In the past, comments implying our nursery was only a babysitting service used to upset me. Today, though, I see them as timely openings to educate parents and volunteers about the limited and distinctive opportunities we have to build a spiritual foundation during the first year of a baby’s life. Yes, it was an uphill battle at first—but ultimately we’ve seen a beautiful culture shift at my church. Here are the action points that influenced this culture change.
1. Grow your heart and understanding.
As my knowledge grew about developmental changes during the first year of life, the more passionate and committed I became about investing in our babies. Do your research on developmental milestones and spiritual foundation building so you can articulate why what happens in the nursery is so important.
2. Grow the church’s heart.
Most baby books are about how to keep babies happy. Very few talk about the limited opportunities this stage brings for brain development and growth and how to practically engage little ones to spur that growth. No wonder volunteers and parents have a church-is-a-babysitter mentality! I developed a thematic plan to educate and train our parents and volunteers throughout the year about babies’ development. As the adults’ hearts grew, so did their expectations, language, and actions.
3. Change your language.
Words are perception builders. I regularly and repeatedly use perception-changing phrases when I engage with volunteers and parents. Over time, it’s paid great dividends. Now it’s a common language for everyone.
“You’re foundation builders.”
“Your voice, touch, and hugs are introducing babies to the love of God.”
“When you take care of a baby’s basic needs, you teach babies how to trust.”
4. Let your environment speak.
Your nursery space conveys an unspoken message. Besides being clean, safe, and fun, does your nursery look like it’s a ministry space? As part of our routine, volunteers carry babies to three framed posters and share biblical truths with them. They also gather around a table where we seat babies or hold them in rocking chairs. The babies in seats shake rattles as volunteers sing and recite short poems.
5. Share stories.
I created a private social media group for our nursery volunteers and parents. Then, I regularly post pictures and videos of the babies being ministered to. I also post developmental facts and practical ways parents can engage in building their baby’s foundation. Real stories like these have the power to inspire and transform.
Our nurseries and volunteers are foundation builders. You might face having to change mindsets, but it’s worth the effort. Implement a plan to communicate that the nursery is about building a foundation—and don’t grow weary. By following these steps, you’ll see results.
Kal Otis is the owner of Creative Ministry Group Consultants as well as the family and children’s pastor at South Park Church in Park Ridge, Illinois. She’s passionate about equipping next generation leaders.
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