• Early Childhood Devotions

  • Devotions for Early Childhood Educators

    By Cheryl Haun

    A PDF of these Devotions is available here:  Devos for EC Teachers

    1

    Jesus Welcomes Children

     

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV).

     

    Welcoming children is not a new responsibility or new idea to those serving in education or in ministry settings. It’s a charge from Jesus, who knew that children often represent an insignificant population in the world, yet they are most significant in their ability to demonstrate Christ-like faith.

     

    When we welcome children into our early childhood places and spaces, we know that the welcome will extend to their families too. The welcoming classroom will secure a more positive classroom climate and culture, promoting joyful, engaged learning and faith- building experiences among the learners.

     

    Christ’s words make it clear that His disciples were to welcome the children, and bring them into the “fold” of faith and Christendom. He asks us to do the same.

     

    Dear Jesus, help us to recognize the eager faith and Christ-like abilities of the young children in our classrooms. May the climate and culture of our learning environments spill over into the homes of our families with Your grace and love. Thank You for choosing us to be welcoming agents in our schools. In Jesus Name, amen.

    2

    Using Materials to Enhance EC Curriculum

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

     

    In the beginning of the school year we watch our little learners as they encounter new materials and new peers in our classrooms. Our early observations can often include labels such as “bull in a China shop” or “a hot mess” or “she will not follow the rules or pay attention.”

     

    It would be amiss to think that our negative comments or thoughts regarding a child could lead to positive behavior in the future. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Statements of praise and encouragement during the good times generate a greater understanding for the children as they begin to understand how things work. A focus on this week’s Scripture can help us reorient our first impressions, knowing that God considers His people (children and teachers alike) to be new creation in Christ our Lord and Savior.

     

    Two simple but challenging strategies include “praying before speaking” and “planning instead of reacting.” As Christ’s classroom ambassadors, we have the honor of looking to each child’s strengths as they problem-solve their way through new friends, classroom rituals, and materials.

     

    Dear Jesus, help us to lift up our students in prayer, knowing that You have a plan for each child and that You have chosen us to help them see You in all we say and do. Grant us a measure of success, joy, and grace as we serve You and your children. In Your Name we pray, amen.

    3

    The Preschool Years

     

    Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).

     

    Perhaps you’ve heard, “It is incredibly important that early childhood professionals have a solid understanding of what developmentally appropriate practice is and what abilities the preschool age child has, as well as the appropriate goals that children can work toward during these important early years.” This statement applies to spiritual growth and development as well.

     

    You can find a newly reformatted early childhood resource regarding spiritual development on the following link on the Pacific Southwest District website: Ages & Stages of Faith Development in Early Childhood. The original resource was developed by the Department of Child Services – Board for Congregational Services and was highly regarded as an effective “tool” for planning curriculum and specific activities to further the spiritual development of young children.

     

    Just as the typical stages of development, often referenced as social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and approaches to learning, the spiritual domain follows a sequence or pattern of understanding and application as the young child grows. One is wise to never underestimate the spiritual understanding of the young child. Matthew 18:2–4 says, “Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

     

    Jesus teaches us that in the Kingdom of God, it is childlike humility that matters most, not social prominence and material value. Let us not take the faith of a young child lightly.

     

    Dear Jesus, thank You for the love and mercy shown to us in our life. Equip us to ignite Your love, grace, and mercy into the lives of our students. In Your Name we pray, amen.

    4

    Becoming Fully Engaged in the Teaching and Learning Process

     

    Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105 ESV).

     

    You may have heard, “It is not the curriculum or requirements, but the teacher’s behavior and responses to children that are the biggest factors of what occurs in the early childhood classroom. When the educator heightens their awareness, the realization of power and the possibilities one must enhance for the children, as well as the teacher, are great.”

     

    What? All the work of planning curricular experiences and it does not result in the greatest learning outcome?

     

    Yes, this is most certainly true.

     

    Kim Marxhausen speaks directly to this in her essay, “Using Faith Integration to Foster Learning Skills.” (Bernard Bull, 2016). “In Lutheran schools, teaching the faith is about so much more than Bible stories and doctrine. When we integrate the faith, the lessons from the religion class and chapel are seen in every aspect of the day. Students learn about God’s love in Bible study and learn to understand God’s love as it is modeled. Students learn to feel God’s love in relationships and learn to share God’s love with others (Bernard Bull, 2016).

     

    We begin each day with prayer, Lord guide my every thought, word, and deed that I may be led by the Light of Your Word. Let me discover new ways of engaging with my young learners so that they will see and hear You and grow in faith this day and every day. 

    In Jesus Name, amen. 

     

    Works Cited

    Bernard Bull, ed. (2016). The Pedagogy of Faith. St. Louis: CPH.

    5

    Teacher and Coach: Helping Children to Learn About Learning

     

    Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV).

     

    Learning about learning is the “stuff” we love to plan for and implement with great expectations, yet it can also provoke feelings of disappointment and perhaps a sense of failure. Why didn’t it happen the way it was planned? Why didn’t the children respond to the task? How do I get the children back on track? While those questions are good questions, the better questions would be “What have I not noticed or what are the children telling me as they play and move about the room? What now?” Authors Margie Carter and Deb Curtis share an excellent response to our questions.

     

    Your actions as a teacher when coaching children need to be supportive, encouraging, positive, and helpful. When children know that their ideas are worth something and accepted by the teacher and other adults in the classroom, they will continue to create, play, and most importantly learn and grow to their full potential. (Curtis, 2017)

     

    When our response to the children’s play is positive and inquiring, the joy of learning to learn becomes possible. The children look to their “coach” for recommendations and next steps, the teachers look to their students for the same. Teachers, as coaches, form relationships that build lifelong learning skills with the children in their class.

     

    To this end, we most certainly give thanks to our Lord, knowing that His love endures forever! Even when we feel defeat.

     

    Dear Jesus, thank You for the amazing gift of love and grace that You give to us each day. Forgive us when we rely on our plans, forgetting that You hold the blessing of joy in our calling as teachers, and it’s ours for the asking. Thanks be to You, for You are good and Your love endures forever! In Your Name we pray, amen.

    Works Cited

    Curtis, D. &. (2017). Learning Together with Young Children: A Framework for Reflective Teachers, (2nd ed.). St. Paul MN: Redleaf Press.

    6

    Relationships

     

    Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV).

     

    So much information! Honestly, how can one take on mandated reporting of curricular standards AND required reporting with assessments? Before you become overwhelmed with curricular and assessment responsibilities, take time to get to know your students and their families. Everything we do in the classroom and throughout the day is relationship-bound, good or not-so-good. What does each child like to do in the classroom? Who do they play with? Do the families feel welcome and informed about their child’s educational journey this year? These three questions can set the tone for your school year.

     

    What’s truly amazing about teaching in the Lutheran early childhood classroom is that we can connect to our children and their families in a much deeper way. The out-loud, Christ-like soul way. Something beautiful happens when families know that we are praying for them. Something beautiful happens when children begin to know and understand that Jesus is their Friend and their Savior. Classroom prayers become spiritual connections to our Lord and among the children and staff. There is an air of “He’s got this” that guides our schedule, communications, behaviors, and curricular and assessment responsibilities. If one is not serving in a Lutheran classroom, perhaps public school teaching instead, the blessing is the same but spoken quietly in prayer. His answers to our prayers and His gift of grace have no boundary.

     

    All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV).

     

    Dear Jesus, thank You for blessing us with grace and wisdom as we work through the details of each day. Help us to lift up our struggles and claim your promises as we work with your children and families. In Your Name we pray, amen. 

    7

    The Expert and the Advocate 

     

     “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

     

    It is our responsibility to be the voice for young children and their families as well as to encourage early childhood educators to advocate for developmentally appropriate practice in schools, centers, and programs everywhere.

     

    As educators in a Lutheran program, we remember and reflect on our faith journey with young children and their families. “As an educator in a Lutheran early childhood center, you are one of thousands of workers—teachers, care givers, instructional aides—who share the privilege and responsibility of welcoming young children in Jesus’ name (Sims, 2001).” We are advocates of faith development and depend upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be our Faith Expert, Who gives us wisdom and nurturing skills required for each day.

     

    As we care for our young learners week after week, in Lutheran or public schools, we need to take time to remember Who cares for us. Daily faith reflections with our Lord help replenish our personal spiritual needs and renew our spirits as we go about sharing the love of Jesus with the children and staff in our care (Sims, 2001). We may share His love in diverse ways, depending upon the school culture we serve in, but His unconditional love  is the same.

     

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 RSV).

     

    Dear Jesus, Thank You for giving us opportunities to serve as Your advocates in early childhood education. Help us to be bold to take responsibilities necessary to provide developmentally appropriate practice and faith-learning in our educator roles. In Your Name we pray, amen. 

     

    Works Cited

    (n.d.).

    Sims, C. (2001). Milk and Cookies for the Soul. River Forest: Lutheran Education Association.

    8

    Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Why Do We Play? 

     

     

    Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

     

    PLAY is a four-letter word. We know that some of the most challenging academic subjects/topics can remain challenging due to the lack of playful experiences with the subject at hand (a quick Google of the phrase “research regarding play and learning” found about 1,920,000,000 results in 57 seconds). So why do we continue to struggle with the word and its place in developmental learning and in the academia world?

     

    Judy Allen, an author from the website Open the Bible, contends that our God demonstrates joy and playfulness in creation and throughout Scriptures (Allen, 2016). First, she explains playfulness in creation.

     

    “Why did God create a world that would routinely delight people with fantastic sunsets, beautiful sunrises, and stunning scenery? Why did He make giraffe’s necks so long? What is the purpose of a peacock’s plume if not beauty? Why did He create such a magnificent variety of lovely butterflies? Why did God give people a sense of humor? And what is with the platypus or the warthog?” She reminds us of the joy that God reveals in His Word.

     

    Can one have joy and not play? Can one play and not experience joy? Her article goes on to a quick review of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–32. The word celebrate is mentioned four times! There was a grand opportunity to celebrate the return of a son that had gone awry! Can we find multiple reasons to fill our classrooms with joyful learning experiences that will invoke great visions of play and learning? As has been said many times in the past, children play to work and work to play! We plan for “play” in the young child’s day in many ways that connect the work of the Spirit and knowledge gained through merriment! Moments of such joy spark curiosity into the next day’s curricular experiences and into the child’s home!

     

    Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches! (Psalm 149:5 NRSV).

     

     Dear Jesus, thank You for the joy and playfulness that You have revealed throughout creation and in Your Word. You are a great God Who blesses us with joy throughout creation and in Your Word. Keep us mindful of sharing your joy and playfulness with those that we serve. In Your Name, amen.

     

    Works Cited

    (n.d.).

    Allen, J. (2016, April 27). The Joy of the Lord and the Playfulness of Man. Retrieved from Open the Bible with Pastor Colin Smith: https://openthebible.org/article/the-joy-of-the-lord-and-the-playfulness-of-man/

    Bernard Bull, e. (2016). The Pedagogy of Faith. St. Louis: CPH.

    Curtis, D. &. (2017). Learning Together with Young Children: A Framework for Reflective Teachers, (2nd ed.). St. Paul MN: Redleaf Press.

    Sims, C. (2001). Milk and Cookies for the Soul. River Forest: Lutheran Education Association.

     

    Quoted Scripture: ESV®

    Quoted Scripture: NIV®

    Quoted Scripture: NRSV®

     

     

    ©2022 Cheryl Haun

    Used by permission

    Lutheran Education Association is grateful to a prominent Lutheran early childhood educator for allowing it to publish these devotions. LEA is also grateful to the readers who dedicate their ministry to educating young children.

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