DALLAS—New findings on churches and congregation-based childcare centers can help reduce tension between the two entities.
Jon Singletary, director for the Baylor University School of Social Work Center for Family and Community Ministries, said it’s common for churches and their congregation-based childcare centers to have misunderstandings on issues such as cost, legalities and use of space.
Researchers, daycare directors and pastors met for the “Who Cares for the Children?” Church-based Childcare Summit at the Buckner Children’s Home campus in Dallas to discuss the findings of congregation-based childcare research that focuses on the relationship between churches and their weekday childcare centers.
The study was a 2007 nationwide survey distributed by mail to 1,800 childcare centers in the United States. It analyzed how churches are involved in child care and whether they see it as a ministry to children and their families, Singletary said.
“We found two common responses,” he said. “Churches don’t know how to see childcare programs as part of their ministries. Some do, but a lot of times, directors of programs told us that they felt isolated and that the church didn’t know how to work with them and their families.”
Lisa Massar, who directs Niños de Promesa, a child-care center at First Baptist Church of Tyler, said it is important to prevent childcare ministries and their churches from seeing each other as rivals.
“Today (child care) is a challenge because it’s about the church discerning its calling. Churches tend to want to be all things to all people and it can be hard to narrow that down and decide what to focus on,” Massar said. “As churches, we need to be able to say that this new research that has been going on in the past 10 years is crucial.”
Angela Dennison, associate director for the Baylor Center for Family and Community Ministries and part of Buckner’s staff, was involved in the research. She helped distribute the national survey, gather data and investigate the results.
“Although all children deserve quality child care, it appears that those who need it most are least likely to receive care in a congregational setting,” Dennison said.
“With its long history and expertise as a high-quality childcare provider and as an extension of the local church, Buckner is uniquely qualified as a partner to take this research and equip churches who want to respond to Jesus’ call to ‘let the children come unto me.’”
Diana Garland, dean of the Baylor School of Social Work, asked in her keynote address at the summit: “Why should we care about children?”
She pointed to Luke’s Gospel and events surrounding the birth of Jesus—the stories of Elizabeth, the shepherds and of Anna and Simeon.
“These are stories of a family rooted in community, where each child is everyone’s child, and that is something we need to pay attention to in the church,” Garland said. “It is up to the church to be the shepherds, the Simeons and the Annas to our children.”
For more information on the research findings, contact Singletary at (254) 710-4819 or e-mail Jon_ Singletary@baylor.edu.