This evening I spoke to the plenary of the General Assembly about the need for childcare at our meetings. If you want to know more about how we get here you can find out more here, here, here, and here.
The vote did not go our way, we lost 53%-47%, but there was a life-giving debate and I felt wholeheartedly supported by the church that has nourished me and raised me to be the Christian, father, pastor, commissioner, and leader I have become.
I continue to believe that We. Can. Do. Better. and I will continue to be in conversation with the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Committee on Local Arrangements in Portland. I believe that our 222th General Assembly will embrace our children with open arms.
These are the remarks that I made on the floor of the General Assembly:
I rise in favor of approval of item 03-13, this simply worded resolution requiring subsequent General Assemblies to be more welcoming to families and I trust that the COGA and COLA, given this mandate, will provide a variety of options for people with children.
I have been coming to General Assemblies since I was 10, y’all remember Biloxi? There and in every church I have ever attended I have heard the phrase, “We are hoping to have more young families...” By passing this resolution we are sending a clear message to those with children that we want them here and are willing to make it so you can be here.
My wife and I are both pastors, we have two small children, we are active in the life of the wider church. We love coming to GA, even as observers, heck we use GA as a family vacation. When we began to prepare to come to the 220th GA we were shocked to find that there were no onsite options for childcare or even child friendly options for our children. After repeated contact and problem solving with members of the OGA we were rebuffed and told that the barriers were too great to provide a welcoming space for families and those with children.
The intent of this resolution is to provide a strong message of support for our members with children and for whom the lack of onsite childcare and child friendly activities provide a barrier to come to know and love this church that has nurtured both my wife and I.
I have already been in conversation with the OGA, COLA, ACWC, and the committee on Biennial meetings since 2012. I’m afraid if we simply refer this to COGA it will fall through the cracks or be cast aside because it’s too complicated or it might cost us some money.
At the very least we should provide a room with comfortable chairs, low light, changing tables, and possibly sleeping mats for nursing mothers and for caregivers to find a place for their child to rest and relax.
We already provide childcare and child-friendly options for Big Tent, so why not General Assembly. By passing this Commissioners Resolution we will show that having families and children at our national gatherings is a priority as we come together to do the business of the church and witness to our calling to exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Abounding in hope I believe with all my heart that We. Can. Do. Better.
Here are three possible ways we can make this happen:
1. Available onsite childcare from 7:00 AM-5:00 PM in Two blocks of time during the business days of General Assembly. 7 AM-12 Noon and 1 PM-5 PM for parents and guardians to sign up and drop off their children allowing them to participate in the life of the larger church. This service would be a pay service $40/day is a conference norm. This would allow for families like mine to have a commissioner do their work, a pastor connect with the larger church, and a parent to do their job.
2. A space during worship specifically for children, there are many creative people in our churches that can make this a life giving and worshipful place allowing our youngest members to participate in the joy of GA worship.
3. At the very least provide a room with comfortable chairs, low light, changing tables, and possibly sleeping mats for nursing mothers and for caregivers to find a place for their child to rest and relax.
As always, please feel to comment here or contact me on twitter.
Rev. Greg Bolt