As people of faith, we are called to teach children through scripture, our tradition as Methodists, the Social Principles, the ritual of baptism, and our concern for families. In responding to the call set before us, we will provide environments for children to be nurtured in the faith and to grow as children of God.
Scripture tells us to teach children the words of God (Deuteronomy 4:10; 6:7) and not to prevent them from discovering Jesus (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). We can also help children to grow as Jesus grew, “strong . . . filled with wisdom; and God’s favor was on him” (Luke 2:40b).
John Wesley set the example for us as Methodists as he began health clinics and schools for the children to learn to read and encouraged the pastors to meet with the children regularly. His call to meet the needs of people where they were stands as a marker for us today. Using our buildings that otherwise might sit empty six days a week to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of children and their families clearly meets Mr. Wesley’s expectations.
Our Social Principles (¶ 162C) state, “Once considered the property of their parents, children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations. . . .” This Social Principle calls us to take responsibility for meeting the needs of children, including education and protection. Additionally, it calls us to meet the needs of not just our children but all children.
In our service of infant baptism in The United Methodist Church, we promise to “surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others . . .” (The United Methodist Hymnal, page 40). In recognition of this promise and in response to the sacredness of all children as set forth in scripture, through the teachings of John Wesley, and in our Social Principles, our vision for childcare must include a vision of services available to all families on an equitable basis. Through the particular ministry of childcare, we extend the nurturing ministry of the church and proclaim justice to children, families, and communities.
The church has important responsibilities in initiating, encouraging, and participating in the highest quality of childcare for children and families, not only in the local community and beyond.
Therefore, we recommend the following:
1. See childcare as planned ministry.
Each congregation of The United Methodist Church that maintains any childcare ministry program must intentionally assess its understanding of discipleship as it relates to weekday ministry. Each childcare ministry program may encompass one or all of the following expressions of ministry: nurture, outreach, and witness by asking three questions. What are the congregation’s gifts for ministry with children? What is the mission of childcare? How is intentional ministry a part of the daily operation of the program?
Congregations must determine how the childcare program embraces the church’s mission.
a. Nurture includes Christian education, stewardship, and worship. In a program that focuses on nurture, spiritual development through Christian education is central. When children are cared for, they learn to care for others and for their world. An intentional part of the curriculum and resources should be the selection of stories (biblical and secular) and methods, and the integration of “God talk” and Christian values into daily conversations, worship opportunities, and interactions. In our childcare ministry programs, we reflect our commitment to being God’s stewards in the ways we use and allocate our physical and ecological resources.
b. Outreach includes the areas of advocacy, safety, health, welfare, and equity, and how well they are addressed in our communities. Embracing outreach as a part of a weekday ministry program follows our traditional roots of caring for the needs of the community. As a congregation responds to the needs of people in the community through weekday ministry, the community and the congregation discover many blessings Each congregation should determine the unmet needs of their surrounding community by providing specialty childcare for children and families with special needs, striving to meet needs specific to the community, and advocating for the needs of children and families. Congregations should make every effort to work collaboratively with other community agencies and groups to assure that needs are being met without duplication of efforts and in support of each other.
c. Witness includes the areas of evangelism, membership care, and spiritual formation. In embracing witness as our particular expression of ministry, we proclaim God active in our lives. A witness to our faith speaks clearly through the actions of weekday ministry boards, through the caring love of the staff, the use of developmentally appropriate practices, gentle and caring words, curriculum and resources, the environment of the facilities, and the attitude of the congregation.
Every congregation of The United Methodist Church needs to define its ministry through childcare and include a statement of this ministry through weekday ministry programs as part of employee handbooks, parent handbooks, community statements, and church reports.
2. Uphold the quality of childcare in the Church.
Any time a child enters a childcare ministry program housed in a church, expectations are raised regarding quality of the program, behavior of the childcare staff and church staff, and adherence to the Christian doctrines of love and justice. Since the program is in the church, families have different expectations than if they are taking their child to a commercial childcare facility, So a church cannot divorce itself, either morally or legally, from what takes place in its building through childcare ministry programs. The childcare ministry program shall include developmentally appropriate curriculum and resources, the involvement of the congregation with the program, pastoral availability to families and staff involved in childcare, safe and clean buildings and equipment, and the highest quality in staff and staff support in each of the following areas:
a. Program Reviews: An annual review of the childcare ministry program should take place with joint participation of childcare staff, church personnel, and informed, interested laity.
b. Licensing: Congregations should strive to meet and surpass licensing standards in their state. The regulations of basic health and safety conditions in a building/program that serves children are the appropriate responsibility of the state and do not interfere with the free exercise of religion. Congregations should seek to be actively informed about such licensing procedures and requirements and should work to reform such regulations when they do not mandate standards that serve the best interests of children.
c. Self-Study: Through a self-study process, every childcare facility can look for ways to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of the care provided. Churches should follow a process of self-study for their childcare ministry programs on a regular basis. These self-studies are available through some annual conferences, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the United Methodist Association of Preschools—Florida.
d. Personnel: As congregations seek to support childcare ministry programs, competitive salaries, benefits, and support of the staff of these programs should be of concern and subject to review and discussion to insure the best for the children and families involved. Congregations have a responsibility to advocate for higher pay and benefits for childcare workers. These professional caregivers should maintain excellence and integrity in the important job they do, and they should be appropriately compensated for it. Appropriate screening protects the children, the childcare providers, and the congregation. It is important to meet any government regulations and the Safe Sanctuaries® policies of your local church regarding the screening of childcare workers as appropriate. A yearly plan for comprehensive continuing education should be part of the congregation’s support for childcare providers.
3. Be advocates for quality childcare.
Going beyond the congregation, United Methodists should be diligent advocates for childcare nationwide.
a. Stay informed about childcare conditions existing today and the issues involved in the design of an adequate public policy for childcare.
b. Use the appropriate councils and agencies of the church to monitor public policy at federal, state, and local levels of government.
c. Become involved in church conferences and meetings, and in the larger arena of childcare through the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and other research-based advocates of quality childcare.
d. Call upon staff at the General Board of Church and Society to monitor, serve as an advocate for, raise issues concerning, and bring the voice of the Church to bear on childcare policy development.
e. Call upon the staff of the General Board of Discipleship and The United Methodist Publishing House to express arising needs as they relate to program support, needed curriculum and resources, and policies regarding church and childcare center relationships.
f. Call upon the General Board of Global Ministries to assist churches in responding to childcare needs in their communities with appropriate programs and resources.
g. Call upon the General Board of Discipleship in consultation with the General Council on Finance and Administration to make available to local congregations resources that address legal aspects and procedures to follow in establishing childcare facilities and/or programs.
REVISED AND READOPTED 2008, 2016
RESOLUTION #3081, 2008, 2012 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #63, 2004 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #57, 2000 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
See Social Principles, ¶ 162C.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright © 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.