When children start school in Lake Worth, Fla., many are already academically behind. So, Sunlight Community Church of Lake Worth launched a preschool—and it’s having a surprising effect on the growth of their church.
Pastor Kris Vos moved to Lake Worth to replant Sunlight in partnership with Sunlight Community Church of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Resonate Global Mission. Shortly after moving, he met Mayor Pam Triolo, who was passionately supporting voluntary pre-kindergarten programs to help provide more opportunities for families. Many families who recently immigrated to the United States live in Lake Worth and are still establishing themselves financially, navigating a new culture, and learning English. School is challenging for the children.
“Children in Lake Worth can tend to score lower in school because poverty and language barriers can be a big obstacle,” said Kris. “Studies [show] that kids who get a head start on school do much better. Preparing children for school is a huge need in our community.”
With encouragement and support from Sunlight’s central campus in Port Saint Lucie, the church launched Sunlight Christian Academy (SCA) in fall 2017. God’s hand has been evident since the beginning.
“We needed four children to be approved by the state for the launch,” said Kris. “We had four the day before we were to be approved and then one student dropped out. We prayed that night and the next day, another student enrolled in time to meet our approval deadline!”
God continues to draw more students to SCA. Now in their second year, 19 students are enrolled—but the preschool’s ministry has extended beyond the classroom.
“We currently have four families who regularly attend our church because of their connection to our preschool,” said Kris.
Such was the case for family members of one of SCA’s first graduates, Addie, a girl Kris describes as happy, bright, and welcoming. Like many children at SCA, Addie’s family did not attend church. But then her parents, grandparents, and aunt came to see Addie’s class performance during one of Sunlight’s church services. Her grandparents started attending regularly, and then her father started coming back too. Seeing how much Addie loved SCA and how much she had grown, Addie’s aunt even enrolled her son in SCA.
“It has been amazing to see the connections that Addie has brought to our church,” said Kris. “We are desperately in need of young families … the preschool has helped us make those connections with young families in our community.”
Addie is now in kindergarten, and her family reported that she has been testing very well.
“SCA helped prepare her well for school,” said Kris. “SCA provides a top-notch preschool to prepare the children of our community for our school. Not only do our teachers do an excellent job of preparing our children for preschool, but they introduce them to the grace of Jesus Christ.”
This story was originally published on crcna.org.