Bethany McGibbon is the part-time Children’s and Ministry Chaplain for Queensland Lutheran Early Childhood Services (QLECS). It is the goal of Bethany and her team that every QLECS early childhood service will engage in regular ‘Jesus Time’ with all their children.
‘Jesus Time looks different at every service’, Bethany explains of the program. ‘Some services have pastors from neighbouring or local congregations come in to share with the children; for other services, family members visit once a week or the service’s educators are intentional in spending time sharing God’s word with the children.’
Bethany says that there is actually no one right way to facilitate a Jesus Time because it must be personal and specific for the context of the individual service. Generally, a Jesus Time will incorporate several worship songs and a Bible story that focuses on a topic, person or idea. They will then spend some time in prayer and finish with a personal application question, game or experience – all designed and relevant for young children.
‘The early years are the most critical in terms of long-term development. The environments in which young children grow up, have massive impacts both now and well into their adult years’, Bethany continues. ‘We believe that setting children up with a solid faith foundation now is going to have massive implications for their faith development forever. Jesus Time is just one way our services equip and encourage faith conversations in an authentic, relaxed and fun manner.’
Since its introduction, the Jesus Time program has been received very well. ‘Families love and are excited that their children are participating in a regular Jesus Time program’, Bethany says. ‘I know of a few families that have chosen our services because of this program and intentionality in teaching God’s word and creating a supportive Christian environment.’
Even non-religious families have been accepting of the program. ‘Service leaders do an incredible job of clearly articulating to every family exactly what it means to be a Lutheran service, and our underlying beliefs’, Bethany explains. ‘Right from day one, families know what is being taught and discussed; we are very open and unapologetic about this.’
Every time she leads a Jesus Time, Bethany is reminded how much young children really do understand and take on board especially when wrestling with big faith concepts. ‘Young children can and do have a very valid faith. I think working with young children has greatly challenged my own worldview and faith’, she says. ‘Young children are so wholeheartedly “all in”; they don’t always fully understand everything but it doesn’t matter. Jesus is who he says he is, and they just know that. I think that is what Jesus wants from us. In our limited wisdom we cannot understand everything and why certain things happen but we need to trust that he has it. Ultimately that’s what faith looks like, right? The children have taught me more than I could ever hope to teach them.’
To find a QLECS service near you, call (07) 3511 4079.