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Speaker cites changing trends in preschool-children’s ministry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The disintegration of the traditional family structure and other societal changes are forcing churches to rethink the ways they minister to preschoolers and children. But the needs of the children remain the same, a seminar leader said Oct. 19.
“Children need to be reached and taught because they are created in God’s image and are precious in his sight,” Bill Young, retired manager of children’s discipleship ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a session on trends in preschool-children’s ministry. He spoke during the Oct. 18-21 National Preschool-Children’s Convention attended by more than 700 leaders.
Young, who also is a member of the board of directors of the International Network of Children’s Ministry, cited changes that have occurred in preschool-children’s ministry in the last 40 years.
“We are seeing more attention given to preschool-children’s ministry in churches,” he said, noting that more churches are seeking persons to fill professional ministry positions than are graduating from Southern Baptist seminaries.
As a result, “churches are looking to teachers and others working in the field of childhood education for staff positions.”
Even staff titles are changing, Young said, noting that a title growing in popularity is “minister of family life and children.”
In another area, he said more men are involved in preschool-children’s ministry today, a positive development. However, fears about child abuse sometimes raise suspicions about the involvement of men.
“Societal changes are impacting the way we do church,” Young said. As a children’s discipleship training department director, he said he now makes home visits only when accompanied by his wife or another teacher.
The growing trend to year-round schools also impacts church ministries. Now, camps and other activities must be planned for non-traditional times when school is out, he said.
“We need to think beyond the traditional church program organizations of Sunday school, discipleship training, music and missions education,” Young said. He advocated an integrated approach to meet life needs.
In other ministry areas, he said preschool-children’s leaders must know what activities and studies are appropriate for each age. He urged church leaders to develop written standards for what they expect children to know and articulate at each age.
“I have only commendation for any church that does this,” he said.
While technology such as computers has not traditionally been part of church ministries with preschoolers and children, it is a must for the future, he said.
Young asked participants in the session to share concerns they are facing in their churches. Issues included:
— reaching unchurched families of preschoolers and children participating in church activities.
— providing training and motivation for parents to become involved in the spiritual education of their children.
— enlisting enough gifted workers.
— providing physical and emotional safety.
— helping church members see that preschool-children’s ministry is educational and not just child care.
While preschool-children’s workers should be willing to address changes in society, Young said they also must not lose sight of the reasons children must be taught about God.
“Jesus challenged us to reach them,” he said. “Childhood is a critical time of learning. Many children are in homes with little or no Christian nurture, and parents and children can be reached through these ministries.”

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  • Linda Lawson