With only a handful of students to start, Revs. Jim Wood and Genetta Herrera launched KidZone Learning Center through Olathe Wesleyan Church in 2009. Now, 11 years later, KidZone, which operates as a childcare and preschool for children six weeks to elementary school age, has a licensed capacity of 93 and often has a waiting list for children to get in.
Located in Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, KidZone partners with The Family Conservancy, a local organization committed to ensuring that children are “happy, healthy and educated.”
“In March 2016, The Family Conservancy partnered with us to allow us to provide Early Head Start spots in our childcare center. So we now have the ability to provide full-day, full-year childcare for 18 at-risk kiddos per year,” said Wood, who also serves as lead pastor of Olathe Wesleyan Church.
Among the at-risk students KidZone serves include children from low-income, single-parent and/or immigrant families, many of whom became connected with Olathe Wesleyan and KidZone through Immigrant Connection, which helps provide immigration legal services to those in need.
Wood said KidZone is composed of a uniquely diverse staff and students, with people from across North and South America, the Middle East and parts of Europe and Asia.
“Several of our employees have been former clients through Immigrant Connection; several of our families in attendance [at Olathe Wesleyan] have been connected through that ministry to begin with,” Wood said. “As we saw God bringing us people from around the world, he gave us the opportunity to incorporate some of those ideas and learn from different cultures.”
As it continues to grow, KidZone is looking to expand into Kansas City of Wyandotte County this fall.
“A year ago, we purchased a building in Wyandotte County with the idea that we’re going to launch a separate KidZone Learning Center that will hopefully have the same values and same corporate ethos and same intent to serve young children in the community with high quality, full-day, full-year childcare,” Wood said.
The building will contain a 200-seat worship center, a large café area and the KidZone Learning Center. The new church will be planted by Rev. Yort Clark.
“We are going to be a licensed childcare center for approximately 84 children,” Wood said. “It will also serve infants to school-aged children.”
“I was approached by Jim Wood and the Church Planting Network in Kansas about this project,” Clark said. “I had several conversations with Jim about the new church plant and the learning center, and it wasn’t until my wife and I went to the property that I felt like the Holy Spirit gave us peace about this new project. This gave me the confidence I needed as a first-time pastor and planter to say yes to the project.”
The church Clark and others are planting will be the only Wesleyan Church in Wyandotte County.
“To come into a community and help meet a critical need for the people of Wyandotte County is everything. That is what the church is called to do. We are called to help those in need,” Clark said. “We aren’t trying to bring Christ to the community; he is already there. We want to partner with other churches and organizations and help shine the light of Christ brighter, make more disciples and plant more churches.”
Clark said he is excited to have the opportunity to “change the next generations of kids’ lives forever by teaching them about Jesus.
“This ministry is unique in that being associated with a church we are allowed to pray, give Bible lessons and teach about Christ while also receiving grant funding,” Clark said. “It is equally exciting to have conversations and be put in situations to show the love of Jesus to the parents of the students.”
For more information about KidZone Learning Center, visit its website.