But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. ~Mark 10:14
A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link titled 7 Reasons to Serve in the Church Nursery. Click on the link and read the post for yourself, it's very interesting especially if you are someone who attends church and uses the nursery.
I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that the topic of church nursery is sort of a hot button issue with Ben and I. When you have little children, especially when you have a lot of little ones, the nursery ministry is very important to you. I know there are some of you who feel children should never be in the nursery and can get really heated about parents needing to train their kids from infancy to sit in church...I've heard it all before. I'm not going to say I disagree. I think that if you do not want to put your kids in the nursery then you shouldn't and no one in the church, Pastor or otherwise, should make you feel bad about that. Our children are all very close in age so pretty much we have had two babies to take care of on top of the other kids. Ben is also the piano player in our church for every service so I am alone to train the kids to sit still for about 30 mins of a 60 min. service. Maybe I'm doing something wrong but it's near impossible to have two babies in my arms all while trying to train my older ones. Currently I have 5 sitting with us in church and a couple still need some direction. So I use the nursery...unashamedly. Because selfishly, I want to be able to attend at least one service on Sunday where I am able to pay attention and not constantly be "training" a child. I do try to have them out of the nursery by age 3. This is when we have started having our children sit with us during the evening services, a couple of the kids were 2 years old. Sunday mornings there are age-appropriate classes for them to go to and I will say that our kids are blessed to have some really great Sunday School and Jr. Church teachers.
As I was reading the list from the post, numbers 5 & 6 were the ones I was silently screaming "Amen!" to. The author says, "a growing Christian is always a serving Christian". This is so true. As Christians we should be driven by the Holy Spirit to serve. Too many today are not doing this and it is evident in churches of every shape and size. As it relates to church nursery I can attest to having been told more than once by more than one person, "I've done my time taking care of kids. I worked in the nursery for X amount of years and raised my own family. Now its someone else's turn." I can understand needing a break from a particular ministry. It is very easy to get stuck in a ministry and get burnt out. I've seen it happen and it's really unfortunate. Once a person becomes too exhausted to serve anymore they very rarely come back to the ministry after a period of respite. When it comes to the nursery I think this is what happens. There are so few willing to serve in this ministry that the burden of it falls on only a few. And to make it worse, often times of the few that are willing only some of them are consistently reliable and show up when they are expected to or take the time to find a replacement when they cannot...which means it falls again onto the faithful few. It is so easy to lose your joy in serving which is why I felt #6 was so important to be pointed out.
The author says, "The church nursery is the first contact young families will have with your church. Your friendly greeting and exceptional care for their children can make a great first impression for your church. If they don’t feel like their children are safe, they will not return – and rightly so." This is absolutely spot on. This goes for Sunday School teachers, Jr. church workers and anyone else who will be working with my child for the morning. Churches want young families to come and to STAY but I feel a lot of times they forget that in order to get the young families to stay (there is always the exception...some will stay regardless but this is the EXCEPTION, not the rule) their children's ministries need to be well staffed and organized. Too often Ben and I have felt like a burden to people when we show up needing the nursery and folks are scrambling to find someone, anyone, who is willing to stay and watch the kids. This is NOT a good first impression. Personally I feel that there should be a nursery worker in the nursery at least 10 mins before the service starts to greet any family who will arrive to drop off a child. I don't feel it is a good testimony when a family arrives to an empty nursery and is waiting around for a worker who is running late. But that's just my opinion!
I know that as a mom who is using the nursery this post might seem a bit self-serving. I want to assure you that is not my purpose. My purpose is to give you a moms perspective. I've been putting children in the church nursery for 10 years straight now so I have a little experience with it. Some good, some bad. I have the perspective of what it is like to be a visitor needing the nursery and as a mom who works in the nursery. I want nursery workers to understand how vital this ministry is to us moms and what a blessing it can be when it is run properly and effectively. I want to encourage you to find joy in serving in this way because whether you think so or not you are having an impact on young lives...and it can be a positive one or a negative one. The choice is yours. I know my younger kids have all had their favorite nursery worker. It's been neat to see how each of them has bonded and found something special with different ones. What has also been a blessing to my heart is seeing the nursery workers bond with my kids and learn what they love. Jena for instance has always loved purses. Ask any lady in our church about this...chances are they have a story to tell you about her going through their purse looking for either mints, chapstick or an Ipod! So a couple of the workers began bringing a purse just for her and filling it with things they new she would like when it was their turn for nursery duty. That is love and that is how I believe we are to serve and minister to children in the nursery. If you are currently a worker in the nursery and are finding it hard to find joy in serving then I would encourage you to not give it up all together but rather pray that God would change your heart and help you learn to love the children and the ministry. If you are a mom who is discouraged because of your church nursery ministry then I want to encourage you to pray and ask God to help you. It may mean He starts by using you to set the example in the nursery. Ben and I know all about discouragement when it comes to this and I will admit it is very hard at times. But prayer is more powerful than you know so I would encourage you to commit to praying for your church nursery workers and the ministry that God would work in the hearts of the workers. Pray also for yourself that you will not allow discouragement to turn to bitterness. Ask God to help you see what is good, pure, true, etc. (Phil 4:8). Then wait patiently and see how God will work it out! I believe there is a purpose and a place for the church nursery and I believe that God can use the workers in the nursery in a very mighty way if they would only allow him to...and some are! Look to them as your example. I promise others will be blessed by it...especially the children and their parents!