[ I am honored to have my friend Jamie Greening write this awesome blog post. Jamie is an author and a minister. I first met him in Birmingham, Alabama in 2005. You can read his blog HERE. You can see him on Twitter HERE. And you can learn about his latest novel, which is fantastic, right HERE. ]
I may have broken a few rules on Sunday.
Indeed, I’m pretty sure I did.
Now that I no longer pastor a local church, I am free on Sunday mornings to do other more important, cooler things at church. Without any doubt, the coolest of those is taking a Sunday to serve in the preschool department. It was there, in the preschool, that I broke rules.
What rules did I break?
Well, I dumped all the toys out of the toy bin, put the kiddos inside the bin, then pushed them around the room really fast pretending to be bumper cars. The children had a great time, and I got a good cardio workout. However, I’m pretty sure that using the bins that way is against the rules, especially without a helmet, seat belt, or license to drive a toy bin.
I also kept arguing with the children, insisting that cows went “oink oink” and that ducks went “meow.” I’m pretty sure that will be frowned upon by language experts and cognitive theory proponents.
The real question is, do I care if I broke the rules? The answer to that is, of course, no. I do not. I was too busy playing and having a good time.
Preschool is where the action of church is. Back in Port Orchard I used to regularly tell people that the most important thing they could do in the church was not to sing a song in worship, teach a lesson to adults, preach a sermon, say a prayer, serve on the finance team, or anything like that. The most important thing a person can do in the church is to go play with the children.
The most important thing a church can do to impact eternity is for as many people as possible to play with children. I am convinced that the seeds of discipleship and evangelism are planted with Legos and those old, broken phones that always end up in the preschool department.
Wouldn’t it be neat if that were a requirement for being a deacon, a worship leader, a small group leader, serving on an administrative ministry or any other job in the church, that you spent time with children in the preschool department?
There are three great sins that churches often commit in its preschool ministry.
• They let all the responsibility for it fall to young mothers.
• They excuse older members from serving.
• They treat it as a ‘paid staffing’ issue.
Certainly young mothers are vital to a church's health, but they should rarely work in preschool environments because they are the ones needing relief. People in their upper 30s and on should be back there because they’ve heard all the sermons and lessons already. Older members should serve because their experience is vital, but more than that, how can a church be an intergenerational reflection of the Kingdom of God if it segregates the generations away from each other? If a person is worried about the fragility of older people, partner them with an older youth or let them serve as ‘accountability’ people because let’s face it, we never have enough eyeballs watching our children. Paid staff is a great supplement for organization, quality control, and to make certain abusive, dangerous, and violent people are not allowed around the children, but there is no substitute for the presence of church people building relationships with children.
A church can shout up and down all it wants that it loves children and that it cares about the next generation, but it is all a lie until they prove it by making animal noises in the preschool.