Jennifer Skinner says a morning devotional set the “steps” in motion for a new chapter in the life of one local congregation.
Skinner is the wife of Shannon Skinner, the pastor of the newly-renamed First Steps Church of God. On Monday, the church official opened the doors of First Steps Daycare.
“This is something that the church pastors have looked at for a long time,” she said. “They’ve been wanting to do something in the community as an outreach…and this was a way to do it.”
The signs were delivered on April 25 for both the daycare and church. A dedication ceremony took place on April 29 before the doors of the daycare opened for the first families.
The daycare, located at 209 N. Carleton St., is located diagonally across from the church, located at the corner of Carleton and East College Street. The phone number is 756-4204.
Skinner said husband has served for four years as pastor. She said the daycare – which in the early years was home to Little Peoples Arts and Talents and most recently Stepping Stones – was always on his radar.
“He’d always look over here and think, ‘you know, that would be something amazing that the church could do in this community’,” in regards to outreach, she said.
Then, in the first of many “God-thing” moments, Skinner said the daycare in the location moved. And, a “for sale” sign was placed in the yard.
“When the daycare came [available],” she said, “and, honestly we had been talking before that had happened – the church has been really thinking about how to get into the community.
“Things just started happening – and then there it was.”
Around this same time, Skinner said members of the church – known for years as the Farmington Church of God – were looking for a new name to describe their ministry.
A God Moment
Hanging in the entryway of the new daycare is the verse Proverbs 16:9, which reads “We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps.”
That verse, Skinner said, was the focal point of her devotional story one morning.
“That Bible verse was that morning’s study,” she said. “We were talking about a daycare name and I thought ‘we are First Church…why not call it First Steps’. We just went with it.”
Skinner said the daycare is so much more than just a place for parents to know their children will be cared for during the day.
“It’s really a ministry,” she said, noting only one of many offered by the church. Each Sunday evening, the church offers “Oasis” at 5 p.m. with Skinner noting, “It’s a free meal and a Bible study…just an opportunity for people to get to know each other.”
Skinner credits the congregation of the church for their willingness in supporting the church’s latest ministry.
“This a big thing for that church,” she said. “I mean, we’re not a huge church. For them to step out in faith … they have a vision. That’s what God tells you to do … to go out and love others.”
And, it was the congregation’s support that helped get the building ready for the opening day. There were painters, cleaners, decorators and even Pastor Skinner operating equipment used to spread the pea gravel in the outdoor play area.
“We closed the third of April and we’re opening on the 30th,” she said before the opening day. “We’ve been busting it because we wanted to be able to be open for the summer kids – we’re going to offer for through the school ages…we wanted to get things happening.”
The facility is open for newborns up to 12 years old and will be open to 76 children – with guidelines on the number of each age group. They will teach Christian-based daycare curriculums for the preschool ages up to school-age children who attend in the summer months. Children will also attend chapel once a week as a part of the program.
Skinner serves as director of the daycare and features staff made up of both members of the church and instructors with early childhood experience.
“[The staff] are all people that love kids and love Jesus,” she said.
“The main focus is we want to teach these kids about Jesus. At a staff orientation, I said, ‘we’re hiring you to just love the kids…we want you to be part of their lives and that they love you and want to be part of your lives.”
She reflected on her own childhood – noting she grew up attending St. Paul Lutheran School and remembers that feeling from her teachers.
“That is the atmosphere they always had,” she said. “When I was a kid, I remember never not wanting to be in school – because the teachers loved you and that’s my model. That’s what I’m trying to make sure we can offer our kids.”
Skinner said the name of both the daycare and church reflect an important guideline for anyone looking to make a change in their lives.
“Even if you’ve never been in church before,” she said, “take that first step and God will show you.”
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or firstname.lastname@example.org