A Word from Lorri Burck…
Dear Calvary Members and Friends,
I decided to take this opportunity to share my passion for our Early Childhood program in Children’s Ministry and to explain some of the reasons why this is a crucial ministry for Calvary as a whole. Unless you have been serving in our Nursery and Preschool over the past couple of years, you may not be aware of many of the reasons why this program is so important to the ongoing vitality of our church.
Parents and grandparents bring their precious and cherished children to us, hoping to find a safe, warm and caring place where their little ones can be cared for, play, sleep, eat and be exposed to their first steps of faith development. Their lives are busy and more complex than previous generations, with work, education and financial stressors playing a more prominent role in their lives. For some, this is perhaps the single hour or hour and a half that they have together as a couple. Single parents hunger for a little time to breathe and experience some spiritual nourishment and fellowship. Grandparents see this as one important way that they can nurture their grandchildren’s faith.
We at Calvary have been blessed by ongoing teams of people who have created the three safe, well supplied, age appropriate and engaging nursery rooms that we enjoy today. In addition, we stand on the shoulders of those who have established a well vetted process for volunteers and a Framework of Safety that allows parents to feel confident enough to leave their children with us. Studies have repeatedly shown that young families will not come back or remain at a church, if this expectation is not consistently met.
Our young ones may be a little tentative when they first start coming to our nursery, but soon they find safety, support and love in the familiar faces of their caregivers and teachers. They also find joy in seeing their friends. Most have trouble breaking away when it is time to actually go home. In short, church for them is an exciting and fun place to be. Researchers have found, time and again, that these very first experiences in church can “make it or break it” for children.
Finally, my nursery team and I take our job of exposing children to the words, attitudes, stories and music that begin to build a foundation for their faith development, very seriously. Even in the infant nursery, there are posters reminding care givers to pray for these precious little ones as they change their diapers or rock them. This year, I chose a brand new curriculum produced by Sparkhouse, called Frolic First Faith. Families with children, birth through three years of age, receive an E-Messenger at the beginning of each month. Included in each issue is developmental information related to the chronological age of each child. There are activities designed to stimulate spiritual development, fun family activities and information about physical, language and social development. As children move into our Toddler room, they begin to hear “faith” words and language as they listen to music and enjoy reading simple “board” books designed to help them begin to learn about how God creates big and little things and how much He loves them. These books are meant to be handled by little hands and read over and over… for this is exactly what young children enjoy and need to learn. Our teachers can download lessons that can be used just with the children, or even presented with parents as participants, so that they can learn how to do this at home. Our preschoolers really enjoy reading colorful storybooks and the Frolic First Story Bible, as they continue to expand their understanding of God and hear early Bible stories. These Frolic First Faith storybooks engage the kids with stories meant to expose them to concepts like “sharing,” “making new friends,” and “dealing with anger” from an understandable faith perspective.
While we have many more children on our rolls, we typically see an average of five children of various ages each week. Attendance since January has ranged from three to eight children. Since attendance is so variable, we usually group children together during the Church School hour and try to divide them into classes during Worship. We have found that most families only come during this second hour.
In addition to serving our congregation’s children and grandchildren, our nursery rooms are also used during the week. You may not know that two delightful twins play and rest in our Infant room while their Mom teaches piano lessons all day Tuesdays. Their grandmother watches them and their Mom is able to see them throughout the day to nurse, share lunch and play with them. Children of choir members from the First Universalist Church of Denver also play in our nursery on Wednesday nights while their parents are in choir rehearsal in our music room. Their church is undergoing renovations and expansion.
I hope that this simple article has opened your eyes to some of the important work that is happening each week in the east wing with our youngest and most precious little ones. Families first start coming to Calvary because we have a solid nursery program, they stay, or sometimes even return, when they recognize the quality of our early childhood teaching and the love of our caregivers.
This is a unique and special part of who Calvary is.