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A toddler smiles as she plays with toys on the nursery floor.
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The Top 4 Reasons Parents Avoid Church Nurseries

These top 4 reasons parents avoid your church nursery may surprise you.


The nursery was perfect. Matching cribs lined one wall, each with crisp pink and blue checked sheets. Developmentally appropriate toys sat neatly on white shelves just waiting for tiny hands to hold them. A wooden rocker sat motionless in the corner with a soft, pale green afghan folded over its arm, ready to comfort and warm a tiny soul. The small room waited for small guests.

Outside the nursery, a flurry of activity filled the halls. Children and their parents hurried by on their way to classes and services. Laughter and excitement bubbled up everywhere— everywhere except in the nursery.

Makes you feel sorry for the nursery, doesn’t it? This scenario may sound extreme—but when we surveyed parents of babies and toddlers to see whether they use the church nursery, we found that some never do. So why don’t these parents use our nurseries? Their reasons may surprise you, but they also may inspire you to make your nursery the place to be.

1. Health Hazards

One common reason parents resist leaving their little ones in your nursery is they’re afraid their small children will be exposed to otherwise-avoidable illnesses.

“My concern is that many parents will take a sick child to the nursery,” said one parent. “I also worry about whether things are cleaned and disinfected. I suppose I should just ask, but then I feel like the freaky mom who worries too much.”

Take Action

Help parents see that you’re taking measures to keep all your small friends healthy and happy.

Establish an illness policy.

For example, require that children who have a fever, runny nose with yellow discharge, diarrhea, vomiting, or other symptoms remain with their parents. Require that parents whose children become ill retrieve their child within 10 minutes. Create an isolation area in your room so if a child becomes ill, he or she can be separated from other children while waiting for Mom or Dad.

Keep your room sanitized.

Clean all toys before returning them to the shelves by rinsing them in a bleach and water solution. Keep changing tables sanitary. Use disinfectant spray liberally during peak illness seasons. Encourage hand-washing among children and require it of volunteers. Provide sanitizing hand gel at your entryway, changing tables, and restroom.

Post these policies and health-conscious procedures outside your classroom and in your promotional materials so parents know you’re working to keep kids healthy.

2. Safe and Sound

Parents of young children have an especially keen radar when it comes to safety, and if they feel as though your nursery doesn’t take necessary precautions to keep their little ones safe, they won’t be leaving their children with you any time soon.

“I wasn’t pleased at all with the condition of our nursery,” confided one parent. “It looked like nothing had been done since the ’70s.”

Another reason this parent felt uneasy leaving her child: “There’s no check-in/check-out system whatsoever, and I’ve never heard of any kind of background checks being done.”

Take Action

Shed light on your nursery as a safe place for babies.

Update your décor.

There are simple, inexpensive ways you can update your nursery. A coat of white paint leaves a better impression than dreary paint. Use freshly laundered linens. Tape visuals and safety mirrors at children’s level.

Invest in background checks.

Parents often spend hours researching and interviewing potential day-care providers and caregivers. It’s illogical to them to leave their child in the arms of a complete stranger with an unknown history. Let parents know your volunteers have passed background checks. Create “meet our volunteers” sheets where volunteers’ photos are posted. Include the volunteer’s name, interests, education or employment, and something about his or her passion for serving in the nursery. (Check out Safety First: A Guide to Conducting Background Checks).

Keep it safe.

Do regular safety checks and updates in your classroom. Provide CPR and first-aid classes for your volunteers. Post safety rules and child-protection policies on your doorways and throughout your rooms. Use a secure check-in system, which can be as simple as requiring the same person to sign in at drop-off and sign out when picking up.

3. Disorganization

When asked to describe her church’s nursery, one parent’s response was, “One word—chaos! I know the nursery becomes a crazy place sometimes, and I worry that my infant won’t get the attention and care that she needs.”

Take Action

Action can be a good thing; it means babies are stimulated and people are interacting. Chaos, though, is a bad thing; it can be a telltale sign of disorganization and discord.

Streamline.

Update your processes for check-in and check-out. Organize your room. Massage your classroom routine to make it as efficient and child-friendly as possible. The reason one parent gave for not using the nursery is surprising—and worrisome: “[At our previous church], I didn’t even know where the nursery was.”

Go public.

Don’t assume parents know about your nursery. Many smaller churches have wonderful—but empty—nurseries because they’re tucked away where visitors, and even regular attendees, can’t easily find them. Promote your nursery’s location and benefits. Spend time “walking the carpet”—shaking hands and inviting parents to stop in for a visit. Have an open house following services. Do a little PR. Train ushers to escort parents to the nursery. And make your nursery accessible—optimally, it should be within eyeshot of the worship area, allowing parents convenience and ease of mind.

4. Unhappy Children

“Our church attendance has been spotty this year, [due] to the child care and our son’s response,” said one parent. “He clings to us and doesn’t want to go at all…Honestly, I just don’t know what our future at this church will be.”

If you’ve ever wondered how important your nursery or toddler ministry is, this parent’s response is your answer.

Take Action

If a child resists coming or a child who attended stops, dig deeper. In one situation the parents discovered that another child was biting their son. The teacher was able to resolve the situation. Had it been ignored, the parents may have opted to keep their son out of the nursery permanently.

Bonus: Family Worship

We also found that one of the common reasons parents don’t leave their children in the nursery is actually positive: “We wanted to begin worship as a new family.”

Take Action

Today’s families trend toward family togetherness, so it’s no surprise that many young families want to worship together. Support these families by informing them about your services and providing worship “care kits” for their little ones, such as crayons, coloring sheets, and simple snacks. Provide a cry room or nursing room where parents can still see or hear the service.

The Great News

The great news is that hundreds of thousands of parents use their church nurseries every weekend and throughout the week—and they love it!

“The nursery coordinator really knows my kids and our family,” said another parent whose three daughters all stayed in their nursery. “Even the weekly volunteers seem genuinely interested in loving little ones!”

For more great ideas like this in every issue, subscribe today to Children’s Ministry Magazine!


15 thoughts on “The Top 4 Reasons Parents Avoid Church Nurseries

  1. Avatar

    That’s it? That’s the post?

    OK, so my response is this.
    1) Train up a child….. Kids need to hear God’s word. No nursery.
    2) God made dirt; Dirt don’t hurt. Germs are how we create immune systems. Over-sanitizing leads to super-bugs. (and do they think the kids are not exposed in the main congregation?)

    • Avatar
      Christa carlin

      As I children’s minister to a small church I disagree with you in a way, but I also think that some things were left out in this article. We have mostly new and first time mom’s..so yes, seeing that you are cleaning and that you are aware of what makes them comfortable enough to leave their kiddos. But I had no kids and I did all of this except paint the room(which is on the agenda) but still no kids. So after a while I started observing the nursery teacher-who was there before I got this position. She was the reason they were uncomfortable-not listening to the needs of the parents, telling the parents that they’re kids just cried the entire time and not calling on them, feeding & doing things without asking permission and then, the last one…..wiping kids faces with Clorox wipes! Of course even knowing and talking to the parents weekly they were too polite to tell me..I found out that by way of my daughter bringing my grand baby in and it happened. I replaced her and moved her to the kids building. And wham! Full nursery! So observe you helpers..check in often..and talk to parents..

      • Avatar
        childrensministry.com

        That’s a really good point, too, Christa! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. Avatar
    Stuart Wynd

    Hi I am in Australia and am interested in your subscription. Just wondering 1. what would be my cost for this subscription, and 2. would this still include a printed version. I understand it would take a bit longer to get here but I am a bit old fashioned and while digital is great I also appreciate keeping the printed version in the office.
    Thanks
    Stuart
    Associate Pastor Dalby Baptist
    Childrens and Families Pastor

    • Avatar
      Christine Yount Jones

      Stuart, the price is the same (and that varies depending on the offer we have going–right now it’s buy 2 years for $25). You would need to pay $7 extra for postage.

  3. Avatar
    Heather Vogtman

    You have to hit next to see all 4 reasons..and I agree and either have implemented these already or have it in our plan to do so! Great resource, Thank you!

  4. Avatar

    I am on our church nursery committee. We have tried to maintain all of these suggestions and have a good attendance of 2-3 yr olds but our bed baby room is low. We prefer to use hydrogen peroxide/water solution for all sanitation of toys, tables etc.

  5. Avatar

    Agh, this is so hard for me. We have basically stopped going to church because we go to a really big church that isn’t really kid-in-auditorium friendly.
    I feel so trapped.
    I want to go to church. But relinquishing my parenting even for an hour and a half to an absolute stranger without the ability to focus on one or two children at a time makes me sick to my stomach.
    And our church lets kids cry, and tries to downplay it so parents will want to come back.
    I hate when they tell me he cried a little, but I can see his red puffy eyes, and lines of tears down his cheeks.
    I always just kinda figure we have to wait until he’s older.
    I wish there were a better solution.
    In the meantime, I just try to foster our relationship with God daily at home. And I pray

    • Avatar
      Christine Yount Jones

      Stephen, everyone has to do what they believe is right before God. I know in our church, there are lots of loving people who enjoy taking care of little ones. And we won’t let them suffer! Maybe you could have a friendly conversation with your leaders.

  6. Avatar
    Genoveva Bueno

    Stephen, the more you postpone, the less word the baby will get. Remember “Let the little children come to me”. Just LET IT go.
    I am a parent of 5 and have educated for over 20 years around the globe. I struggle still, with my two toddlers and rather have them on my lap at service than other times. But then, when I go into the classrooms with other children, or as a nursery coordinator…I feel so happy that parents LET THEIR CHILDREN COME TO JESUS. Because no matter how many tears a baby sheds, what he hears is the word of God, the voices of other children coming to Him, the reality that they belong to God (not to you), and that they end-up enjoying and becoming used to their new church family as the first steps towards loving their church!
    I know it hurts, but more is the hurt of keeping your family away from Jesus and the word, rather than letting go to your own fears and uncomfortable feelings.

    Surely we will not think that among the thousands that walked the mountains to reach Jesus, there were no children crying, right? How many of those would have been blessed to have people who care to speak them the same truths, but at their level, with food, with a hugging toy, with an activity, with others the same age…etc. In both scenarios, LET THE CHILDREN GO TO JESUS!

    In the long-run, when all has passed (because this is very short), you will be so happy you did it!

    God Bless you!

  7. Avatar

    I really wish the post was more exhaustive. Please cover current issues such as
    1 – Security cameras in nurseries – do’s & don’ts
    2 – Photography of kids
    3 – Security teams & how they should interact with volunteers
    Thanks!

  8. Avatar

    Stephen,

    Trust your God given instincts. If your church nursery is not transparent or downplays a child’s crying, that makes them less than trustworthy. I’d do what you think is best.

    Your children will eventually be able to talk and communicate which makes leaving them a lot less scary as they can tell you about their day. Maybe it’s not the right time yet, or the right nursery.

  9. Avatar

    We don’t send our child to nursery because they learn about God in worship, where they see and interact with their family and church, worshipping God. I hate the pressure to send my child to nursery. I stumbled across this trying to figure out when nursery became an institution of the church. Children belong with their parents, if a church wants to have a nursery and a parent wants to use it that’s their business, but children and parents should all be welcome and feel welcome in worship. A child who is sent out of worship won’t come to appreciate worship as much as he will the value of being entertained every Sunday at church. No one cares for a child like their parent does and if your child is crying and clings to you maybe that is a sign they don’t want to be there but want to be and should be encouraged to be with you. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving them I wouldn’t. They learn so much from observing your love of God and you worshipping. They take so much of that in and it’s invaluable. Encourage questions and explain even to the youngest what is going on. Children love imitating their parents! Encourage that! Good luck to you!

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The Top 4 Reasons Parents Avoid Churc...

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