Every pew was filled waiting for the pastor to teach when I
noticed an elder nod to the mass of moms and dads swaying in rhythm
with their babies at the back of the church. "I wonder why they're
not using the nursery?" he whispered to another elder. If only he
would've asked one of the new parents lining the wall!
Living in the information age, parents are bombarded with
child-care warnings from their doctors, parent magazines, talk
shows, and newspapers.
Frightening images from Dateline and 20/20
fill their heads as they're told to interview each baby sitter and
child-care provider thoroughly, make surprise visits, and ask for
references. The result? Fear.
The fact that your nursery is located in a church isn't enough
for parents anymore. So what's a nursery filled with loving
volunteers to do? Simple. Jump into the shoes of your new parents
to see their fears and understand their needs. Let's crawl into the
mind of an informed parent as she thinks about your nursery in each
of these areas.
The people seem to be nice enough, but I wonder if they have any
experience or training. Let's see: 1, 2, 3, 4. Okay, there should
be at least one adult per four babies. I hope they have backup in
case more babies come. I'd love it if just one familiar face could
greet my baby week after week so she'd have some consistency.
The toys look cute enough. I hope they're all age-appropriate.
Hmmm. Some of this equipment may not have been checked for recalls
yet. Does all the staff know that my baby is too old for the swing
but too young for the walker? Are the toddlers and infants
separated? Surely all the cabinets are childproofed. Do they
disinfect the toys each week? Uh-oh, are sick babies allowed in
How do I know that someone can't walk in here and take my baby?
I know pedophiles and kidnappers seek easy targets. I don't care as
much about my diaper bag getting mixed up, but I want to make sure
they don't get my baby confused with another baby. Is my baby kept
in this room at all times? My friend came out of the service the
other week, and it took her half an hour to find her baby! A
volunteer was walking around the halls with her baby. I couldn't
handle that happening to me.
What if my baby needs me and I'm not there? Will they really
make the effort to find me in a crowd of people? Will she be
traumatized? I'd feel awful. What if she's scared? She clung to me
when I dropped her off; I know I saw fear in her eyes. What if they
let her cry the whole hour? My baby!
JUMP INTO THE SHOES OF YOUR NEW PARENTS TO SEE THEIR
FEARS AND UNDERSTAND THEIR NEEDS
Okay, now let's crawl out of that young mother's mind, and let's
talk. Even though you've heard some of the concerns of a new
parent, you know each parent carries a set of fears as unique as
each baby. So what can you do? Here are four low-cost steps you can
take to give parents peace of mind and confidence in your
1. REMEMBER NEW-PARENT JITTERS
Many of your volunteers are excellent veteran parents who may
not remember the jitters new parents experience leaving their first
baby in new hands.
There are simple things you can do to be sensitive to new
parents. For example, allow a parent to decide when to hand over an
infant. There's nothing more unsettling than having a stranger, no
matter how well-meaning, take your baby out of your hands and walk
away with "she'll be fine; just relax."
If an infant is crying when a parent comes to your nursery,
remind the parent that it's her choice to leave the child in the
nursery. If she's comfortable with trying your nursery, let her
know she can check back later. Reassure her that you'll locate her
if her child hasn't stopped crying within 10 minutes. Constantly
consider parents' feelings. Remember: You're caring for the most
precious thing in their lives.
2. GET TO KNOW PARENTS Start a conversation.
Address any concerns the parent may have, taking caution not to
belittle his fears in any way. In the few minutes you interact with
a parent, introduce yourself and ask as many questions as you can.
The stronger the relationship between parents and nursery
volunteers, the more confident parents are in your volunteers'
ability to take care of their angel. You'll also make visitors feel
welcome. Remember that many parents try church for the first time
or return to their faith because of their newborn child. What a
great opportunity to make their visit one worth repeating.
3. INFORM, INFORM , INFORM This is the greatest
thing you can do for any parent with needs and concerns. Knowledge
truly is power, and informing parents of your nursery's policies
and procedures will only give them more confidence and a greater
sense of control. Let parents know what a great nursery your church
The first church my family attended after moving with our new
baby had a statement boldly printed in the bulletin, "Parents of
infants are strongly encouraged to take them to our nursery." That
was it. I searched through their information center and brightly
colored bulletin boards to find more information, and I found
nothing. When I actually went to the nursery and asked about
training and security, I got shrugs. Needless to say, I didn't feel
safe leaving my baby in that nursery.
The following Sunday we visited a church that had a nice
pamphlet detailing policies, training, and their security and
notification system. On the way to the nursery, a bulletin board
with a couple of Polaroid photos introduced me to two ladies who
were committed to being in the nursery every Sunday. When I went
into that nursery, I instantly knew who was in charge and the
quality of care my baby would receive. What a difference in my
anxiety level when I worshiped that morning!
4. EVALUATE YOUR NURSERY EVERY YEAR Have there
been any world changes or tragedies that might bring up new fears
or concerns for parents? How can you address their new fears?
Proactively address any issues that parents may be dealing with.
Keep up-to-date on the latest parenting issues and infant
development discoveries. Update written communication to parents
when necessary. Check out current parent magazines or books to
understand the information new parents are receiving. You can find
great magazines online or at a local newsstand. For
Parents magazine, log onto www.parentsmagazine.com. For Christian
Parenting Today magazine, log onto www.christianparenting.net.
Review your policies on staff, training, and security. Update
your staff's infant and child CPR certification. Locate the Red
Cross nearest you by logging on to www.redcross.org
or checking the yellow pages.
Check for any recalls on your equipment and toys. You can learn
more about recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission. On the Internet, go to www.cpsc.gov. Or call 800-638-2772. Add your
name to a list that automatically emails you with the latest
Admittedly, running a nursery that meets parents' needs is hard
work, but one of the greatest things about nursery ministry is the
instant reward you receive. There's nothing like spending time with
infants who know and trust you, then watching spiritually revived
parents return to greet them.
Heather Dawn is a free-lance writer in Fort Wayne,
ESTABLISHING PEACEFUL TRADITIONS
Routine helps babies feel comfortable. What may seem monotonous
to some adults can help babies feel safe, secure, and protected.
Whether your volunteer staff rotates weekly or is the same each
week, create a predictable and peaceful environment by developing
activities and procedures that stay the same each week. We call
these Peaceful Traditions.
Think through a perfect morning. What is it like? What do
volunteers say and do for babies? Take a look at the four times
below. Place the traditions in your manual so they're easy to refer
Greet the baby in the same manner each week. Use a puppet, an
interactive mural, or something uniquely yours. Play the same music
in the background. Let the babies make both a visual and auditory
connection to the nursery. You might even have a signature scent
for greeting, such as simmering cinnamon or soft powder air
Think through your welcoming traditions. Do you want workers to
always call the baby by name? To bend down and look a walker in the
eye? Specify these traditions that are important to your sense of
atmosphere. What do you want volunteers to communicate to parents?
How do you want volunteers to greet new parents? Don't leave
anything about this critical time to chance. Be intentional about
what you do.
SNACK AND BOTTLE TIMES
Designate specific areas of the room as snack areas. Keep food
and drinks within this area. Think through your snack traditions.
Is there a specific time you will serve snacks? Will all babies eat
and have bottles on demand? Is there a difference in scheduling for
infants and toddlers? Is there a snack-time prayer you'd like
babies to become familiar with? Are there manners that are
important to you? Make a note of these things so that every worker
can follow the same procedures.
How can workers convey that changing time is a pleasant routine?
Do you want babies checked for changing needs at specific intervals
throughout the morning? We consider changing time as individual
attention time. We also suggest a stash of special changing-time
toys to keep babies' hands occupied. Be sure workers are aware of
your sanitation policies.
Who picks up babies in your nursery? At what time? Do you use
songs or little games to make goodbye times more fun? What are some
things you want done each week before babies leave? What do you
expect parents to do when they are ready to pick up their children?
How will you tell each baby goodbye? What will you do to help
ensure that parents know what their baby has done this week? We
suggest making copies of some of the nursery manual activity pages
included in our book to send home. Be sure to adapt them for family
use by personalizing the "Other Notes" section.
Excerpted from The Warm and Wonderful Church Nursery by Kim
Sikes and Lori Haynes Niles (Group Publishing; 800-447-1070 or
CareGuide.com gives a checklist for parents to
evaluate a child-care provider. Use this adapted checklist to look
at your nursery from a parent's perspective and determine if your
nursery makes parents feel secure in leaving their babies with you.
For more information, log onto www.careguide.com, or e-mail email@example.com.
1. Does the facility take your needs into consideration? Is the
staff accommodating and flexible?
2. How long has the facility been in business?
3. How many children is the facility licensed to provide
4. What is the philosophy of the center or home?
5. Does the facility allow non-toilet-trained children?
6. Does the facility serve meals? Are they hot meals or snacks?
Are they well-balanced and nutritious?
7. What is the facility's policy on sick children?
8. What supplies and equipment does the facility provide and
what is the parent expected to provide?
9. Is your involvement encouraged?
1. Do the children at the facility look happy?
2. Did your child seem to feel comfortable during your
3. Did she/he like the other children?
4. Is there a feeling of belonging at the facility?
5. Does the environment seem child-oriented?
6. Would you enjoy spending time in this environment?
7. How is the lighting? the ventilation?
8. Are safe and sanitary conditions maintained?
9. Are there several toilets and wash facilities available, and
are children encouraged to wash their hands?
10. Where do children nap?
11. Is there an outdoor area that is safe to play in?
12. Is there space for running about freely for active play and
still other space where quiet play may go on undisturbed, both
indoors and out?
1. Observe the interaction between the providers and the
children. Does the staff seem happy and attentive to the children?
Do they instill confidence in the children?
2. Do the children get individualized attention?
3. How does the staff physically handle the children?
4. Are the providers the kind of people you would enjoy being
with outside of the facility setting?
5. How capable do the providers seem at being able to resolve
conflicts between children?
6. How long has the staff been working at the facility (average
tenure of staff)?
7. What is the staff-child ratio?
8. Does the classroom staff have experience and skills in
child-care methods and developmental learning?
9. Are your questions, comments, and visits welcome?
10. Does the center have strict procedures for hiring
11. Are applicants interviewed by management, fingerprinted when
required by state law, and required to take a medical exam in
compliance with state licensing regulations? Are background checks
and written references mandatory?
1. What is the emphasis of the activities? to have fun? to
2. Are the learning programs specifically designed for each age
3. How big are the activity groups?
4. How noisy is it?
5. Are the activities the kind your child enjoys?
6. Are the toys used in the activities safe and appropriate for
the children's ages?
7. Do the children have sufficient rest?
1. How is the facility set up to handle emergencies?
2. What are the procedures for contacting you?
3. Is the staff CPR and first-aid certified?
4. Which hospital are they affiliated with?
5. Is the staff prepared or trained for possible allergic
reactions or other special needs?
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are
subject to change.