“We recently left our church of six years,” said one mother matter-of-factly. “The deciding factor was our toddler’s consistent negative reaction to the nursery. We want him to have a positive beginning at church.”
This mom’s words have power—and they’re true for many parents of young children. Parents of little ones are wondering if your church is right for them—and your nursery can make or break their experience. Many parents are running through a mental checklist as they evaluate your nursery. How will yours score?
Here’s what parents are secretly wondering when they leave children in your nursery.
- What’s the classroom or nursery like? Is the atmosphere fun and engaging? Or is it drab and depressing? What does it smell like—clean and fresh or like dirty diapers?
- Is my child safe? Do you have a system in place to stop someone else from claiming my child? Does the door lock so my child can’t wander away? Are there safety features—outlet covers, sturdy cribs and swings, and age-appropriate toys? Can you quickly contact me if my child needs me?
- What happens at drop-off? Separation anxiety is normal, but does my child’s reluctance seem like more? Does the teacher try to engage him, as well as assure me that he’ll be okay?
- Is there structure? Do you follow a routine? How will I know what my child experienced?
- Are you interested in my family? Do you verify the spelling and pronunciation of my child’s name? Are you happy to be here in the nursery? If we come back, will you remember my child?
- How are other children acting? Are they happy or upset? engaged or bored? Is the room chaotic?
- How is my child reacting? I’ll ask my child if she liked Sunday school and ask her simple questions about the lesson. I’ll pay attention to her emotions when I pick her up, and may peek into the room before I make my presence known. Is she participating and having fun, or is she crying for me?
- Will you answer my questions? If our first visit went well, I’ll want to find out more about your ministry. Do you welcome this conversation? Do you invite me to return and offer information about your ministry and programs?
If you want to keep these families of young children coming back to your church, don’t overlook these critical questions. And for more practical ways you can improve your ministry to little ones, read “3 Must-Haves for a Great Baby Ministry.”
Jennifer Hooks is managing editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.