Adventist early childhood education and care centres (ECEC’s) offer unique opportunities for communities of education, care, relationship and mission to flourish. Conference ministry departments, pastors, school chaplains, school counselors and Christian teachers can work together to serve and minister to the families and children who attend our childcare centres. By so doing, they have long-term opportunities to engage in a unique type of friendship ministry that supports the wellbeing of families and spreads the gospel to parents and children. Many of these families are unchurched and will never attend an Adventist church. The daily contact that early childhood educators have with parents, children, and their extended family members has the potential to support family wellbeing, spiritual awareness, Biblical knowledge, and values and faith formation in ways that the other ministries are less able to achieve.
Adventist daycare services can be viewed as integrated services of ministry, education and care. Indeed, Christ-like living, communicating, discipling, teaching, healing and serving operate at the core of our philosophy and practice. All who work at the centres can engage in a ministry of teaching that allows them to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt 5.13). They can permeate their local community with Christian values, well-being and a Christian worldview. This view of early childhood education and care moves beyond the integration of faith, learning and care. It includes a broader view of Christian education and the ministry of teaching that harnesses the opportunity for a transformational missions approach by incorporating a number of areas: social justice, education for life as well as eternity, and family and child spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, creative and social well-being.
To accomplish this, centres must establish new partnerships with church entities such as family ministries, health and well-being ministries, education, and evangelism. We should spend time together to understand each other’s unique mission and programs. Discover the needs of the families currently enrolled in your centre and creatively explore possibilities for working together to meet these needs. Part of this process is exploring respectful ways to introduce the gospel to unchurched families and to engage in service projects that can help the local community to flourish. Such partnerships will empower each entity to take an active role in the early childhood education and care centre and its mission.
The work of Pratt (2014) gives an indication of practices that can help achieve this new vision for Adventist early childhood education and care. He speaks of intergenerational events, parent education, family service opportunities, and the celebration of memory events. The approach that emerges from this type of community of practice could involve a wide variety of initiative and events.
Programs of this nature would see Adventist education and care centres joining with various church entities to operate beyond normal education hours in a ministry of education, care, and service. This integrated service vision would promote resilience and wellbeing in families and the community. It would expose a broader cross section of the local community to a Christian worldview and the good news of salvation. What possibilities can you see for this type of approach to early childhood education and care in your community?
Pratt, D. (2014). Gifts for our children: 7 gifts for church and home. NNSW Children’s & Family Ministries. Newcastle, Australia: Seventh-Day Adventist Church.