Harvest strategy preschool

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Pre-school/School Harvest Strategy
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran of Wauwatosa, WI
When I was assigned to St. John’s, Wauwatosa as outreach pastor in 1999, St. John’s
already had a K-3 and K-4 pre-school in place. K-4 classes were held on Monday, Wednesday
and Friday, and K-3 met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because of space constraints in our school
facility, the church fellowship hall became the pre-school classroom through the miracle of
dividers. Classes ran from 8:30 to 11:30 AM.
Our program attracted a decent amount of non-members (as many as half of the pre-school
students enrolled at times), but there was not any intentional plan to bring them into the church
or school. It was one of my directives to develop a “harvest strategy― for these families.
The plan had humble beginnings. Working with our pre-school director, Naomi Stein, I became
the emcee/narrator at the annual pre-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter programs. This
might not sound like a big deal, but these events were invaluable because they gave me
visibility. Meals served after these programs proved to be a great place to meet and greet
parents. I strategically decided where to sit down and eat, never with members of the
The second year I conducted interviews with all non-member, non-WELS families. Attached is
the question/answer format I developed. Ostensibly this was a meeting for parents to ask
questions about us and evaluate our program. My “hidden agenda― was to learn more
about the family and identify any spiritual needs.
Ideally, these interviews are conducted in January because 1) new families have had a couple
months to get comfortable at St. John’s; and 2) the Christmas rush is over and scheduling is
much easier. In my third year, I expanded the interview process to include all non-St. John’s
At Christmastime I also accompany the pre-school classes when they sing at nursing homes and
institutions. Parents drive (members and non-members alike), and it gives me more face time
with them.
The activities mentioned to this point are possible for every church/pre-school program. What
follows are some unique blessings/opportunities at St. John’s. This information may be of
special interest to congregations who are looking to start a program or build a new facility.
St. John’s opened a brand new educational facility in 2003, but much work went into the
planning process to make this building more than just a school for our members. The building
itself was designed to encourage pre-school students to move into our K-8 program. The entire
lower level of the facility is dedicated to childcare, K-3, K-4 and K-5. There is also a separate
entrance for the early childhood programs.
Currently, our program consists of all day childcare (two and potty trained and up), two K-3
programs (M-W-F or Tu-Th) and two K-4 programs (M-W-F or M-Tu-W-Th-F). The K-5
classroom is also on the lower level. Because parents are already familiar with the facility, it is
easier for them to envision their children in our kindergarten.
In addition to these physical advantages, our K-4 teacher, Naomi Stein, acts as a “human
bridge― from the pre-school to the school (parents almost always mentioned her as a strength
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