Recently, I had a funny reminder about something which, as a preschool small group leader, I need to take very seriously. This summer my entire family was on a great vacation at the beach. One of my daughter-in-laws (who is expecting her first baby in November) asked my 3-year-old granddaughter for name suggestions for her future cousin. After pondering a few moments, my granddaughter said, “I’ll name her space” (yes, all you Trekkies out there, as in “the final frontier”). We all had a great laugh when she shared the story later. Fast forward 2 months later. The same granddaughter and I were having a conversation about who would fit on a child-sized bench at my house. She was naming all the people who could sit on it (her sister, her brother, friends at school) and then she concluded, “and my baby cousin, Space!”
It’s easy sometimes, when hanging out with little ones whose verbal skills aren’t at peak capacity yet, to forget that they do remember conversations, hear what we say and store it in their memory banks! As adults we can’t necessarily recall specific conversations we had as a preschooler or defining moments we experienced. So, it is easy to think that the conversations and experiences in our early years were not that life-changing. There have certainly been volumes of research proving early childhood experiences do lay a foundation—good or bad—for later thought processes and behaviors. From a practical, week-to-week, real life experience, think of it this way: if every week from the time a baby comes into our early-childhood experience at church, adults who love and care for them are speaking the truths that God loves me, God made me, and Jesus wants to be my friend forever, how will that affect the way they see the world by the time we launch them into kindergarten?
My granddaughter probably won’t remember the story of naming her baby cousin Space when she is 15-years-old unless we remind her of it every week until then. But she remembers it now and we can build on that memory. Your small group of 3-year-olds may not remember every Bible story and activity you share with them when they are 10 or 12 or 20, but if you are consistent with your message, and you partner with their families to continue that consistent message, they will have a foundation of truth that is life changing- in a good way! Leading a few in preschool is so valuable – in the words of a video I heard recently, “and that’s the truth friend, you better believe it!”