one day a week. In an after-school care program, you have the children for up to four hours a day, five days a week. In the summer, you have them for up to 11 hours a day.”
Church-based after-school programs provide a loving, safe, Christian atmosphere in which churches can meet some of the children’s spiritual, physical and social needs, she said.
Also, she said, after-school care programs can be an inroad for outreach to the families being served, Moor said, noting there is a pre-established level of trust between the after-school care program and the parents of the children.
Churches already lead the way for preschool programs, Moor said. “Many, many churches have excellent preschool ministries, but we have not done a very good job providing care for our older children.”
Dot Blevins, children’s minister at Salem Baptist Church, McDonough, Ga., and a participant in the workshop, agreed.
Blevins, who will be leading a workshop on after-school care programs for the Georgia Baptist Convention weekday preschool education conference, said, “I’m very interested in this type of program for my own church. Two new elementary schools are being built near our church. That will put four elementary schools within six miles of us.”
Moor said the hardest job she has as a director is finding staff members she considers suitable. Her first requirement is the applicant must be a Christian with biblical and theological beliefs that match those of the church.
Teachers, for example, must believe in the security of the believer. “I can’t have teachers who believe you can lose your salvation teaching our children,” Moor said. “That is incompatible with what we believe.”
Moor, who employs several college students, said they are “wonderfully creative” in teaching the children and leading devotionals.
“One day we may have a Bible story. Another day we might go to the sanctuary and sing hymns,” Moor said, adding that the children are often awed at the way singing sounds in the large sanctuary. She asked the group, “Do you remember when you were small, how big the room felt and how the echo sounded when you sang? Children still love that.”
The teachers’ salaries must be better than fast-food restaurants pay, Moor said. “Providing care and nurturing for these children is worth a lot more than flipping a hamburger!”
Having the support of the church staff is essential to a successful after-school program, Moor said, advocating that the director of the program be considered ministerial staff. “This is as much a ministry as a sports ministry, a women’s ministry, anything,” she said. Weekly meetings with the senior pastor, “even for 15 minutes,” Moor said, are important for the pastor to know what is going on in the program.
Quality after-school care is a real need for children and their parents, a need churches are uniquely qualified to meet, she said.
“This is a ministry. It is more than just a service of child care,” Moor stressed. “We do more than just play outside and do homework.” For many children, she said, this kind of program will be the first time they or their parents have had contact with a church. It is a way to introduce them to the gospel. “We can reach and teach these children.”

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  • Polly House