This fall’s Church Planting and Gospel Outreach through Child Care Ministry Conference sponsored by the Open Arms Institute will be hosted by a congregation that’s “a classic example of the Open Arms concept in action, resulting in a new congregation in a community that previously had no LCMS presence,” according to the institute’s executive director, Martin Barlau.
The conference, set for Oct. 23-25 at Open Arms Lutheran Church and Daycare in Belleville, Mich., is designed to introduce participants to the Open Arms child care concept and provide step-by-step guidance on starting such a ministry. It is open to anyone with an interest in starting a Lutheran child care center — either in conjunction with an existing congregation or to start a new congregation.
Open Arms, Belleville — about a half-hour west of Detroit — began worship in September 2002 while its day care center was being built. Opened in July 2003 with a license for 60 children, the day care doubled its capacity in less than a year and today cares for about 100 children from infant through preschool, plus a dozen or so more elementary-age children in its after-school program.
At a recent “children’s message” during a worship service at the 200-member congregation, Pastor Jim Richter noted that nine of the 15 young children attending “had some link” to the church’s child care ministry. Area families have “absolutely” joined the congregation as a result of the ministry, with about 60 percent of the congregation’s membership from non-Lutheran or “unchurched” backgrounds, Richter says.
Conference participants will have an opportunity to tour the Open Arms center and visit with staff. Topics to be covered include doing demographics and feasibility studies, acquiring financing, purchasing a site, building a facility, hiring staff, setting up a program, and reaching out to the community.
Registration, which includes most meals, is $350 for Open Arms members, or $430 for non-members, by Oct. 10; after that date, registration is $430 for members and $520 for non-members. A fourth registrant from the same ministry is free. Scholarship help is available.
The Open Arms Institute, based in Loveland, Colo., is an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that has helped Lutherans start more than 60 child care centers nationwide since 1989. Its purpose is “to foster and guide Lutheran church planting and Gospel outreach with child care ministry.”
About half of the Open Arms-affiliated centers are with “existing congregations” that have added child care ministries, according to Barlau. “They have found it to be one of the most effective means to connect with unchurched families in the community,” he told Reporter.
Posted Aug. 28, 2008