Tuesday, January 12, 2016

PRESCHOOL: Lutheran Trained Employees

At a district committee meeting we started talking about Lutheran Early Childhood Education (ECE) centers and how only about 20% of the administrators in most Lutheran ECE centers are synodically trained (a 4-year degree is not required) and that many more employees aren't Lutheran at all. They have no idea what Lutherans believe. Some employees are from the associated church or may attend another Lutheran church, but most or many centers have to hire from the general public and there is currently no training available for them.

One suggestion being discussed by the leadership in my district is a certification program for early childhood leaders called C-LECT (Certification, Lutheran Early Childhood Teacher), which is a certification program by Concordia University, Wisconsin. The program looks fantastic, but it costs $300 per person. Students may earn college credit, but it requires an addition cost of $125. Some of the employees in ECE centers are in high school and the college credit is only available at CU-W. Other than having trained employees, there is no real incentive for congregations to invest this much money in employees that may or may not be easily retained long-term.

Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe it is important that any person working with young children in a Lutheran preschool needs to know what Lutherans believe before they start having Bible time and teaching kids about Jesus. I don't, however, think it needs to be so expensive or formal, though certificates could certainly be provided. After all, learning time when you're 3-4 years old is about playing and learning Christian values, not doctrine. Given that, I propose the following:

Many congregations in each district and even each circuit have Early Childhood Centers. These employees could all get together to have training that would be similar to any new member training or confirmation training.
  1. A standardized training program could be put together and shared among congregations in the district and training could take place in different circuits 2-4 times a year.
  2. Training would include: 
    • The basic foundation of Lutheran teaching (Law/Gospel, Baptism, Communion, Faith, Grace, etc.) This may be a product of the Small Catechism. 
    • Basic information on faith formation and some child development information. 
There are things I left out of the training that I'm sure others would add such as, in depth information on the structure and leadership of the LCMS, the ECE as a mission opportunity, Christian curriculum and family ministry information. I leave this out intentionally because I do not think it's necessary to meet what my goal would be if I were an ECE director/administrator. I would simply want my employees to know what my church teaches and be able to share Jesus with the children. We're preparing people to work with 3-4 year old kids. More and more research regarding children this age says they should have very limited structure in their daily routine. Their learning time is about playing and learning Christian values, not doctrine. 
In addition, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a similar, but perhaps shorter, meeting with new parents once a month or quarter to help them understand what the ECE will be teaching their children as well. There's your mission opportunity.

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