Have you thought about what Saturday night might be like for the young parents in your church? Are you aware of how much effort it takes for a new family to make it to a service at your church on Sunday morning? Often a good night sleep seems like just a fleeting memory along with the ease of hopping into the car without the car seat, diaper bag, and toys.
It is in this hectic season where family ministry begins. To some, the nursery may seem to be a “small” ministry because it is away from the public eye. But it can develop into one of the most vibrant and life-changing ministries of your church! Jesus said, “Let the little ones come,” and from there His love will flow to each family through your ministry. Keeping in mind the “big picture” of ministry to the whole family is key.
Here are 5 baby steps to family ministry within your nursery.
- First Impressions
It has been said that the nursery is “the handshake of the church.” Your helpful attitude and friendliness convey a powerful first impression of what your church culture is like. When a parent brings an infant or toddler to the nursery, your friendly greeting and personal comment to or about the child sends the message, “We remember and care about you!”
Why not ease the nerves of parents dropping off their child by welcoming them with a coffee kiosk and a humorous sign that says: “Hand us the diaper bag, we’ll hand you a coffee.”
Carrying a coffee cup has become a form of security for a lot of people. If your nursery welcomes a child out of parent’s arms, why not show how much you care about the parent too by giving them a cup of coffee.
Creating a nursery environment that feels comfortable is vital to the child and parent. Try thinking like a baby when you look at your nursery room. When a church succeeds at stimulating the child’s five senses, they can create a favorable experience.
- Listen—Play soothing music even before the first child arrives.
- See—Hang pictures at the child’s eye level.
- Touch—Are there different textures in the room to feel and toys to play with?
- Smell—Make sure sheets and toys are freshly washed. And don’t have a diaper hamper that hasn’t been emptied in several weeks.
- Taste—A baby or toddler tastes EVERYTHING! Are there age-appropriate snacks or toys that are okay to put in their mouth?
When your nursery sends the message “Come in. We are prepared, clean, competent, and caring,” you’re well on the road to building a strong relationship with families. When that message is reinforced by the quality of care you give to children, families want to return.
One parent said, “Coming to church is the best part of my week. It’s so refreshing to worship and learn when I can really relax. I don’t have to worry about the baby.” For this parent, a safe nursery helped her relax and be able to focus on growing her own personal relationship with Jesus.
Developing the trust of the child begins with developing the trust of the parent. A church nursery is often the first place the child is cared for away from home.
As a teacher, the nursery caregiver creates a safe and interesting environment with age-appropriate activities. They provide physical and emotional care to encourage interaction among children and adults.
Here are some safety tips that won’t go unnoticed by families.
- Schedule a minimum of two background-checked workers to serve in the nursery no matter how few children you have.
- If there are a lot of children, there should be one caregiver for every three children.
- Clean and baby proof the nursery every week.
- Develop a diaper changing policy.
- Ensure a well-baby policy is in place.
- Notify families if there was an incident or safety concern while under the church’s care.
Communicating with families about the policies your church has in place, will ease the parents and child into a trusting relationship with the nursery staff.
Have you had one of those moments while reading the Bible and something jumps out at you that maybe you hadn’t noticed before? Ruth 4:16 says, “Naomi took the baby and she cared for him as if he were her own.” Had you ever looked at Naomi as an example for family ministry in the nursery? She teaches us that it doesn’t matter what your age is or your relationship to the child; you can take them and love on them as if they were your own.
It was once said, “First I loved my teacher, and then I loved my teacher’s God.” It is in this place of developing a trusting, safe, and loving environment that children begin to love their teacher. And as a child begins to love their teacher they get to know God working through them.
Never forget that your ultimate goal is to see each family develop a growing walk with Jesus Christ. Babies and toddlers are not too young to start learning about God’s love for them. Develop a plan for faith to be nurtured in the nursery.
- Follow Up
Young parents who are not deeply committed to attending church are often influenced to come back by the caliber of care their baby received and by their child’s positive experience. Even though a family has walked out of the church’s doors on Sunday morning doesn’t mean they don’t need your help and support during the week.
Here are some tips on staying connected with families with young ones.
- Invite them to join a family friendly small group.
- Send a text or social media message letting them know you’re thinking about them.
- Check in with them by sending them a note or remembering when they were not there or when their child was ill.
Henrietta Mears said, “We have no idea what impressions are made on little children: beautiful music, lovely colors, stories. We have learned to condition them to love the house of the Lord.” Family ministry begins when those in the nursery realize that their role is much greater than just caring for babies, but caring for the whole family. Families will be transformed by those who choose to support and love them in the exhausting time of life they are in.