Picture this: a lock on the gate of the playground with only the preschool director or the chair of trustees holding the key or a needed space for the nursery on Sunday that remains dark and locked because the weekday preschool director does not want the church to "mess with her space." How do these scenarios exemplify Christian community?
There are several places that we can look to for our responsibility to our children. Jesus passionately spoke of the importance of refraining from being a "stumbling block" in the formation of our children and those who are children in the faith (see Matthew 18:6-7). John Wesley encouraged ministers to visit children in their homes. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church and The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church address how we are to care for the children entrusted to us.
Given these examples, what is the answer to the long-asked question of shared space between the weekday preschool ministry and the Christian education staff within the church? Healthy communication - coming to the table. We can write policies, conduct meetings, and stake out territory, but if we are not communicating with one another all of those actions are moot and sometimes destructive.
United Methodist Association of Preschools-Florida is a great place to start when wrestling with the topic of shared space in Christian community. They provide a checklist that can serve as a guide for those involved in the preschool and the church. In the "Growing Healthfully" section, the following points are made. I have included some thoughts and questions to take us back to the importance of communication in shared space. (http://www.umapfl.com/clientimages/28288/documents
1) When things are going good, you are thinking of ways to make things better.
So often we become comfortable because everyone seems to be getting along. How are we continually looking at ways to improve communication and relationship between preschool staff members and the church education staff?
2) When difficulties are encountered, the director, pastor, staff and church committees work together constructively and respectfully to resolve problems.
Conflict is bound to happen. What mechanisms do we have in place to bring people to the table to work constructively through issues regarding use of space?
3) The Preschool Director is proactive in giving reports to appropriate church committees.
Proactivity is key to avoiding unhealthy conflict. What policies do we have in place to allow ongoing communication concerning issues around space between the Preschool Director and church committees?
4) Preschool staff and the church education staff work together respectfully, recognizing that space and materials need to be shared and mutually cared for.
"Don't touch my stuff" is not an appropriate policy. Materials are for the children, all of the children. Jesus did not say let "some" of the children come to him. How do we communicate with one another so that there is more of a focus on community rather than individuality?
5) Preschool and other ministries of the church work together cooperatively, to insure that all programs and ministries receive needed consideration of resources and space.
Resources are always an issue. What budget process do we have in place to adequately maintain ongoing ministries given varying economic climates?
6) Children are taught respect for God’s house and other people’s property.
We teach the love of God and neighbor by the way that we live our lives. How do we set an example for children through our actions and decisions on shared space?
For Further Reading
Childcare and the Church (PDF),(Adopted by General Conference 2000 of The United Methodist Church for The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church).
A Place of Our Own: Web-based staff training for Preschools.