Fall has arrived and with it our next “Virtual Field Trip”!  And what better place to visit in the fall than an orchard?  But this orchard, First Look Friends, is special!  We are so excited that Kelly Stockdale, Preschool Director at The Orchard Fellowship in Collierville, Tenn, has invited us all to visit their Orchard Preschool.  Kelly and her team does an amazing job of connecting with parents in a variety of creative ways.  We asked her if she would be willing to share how and what they do to make their partnering with parents efforts most effective.  She graciously agreed and below we are sharing what she said.  If you go to the Orchard Preschool’s page on the church website, Kelly has this video to greet guests.  Take this as our introduction of Kelly to you!  And then you can read her story, share her ideas and see what they are doing with their parents in the post below.

http://vimeo.com/64677735

 Here is what Kelly told us:

Informational videos:

– We shoot videos for 2 months at a time with our storytelling crew at our church.  These videos are overview videos of what’s going on for the month in Orchard Preschool.  We started at first with my ministry assistant and I shooting them and now have moved them to being a way to introduce a small group leader each month.  These videos that we hang off the web and push out in emails and on social media contain the theme and direction of what their preschooler will be learning, the Bible Verse with motions for mom and dad to see and any announcements that we have going on for events, resources or mission projects.

 http://orchardfellowship.org/connecting-people/family-ministry/preschool/

– We also just started shooting a quick instagram video with a phone to give parents reminders for the week.  For instance this past week, we asked our church to participate in a “Feed the Need” project.  We shot a quick video with one of our own small group leaders giving this quick announcement to parents.  We received great feedback from it. It’s a way to utilize instagram when you have something you want to communicate.  Everyone always stops for a minute when a video begins to play on their instagram feed.  I think it’s a win – it’s another way to get a small group leader in front of parents, it’s also a way for volunteers to feel valued and then it’s a way for a reminder to get out to parents.

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 If you’re looking for any info on some parenting resources that are working for us…

– We take the Bible Verse every month and give out a designed cling.  Our kids and parents love these.  Most of the times it goes on their refrigerator, and it’s a reminder for the parents and the kids of  what the Bible Verse is for the month.  We’ve seen parents begin to lead their children in hiding God’s Word in their heart.  We’re always getting tagged in posts on social media when their sweet preschooler is saying the Bible Verse.

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– This year we have put a huge emphasis on making the most of mealtimes through what we call Table Talk.  Studies have shown that sitting down and having meals as a family help children to do well in school and avoid risky behaviors. As author Miriam Weinstein explains, “Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us for a brief time and strengthens family bonds by shutting out the rest of the world as a powerful ritual against the many forces pulling us apart.”  So to go along with the cling, we have begun to utilize the placemat idea that we saw on the First Look Facebook page. Our families love it not to mention it reduces the amount of paper that come home every week…which they love:)

– We also created Table Talk jars for our preschool families that have 2 year olds and older.  This was based off an idea I saw on Pinterest for a Conversation Starter jar.  It holds various questions in the jar that can be silly and fun to ask a family member or it could be an extension of what they are learning on Sunday morning.  Our goal in this was to get parents and kids talking at dinner time.  Let’s not “waste” the time we have with a somewhat captive audience.  Our preschoolers look forward each month to receiving their new sheet full of questions for the month.

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– This September we’ll had the last “installment” of our mealtime resources.  We’ve designed some Table Talk Virtue Devotional Cards that are on a ring so that parents can do a quick devotional with their preschooler/family.  It will include on the card the virtue, virtue definition, a story illustrating the devotion, a few questions to ask their child and then a parent’s prayer for the parent to use later in their own personal prayer time.

Here’s a link to some of these take home resources we do…

http://orchardfellowship.org/connecting-people/family-ministry/preschool/p-parents/

(Just click on the month for the drop down menu for the resources.)

 Thoughts on those churches that are small or starting out…

We planted The Orchard 4 years ago.  We do not have our own building, but we meet in a great location in a private school.  We definitely know the tensions of space and money constraints along the way. These are some things we implemented and were successful when we were a starting out…

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1.  Shared Leadership.  I created a leadership team of people who were passionate about building a foundation of faith in even our littlest ones.  At points it may have only been 3 of us on the team, but we made what we had work.  Different perspectives help when you feel all alone. Having a leadership team also helps to create buy in from volunteers.  People love to feel needed and appreciated. These are my most loyal volunteers and the people I call on when I need help.

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2.  Take advantage of what you do have.  Orange really is a one stop shop for all you need. On Sunday mornings, there are activities for kids for every church budget.  They have training resources for volunteers at your fingertips. Content is always “king”, and that’s one of the reasons we love Orange…their content is always spot-on!.  You start with good content, and then you can figure out how to implement it with Orange’s help.

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3.  Ask for help.  Get ideas from other churches that are like-minded.  I set up meetings with other preschool directors in the area to gain perspective. If you see a church doing something that you believe could benefit your church,call them and find out more about it.  I know, for me, I love to talk “shop” and am always happy to help others and share what we’re doing and share our resources.  We are all on the same team!  We are here to glorify God by investing in the next generation.  God is never more glorified than when bodies of believers work together to spread His fame!

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4. Use social media.  We decided that if we did not have the money to put all the resources we wanted into parents’ hands, then we would point them to where they could get it.  We used and still use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to push parents resources that can help them in their home.  We post parenting and marriage articles, devotionals and projects they can do with their kids, and book recommendations.  We recently began shooting quick 15 second videos on Instagram with our volunteers doing announcements.  Any church with any budget can do that!

Here are a few more pictures that Kelly shared:

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This is Kelly, and her assistant, Catherine Cowles.  Kelly is a great encourager and, despite her busy schedule, is opening her email to all of our First Look Friends who might have more questions about how they operate their preschool ministry.  You can also leave your questions and comments on this post below!

You can email her at Kelly@orchardfellowship.org

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Thank you, Kelly, for allowing us to visit Orchard Preschool!

If you want to follow Orchard Preschool on Facebook,  you can find them here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/orchardpreschool/