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A heritage from the Lord

How can we pray for and support children in their early years?

According to the Early Years Alliance, nurseries in England's poorest areas are facing closure because of a shortfall in government funding. A survey of more than 350 nurseries and childminders found 43 per cent of providers had been forced to cut back on learning resources and 19 per cent said they had lowered the quality of food they gave to children. Unsurprisingly, the impact will be felt the hardest in the most deprived areas of the country.

I don’t have children, but I recognise the crucial role that early years child care provision can play. If I’m honest, my main memory from play school is being called Abigail and not recognising it as my own name (I was always Abi). What I only understand as an adult is that my time at play school enabled my dad to give his time to the church he pastored, and for my mum to undertake a degree in social work, eventually working within early years provision herself. My aunt runs a childcare service in her small town in the Midlands, building community between the local children and parents in the area, and providing the opportunity for families to receive the two incomes that many find to be a necessity. 

Psalm 127 calls children a heritage from the Lord” (verse 3). They are our future, and yet they are without a voice of their own. That makes it doubly important that we act to protect them and give them the best start in life. As it says in Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even whey they are old they will not turn from it.” Toddlers cannot campaign for better service but we can! 

Churches across the country serve their local community by running or hosting toddler groups. Even if your church doesn’t run one, maybe you have parents and toddlers, or nursery staff, in your congregation, or know local churches in your area which do.

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June is the national month of prayer for toddler groups. Here at the Evangelical Alliance our Great Commission initiative is spending all month sharing stories and encouraging Christians to celebrate the power of a great toddler group. Pray for the children, parents and carers in your community, and pray particularly for disadvantaged areas that will be the most affected by cuts in funding.

As well as prayer, could your church family find other ways to serve parents and toddlers in your area? Can you join them to campaign for government funding; offer free premises for their use; encourage your church members to volunteer their time; or raise money for resources? How can you encourage nursery staff, and offer them your support? If your community doesn’t have a young family demographic, or if you’re in a more affluent area, can you partner with a church in an underprivileged community to help them to keep their facilities open?

All the research shows that a child’s early years are crucial. Let’s give our children the best start in life so that they can grow and flourish as adults who are committed to serving God and serving their communities, being salt and light in their workplaces, and loving their neighbours.

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has responsibility for the SENT course and the Public Leader: England curriculum.

Abi has a BA in Ancient History and an MSc in Political Communication. She enjoys going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas, and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty.

Much to her dismay, Abi ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK – a pastor's kid.

See more from Abi Jarvis

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