Jane Loved Church, An Open Letter to Church Preschool Volunteers

Dear Faithful Preschool Volunteer (or soon to be volunteer),
You come every Sunday; sanitizing toys, updating phone numbers of parents, sing Jesus Loves Me, rock a crying baby, change diapers or help the potty training child. Your service can be thankless and far less glamorous than the Sunday School teacher who leads a class full of middle-aged adults. You rarely get a chance to share a cohesive Bible lesson and rarely get to sit down. But I see you and I want to say thank you.

I have five children and they have all graced the preschool department of our church. Some of them excitedly ran to their class and some needed to be walked, rocked, and occasionally a parent called. My fourth child, Jane, passed away at two and a half years old. Two days before her funeral I was tasked with writing what we would like to say about her and her life. The first words that ran through my grief-stricken mind and graced the page were: Jane loved church. It was true and it was also fitting that our preschool director should read what I had written during the funeral.

At only two, Jane loved going to church. She never sat in the sanctuary and she never heard a sermon. She never took part in a well-planned Sunday School lesson and she never passed an offering plate. She didn’t walk an aisle or share prayer requests. Jane still loved church. She loved seeing her teachers and she loved playing with her friends. Jane knew that good gifts come from God, even if those gifts were just goldfish crackers. Jane learned the song Jesus Loves Me not long after she began talking, and we played a video of her singing that song at her funeral. Jane knew Jesus loved her, and she knows it far better now than any of us. It was you that helped grow Jane’s love for church and God. Thank you.

Jane knew that good gifts come from God, even if those gifts were just goldfish crackers.

I know, and so do you, that it is a parent’s responsibility and honor to raise a child in the way they should go. In our home, we pray and strive to point our children to Jesus seven days a week. We want our children to love God, and we also want them to love others and His church. The church isn’t lights and music. It isn’t the sermon or the announcements. The church isn’t the programs or the traditions. The church is the body of Christ. The church is God’s family. The church is you. And for a couple of hours every Sunday morning, you love children and point them to Jesus in seemingly small yet profound ways. Thank you.

The week that Jane died we had an influx of people in our home. People brought meals, cleaned, entertained our surviving children, prayed, and many helpful things that I will never know this side of eternity. Many of those gracious people were preschool volunteers who didn’t know me very well but knew and loved my children. On our wall, we have three posters hanging with handprints of my childrens’ church classmates with the Bible verse, “A friend loves at all times.” They were the idea of a preschool volunteer and delivered to heartbroken siblings just a week after losing their sister. Thank you.

Many of those gracious people were preschool volunteers who didn’t know me very well but knew and loved my children.

For our first Christmas after losing Jane, I was heartsick about having an empty stocking with her name. I asked for anyone that knew her or had fond memories of her to write a letter that could be placed in her stocking and read on Christmas morning. Her stocking was full, and at least half of the letters we received were from preschool volunteers. Thank you.

My fifth baby has terrible separation anxiety. And to be fair, I have a broken mother’s heart that doesn’t part with my children well anymore either. She’s been welcome in our worship service and adult Sunday School class for the last year. I’m grateful for the ease of keeping her with me and the understanding of those around me. But she likes to crawl and play, and I know she would be happier in class with children her age. So this morning I took her to the nursery. For two hours, servant-hearted preschool volunteers rocked her, pushed her in a stroller, and gave her cheerios. Because of you, she’s learning to love church like her big sister.

So while it can be a thankless and tiring job, please let me offer you this small piece of gratitude. We are called to follow Jesus, his example, and his commands. Matthew 19:14 says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When you joyfully take care of children each Sunday, you are following Jesus. Preparing crafts may not be glamorous and you probably won’t receive much praise this side of heaven for changing another diaper. But the Lord sees your heart and your service. And as a mother of children that love God and love church, I see you too. Your work and care are not lost on me. Thank you.

  1. Lynn Smith says:

    Oh Casey, This was so beautifully written. You are still on my prayer list and I continue to lift you and your family up to our precious Lord. Lynn

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Gloria Whaley says:

    Some of my most happiest times have been working in preschool. Thank you again for sharing from your heart.

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