Open Arms

A Brief History

From the beginning the purpose of the Open Arms Institute (OAI) has been to provide encouraging, educational, Christ-based childcare in collaboration with the local church. This kind of partnership has provided a two-pronged blessing: a positive, loving, nurturing environment for children, and a point of contact for a congregation with its neighbors. With 25 years of experience Open Arms Institute has proven that early childhood development is a very effective way for drawing children and their families into the open arms of the community of Christ.
In 1989, Rev. Dr. Philip Kuehnert and Rev. Dr. Bob Scudieri envisioned and built the first Open Arms Child Ministry Center at Ascension Lutheran Church, Atlanta, Georgia. In 1990, Ascension sponsored a second Open Arms Center with a congregation in Alpharetta, Georgia. Over the following years many more centers were built in partnership with new and existing church bodies.
Martin Barlau, the executive director of OAI beginning in 2000, provided leadership during the most fruitful period of the organization, taking it to the next level of development. He created resources for the development of centers, held conferences around the country to share the OAI vision for building centers with hundreds of churches, created and sustained fruitful relationships with other parachurch organizations, and conducted consultations and conferences for dozens of centers and congregations. Because of Barlau’s work we can proudly say that OAI is the only nationwide, professional support provider for Christian early childhood development centers.
OAI has participated in building over 60 centers, often with church-plants, which today minister to over 6,000 children  and their families in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and in Ontario, Canada. OAI has created a model for building early childhood development centers in collaboration with church planting efforts.


Our Purpose

Open Arms

Childcare ministry is one of the most dynamic and important forms of outreach a congregation can bring to its neighborhood. It meets a need that cuts across all of the social, ethnic, and economic boundaries amidst a growing population. When young families ask us to join them in caring for their children, we have the opportunity to bring them and their children into the care of the church daily, creating relationships through a community that loves them.

Open Arms Institute is a 501(c)3 public charity, incorporated in the State of Georgia, and it is an RSO of the LCMS.

Open Arms



Our Values

We Are a Christian Organization

We believe in one eternal God, that he is Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God the Father is the creator of all that exists. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son who became human to suffer and die for the sins of all human beings and to rise to life again in the ultimate victory over death and Satan. And we believe that the Holy Spirit creates faith through the proclamation of God’s Word, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

We Value Human Life

We believe that God created people as an expression of his love, and we believe that God desires for people to share this love with one another as an expression of their love for him.

We Value Childcare as a Vocation

Because we believe in a God who created people as an expression of his pure and perfect love, and because we believe that God wills for his creation to spread this love throughout the world, it is our conviction that our calling is to do so by providing high quality, Christ-centered early childhood development centers for families everywhere.