Here’s why: While excellent child care has always been an important part of the ministry of growing churches, studies show that today more than ever, young families decide about church involvement based largely on children’s facilities and ministry. And quality nursery care is at the top of their list.
It’s time for church leaders to give more careful thought to this area. Although I am not a children’s ministry expert (I do have five kids . . . does that help?!), I recognize the importance of nursery ministry. Here are my top seven suggestions for strengthening the nursery ministry of our churches.
Consider accessibility issues.
The location of your nursery facilities may be more important than you realize. Nurseries located near the worship center are preferable (on the same floor is best). Parents feel more comfortable when they know their kids are nearby.
Establish a child/worker protection policy.
In recent years many churches have made this a priority. Such policies establish worker-screening procedures and other safety measures. Intentional efforts to provide a secure children’s ministry environment are crucial.
Sanitize your nursery regularly.
Establish a schedule for cleaning toys, tables, bedding, etc. Some suggest cleaning the carpet every other month and washing the walls monthly. Parents will take notice if you do!
Make adequate staffing a priority.
Most churches I know face the ongoing challenge of maintaining an adequate nursery staff. Therefore, a proactive strategy of worker enlistment is often a necessity. As leaders, you can help by promoting the need and affirming the value of nursery ministry. Keep this recommended guideline in mind: no more than two infants or four toddlers per worker.
Provide as much worker continuity as possible.
Parents learn to trust those they see regularly in this ministry. Relationship building between nursery workers and parents goes a long way in affirming the church’s commitment to its children. Yes, like other church workers, nursery workers need breaks, but schedule wisely and rotate workers as little as possible.
Redecorate every few years.
Periodically update nursery colors and designs. Replace old carpet, broken toys, torn books, and damaged or worn out furniture with new things. A fresh, up-to-date look communicates concern for your children and the needs of families.
Unfortunately, most churches provide little training for nursery workers. We assume that everyone knows how to care for kids and understands the church’s nursery policy. Require basic instruction for anyone who serves in this area of ministry—consider using the new Lil’ Sprouts curriculum from Regular Baptist Press.
Today’s parents are experienced child-care shoppers. Many today are already using day care services during the week. Although we may not be able to compete with high-end day care centers, we should do our best to provide well-equipped, clean, safe nurseries for our church families and guests.