Waycross First UMC serves community through new daycare ministry


By Kara Witherow, Editor

When Rev. Barry Giddens was appointed to Waycross First United Methodist Church in June 2014 he was met with several realities. With numerous needs in the community and church membership in decline, church leaders and he looked for ways to increase growth, help the community, and raise the church’s visibility.

Over the course of a few months and after a lot of prayer, visioning, and dreaming, the group decided to open a new preschool.

“We realized that there was real demand in the community and that it would be a great way to help grow our church,” Rev. Giddens said. 

When George Brasingdon, a former Emory University professor whose mother loved Waycross First UMC, died, he left the church nearly $450,000. The congregation used some of that as seed money to launch their new Children First Children’s Center daycare and preschool ministry.

The vision behind Waycross First UMC’s Children First Children’s Center is two-fold: by meeting a need in the in the community, the church hopes to raise its visibility and reach more families.

When it opens on Monday, July 20, Children First Children’s Center will be able to accommodate about 100 infant through pre-kindergarten aged children. Open 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day, after-school care will also be offered once school is in session.

In addition to offering a traditional daycare program for working parents, Children First Children’s Center will also offer half-day programs and a Mother’s Morning Out. The variety of programming is the best of both worlds, says Director Ann Lane.

“You can choose what you need as a parent,” she said. “We want to give parents a service that they feel secure about and feel safe and at peace leaving their children here.”

Since the decision to open the preschool, the church has seen an uptick in the number of young couples and families with children attending worship services. 

“People are seeing the excitement of what God is doing here and they want to be a part of it,” Rev. Giddens said. “While we are excited about the growth, we are even more excited about offering something that can help the entire community.”

According to Lane and Rev. Giddens, Waycross First UMC’s Children First Children’s Center will be the only fulltime daycare/preschool on the north side of town.

“We want this to be a blessing to the community and to folks who come in contact with us,” Lane said. “We want little folks to come to know the Lord and the love of God, and we want to be open and willing to be used by God. We are here to be used by Him and to show the love of God to everyone and to be a ministry to the community.”