by Nina Durning/ October 12, 2017
Nursery is one of the most exciting ministries in any children's ministry. From spit up, to stinky diapers, to screaming kids with separation anxiety, you never know what will come with a Sunday in the nursery!
While nursery has its challenges, it is the most important ministry within your church. As children's leaders, it is easy to neglect the nursery ministry, because the children are infants and tend to have a very short attention span. However, these early years of our children's lives are the most formative years, where we can be building a strong foundation of faith.
Here are a few tips on how to create a nursery environment that will build a foundation of faith for a lifetime.
(1) Have a strong, consistent nursery team.
Finding volunteers can be difficult, but the nursery needs the best of your volunteers. You need to have sharp, caring people who love babies in your nursery. Consistency of these volunteers also is important, because infants need familiarity to feel comfortable. If you can provide a nursery staff that is consistent each week, it will help your kids who have separation anxiety to be more comfortable. It will also give your volunteers the opportunity to truly make relationship with the children and parents. Your parents will also feel more confident in leaving their children in your care if they know the nursery workers. This builds the confidence of parents in your church to trust your children's ministry as their kids move up in age groups.
While some churches are successful in finding volunteers for each week, others find value in paying nursery staff to ensure their nursery has the best people possible caring for their babies. As a children's ministry or nursery director, I encourage you to have a conversation with your church leadership about the importance of the nursery and how you can improve your nursery staff in the best way for your church.
(2) Make your room inviting.
Many infants struggle when separating from their parent for a variety of reasons. But whatever the reason, your job as the nursery director is to provide an environment where they feel welcomed and safe. Environment is everything when trying to minister to infants. When your infants come into the room, they should immediately feel warmth and love, in hopes that their anxiety will be removed.
There a few practical things you can do to improve room environment. First, look at the colors of the nursery walls and the kind of decor you have. Do you have soft, warm colors that encourage comfort and peace—such as blues and greens? Or do you have bright, harsh colors that can make a child anxious—such as red, yellow, and orange? Infants are extremely visual, and having decals of animals or Bible stories on the wall can help your infants feel comfortable in the room. Second, have toys already out and displayed for the kids to play with the moment they enter the classroom. If you can get them distracted with toys, it will make their experience of entering the classroom more pleasant. Third, have kid-worship music playing in your classroom, and be praying for the kids when they enter the room. By doing so, the spiritual tone is set by you and your workers. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to come and be in your classroom!
(3) Invest in their spiritual growth.
Discipleship for kids begins in the nursery! Children are never too young to begin learning about the love and character of God. Having a nursery curriculum or a teaching plan is important as you are laying the foundations of their faith even at this early age. Many nursery curriculums focus on one major idea or Bible story for a month and have little soft toys and materials to use to teach them that major idea. If you are unable to purchase a nursery curriculum, there are some other ways you can be creative in investing into those small lives. Using the curriculum of your older kids, pick a major theme for the month and post that theme on a board. It could be something like “God is Love.”
Here’s an example of how to incorporate them into your nursery discipleship plan: Gather the nursery kids together for a short time of teaching. Sing a song to them as they sit in a circle with your workers, and recite a short verse about how God is Love. Doing even these two small things can have lasting impact in their lives as you are teaching them the character of God and how much He loves them.
Zechariah says to not despise the day of small beginnings. God has big plans for the lives of those infants in your nursery. Don't despise them, because they are small and haven't fully developed. God can still do an amazing work in their lives, even at that young age!