Bally Mennonite Church has always been a place where creativity has blossomed, but like many small churches, we have been facing declining numbers of children. Our community preschool, which meets daily in our building ten months out of the year, has continued to flourish, but this growth hasn’t been reflected in our Sunday school program.
We had what looked like two main problems: first, our Sunday school preschool class, which sometimes had just a couple preschoolers, was, for a while, combined with an older class and this wide age range seemed to be daunting for the children as well as the teacher; and second, despite many opportunities, we seemed unable to get our preschool families to come to church.
After one Sunday, when there were only one or two preschoolers, Kathryn Schoenly, the preschool Sunday school teacher, and Connie Jones, a parent of a preschooler and a board member for our community preschool, started brainstorming about what they could do to get more children here.
“The preschoolers do come to our Vacation Bible School in the summer,” Kathryn observed. “I wonder if we could interest some of the parents in bringing their children to our Sunday school?”
“Could we just invite them to drop off their kids on a Sunday morning using the preschool entrance?” Connie wondered.
She mentioned it to the preschool board that same evening and Kathryn asked me what I thought about it.
“Go for it!” I said. “What a great idea!”
Almost immediately, Kathryn made an invitation and sent it home with the preschool children.
The next week, two families accepted our invitation and brought their sign-up forms to preschool. The following week, one more came, and Kathryn now has a regular class of about 7 preschoolers.
It is a win-win situation for us all. Our Bally Community preschoolers get to hear about God’s love for them on Sundays and throughout the summer and preschoolers from our congregation have a full class on the same grade level.
We had a few kinks to work out, but as we recognize them, we try to learn from them. When our worship services go longer, someone needs to remember to go downstairs and be ready to welcome the preschoolers. Overall, it is exciting to see the smiling faces of all the preschoolers as they enthusiastically run into class: a safe, warm, and welcoming space.
And all because a couple of people were willing to think outside the box and let the Spirit move!