Can inspiration actually come from a single meeting? Faith leaders and early childhood education supporters think so. They have been holding regional and local summits across the state to discuss the role of congregations in building a strong foundation for the learning and health of young children.
Research shows that a strong foundation for young children can provide lasting positive results such as higher graduation rates, prevention of violence and crime, job and military readiness, and higher earnings and better jobs.
Inspiration came to Reverend Jerry Lewis of Grace For All Community Church in Marion, NC at the western NC Faith Summit. He called it “truly eye opening” and entitled a recent sermon series “the First 2000 Days” to introduce the new childcare facility addition to his congregation.
In Wilmington, NC, Smart Start of New Hanover County worked closely with Reverend Clifford Barnett of Warner Temple AME Zion Church to bring 180 congregants from diverse religions to their summit. Reverend Barnett challenged participants to take action for young children in the next 2,000 hours after the summit.
Since the fall of 2013 five regional and three local faith summits have been held with more than 750 attendees. In May three more local summits are planned in Craven, Brunswick and Rockingham counties.
One of the many outcomes of the summits include a report entitled: “The Faith Community and Early Childhood: Engaging Your Congregation.” It includes ideas generated at the faith summits to support young children and families. Some of the action opportunities noted: promoting literacy and high-quality early childhood programs, hosting parenting programs and creating community impact.