More Than Babysitting

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When new families try your church, they’re often willing to park
quite a distance from the door or don’t mind too much if the music
seems a little loud. But if their little child is not given loving
care in the church nursery, you’ll never see that family again.
Excellent church nurseries are a security blanket for parents, and
only those nurseries that try hard to please will attract young
families. If you want your nursery to be a magnet for new families,
make sure your nursery has these eight characteristics:

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1. A clear purpose — Too often the church
nursery is seen as the loud “holding tank” for a flock of cute, but
disruptive, little lambs. Don’t treat the nursery as a convenience
for parents. Instead, give it the lofty purposes it rightfully
deserves.

Decide what’s really important and unique to the church nursery
as opposed to other age-level classes. Set your goals much higher
than just “providing a baby-sitting service.” For example, the
nursery should strive to love every child, teach Bible basics such
as “God made you” or “Jesus loves you,” be filled with praise to
God, promote a secure and safe environment in God’s church, and
help babies and toddlers develop social and play skills.

2. Excellent leadership — You need a nursery
director who loves little children, listens well to parents, is
spiritually mature, is dependable, and considers every detail
important. Develop a clear job description that explains these
qualities. Then look for possible candidates. The nursery director
will represent the church nursery, so choose well. Just as the
personality of a church is largely defined by the pastor’s
personality, so, too, the nursery will personify the strengths and
weaknesses of its director.

3. Church leaders’ enthusiastic support
Continually pass along positive comments about the nursery to
church leaders. Report the number of families who are coming and
staying, based on the nursery’s records. Make sure nursery growth
and improvements are reported to the people in charge of next
year’s budget. Schedule church leaders for quick tours of the
nursery in action.

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If the church leadership doesn’t understand the importance of
the nursery for church growth, then pray and work to convince them
of its high priority! If the leadership is already supportive, then
find creative ways to thank them. For example, send a thank-you
picture of a happy new family to the pastor.

4. Clear communication — To have an effective
communication system, listen well to the parents. Respond promptly,
no matter what the need or complaint. Learn children’s and parents’
names so nursery communication is personal. Be ready at times to
“over-communicate” with parents. If one rumor (“The nursery accepts
sick babies”) isn’t responded to quickly, it’ll cause parents to
doubt the church’s care of their baby.

Publish colorful and creative brochures introducing new moms and
dads to the nursery. New families love to receive a nice
introduction to the nursery through the mail. Make sure all
brochures are attractive, easy to read, and clearly communicate
nursery goals, key policies, procedures, and general care items.
This will help parents trust your nursery before their newborn has
spent a minute in your care.

5. Established policies — How old must a
teenager be before he or she may work in the nursery? What snacks
are allowed? Who can check out the child? Policies should be
decided and written down before they’re needed. Always communicate
your policies in a positive way, whether through a booklet,
newsletter, or personal conversation. All policies should be
evaluated concerning their practicality and helpfulness. They
should convey your church’s priority for the safety of each child
and family. Make sure your attitude toward enforcement communicates
love and care more than just a list of rules.

6. Adequate funding — An excellent nursery
can’t be run merely on donated hand-me-downs that may or may not
meet safety standards. If you request donations, consider asking
for financial contributions toward a specific project rather than
publicizing a general need for “more rocking chairs.” If the church
resists budgeting much nursery money, it’s most likely a lack of
overall support from church leadership. If so, start nurturing that
support.

7. Attractive and spacious facilities — A good
first impression is shaped by how the nursery check-in area and
rooms appear. A room may not be quite large enough, but it can be
made to look and feel larger. Improve the lighting, paint with
different colors, change the layout, and unclutter the
doorways.

Above all else, keep the nursery area clean. Picture “clean” as
how the home nursery looks when the first baby is brought home from
the hospital by an excited, young couple. Not only is the area
sanitized, but there’s a clean, sharp look to the whole room.
Colors coordinate and everything in the room is there by loving
decree. When those families look for a church home, the nursery
that has the same sharp look will make a great impression and
probably become the standard for comparing other church
nurseries.

8. Trained, loving workers — It’s difficult to
train volunteers to have a natural love for children. When
recruiting, emphasize the need for workers who genuinely love kids.
Then, (assuming you’ve gone through a thorough screening process),
communicate the goals and pertinent policies of the nursery. Train
volunteers in key responsibilities.

Require volunteers to show love to children by playing on the
floor with them. Encourage workers to talk and sing quietly with
the children even though babies may not respond. Train all workers
to watch for unsafe practices so they can help prevent accidents
rather than react to a problem. All this can’t be covered at a
meeting. Instead, free up the nursery director or a training leader
to work in the nursery when children and volunteers are there. The
on-the-job suggestions and tips can be more easily offered and
applied.

These eight points can seem overwhelming to you, depending on
what the nursery is like at your church. If so, decide on the top
two areas and make specific changes there, rather than attempting a
complete makeover.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your nursery. Your church
nursery is a magnet to attract young families to your church.


Tim Cox is a Christian education pastor in North
Carolina.
Please keep in mind that phone numbers,
addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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