The Missouri District is blessed to have a wide variety of schools and early childhood programs. Some of these are larger programs affiliated with schools, however for many churches early childhood centers are just beginning or have under 100 students. Here are some facts about early childhood centers from Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia and Our Savior Christian Academy PreK in Platte City and Smithville and how they keep a successful program.
A Mission Field
Did you know that many Lutheran early childhood programs and preschools have very few students who have Lutheran church homes? Trinity says that about 15% of their 91 students in the 2021-2022 school year are Lutheran. And Our Savior has just two of their forty students who are Lutheran. Our Savior’s Principal Lori Albright notes that some students attend other denominations, but many families do not attend a church at all, “we are clearly a mission field!”
Many Lutheran early childhood centers have programs can vary from half to full day. They can include before and after care options, service ages from 2-5, and even include pre-kindergarten (or PreK). An interesting balance is trying to find the right combination of program offerings for a church’s area. Being affiliated with schools in Platte City and Smithville, it works out well for Our Savior to offer a PreK for three and four year olds. Even with two campuses, the local communities have responded so well that there is a waitlist for classes and are starting to look into building expansion.
Trinity has seen their program grow and change over time. Their early childhood used to serve more part time students, but now most of their students attend full day hours taking advantage of early morning drop offs and late afternoon pick ups. Trinity also offers “Extra Days” that parents can opt into. These days are usually around the holidays or breaks and are open for kids aged 5-12, which can be helpful for parents.
Use Your Unique Resources
Trinity is situated close to colleges, so works with education and occupational therapy students. This gives college students practical, hands-on experiences and contributes to Trinity’s skilled workers. Schools also frequently try and do outreach into the community. Our Savior hosted a St. Jude’s “Trike-a-Thon” where staff, spouses, and volunteers created a “town” (complete with a Lutheran church, doctor’s office, library and a grocery store with snacks.) The PreK kids then pedaled all around the “town” leaving donations at each spot. Last year’s event brought in $750!