For many years, the time a child was in a church nursery was considered childcare. And while it is true that the child is being cared for, the potential is for so much more to take place. As the evidence of the influence of the first years has increased, more importance has been placed on this area of ministry. Those serving in a ministry to infants and toddlers have the distinct privilege of bringing the first associations of being loved in God’s house, just like being loved by God to these little ones. And though they don’t yet understand the theology of a Heavenly Father who provided for their eternal redemption, they do understand that in this place, they are loved and cared for and safe. And those are the most basic needs that we all have and never grow out of, even as adults. We all want to know that we are loved, cared for and safe in the hands of our Heavenly Father. It is with this mindset that you should approach the subject of staffing and scheduling those who serve in the nursery.
Major scheduling factor: Does your church offer multiple services?
No. It’s important that those serving attend worship themselves so:
- Volunteers are scheduled once a month.
- At least two adults, 18 or older, are scheduled each service.
- Assistants age 16-17 can be scheduled in addition to the 2 adults.
- Adult-to-child ratio should be 3-to-1 or 4-to-1
Yes. Then it’s easy to implement an “attend one-service one” service policy:
- At least one volunteer is scheduled to work the same service every week.
- The rest of the scheduling criteria would be the same as a one service church.
Benefits of a “serve-every-week” model:
- The child recognizes & trusts the volunteer, making drop off painless
- The parents establish relationships with those caring for their child
- The volunteer becomes familiar w/ the child and family to pray for them each week.
- Children quickly associate trust with God’s house.
While it is true that babies may not understand the story of redemption, anyone who has ever had a two year old knows that they can fully understand that they are loved. There are many curriculums that are available with lessons geared directly at the sponge that is the mind of a toddler! It is not necessary to try and teach a child a certain theology, though, they can easily memorize any words that are repeated to them often enough. It is best to define first the mission of your nursery. What do you want the child to know by the time he graduates to the preschool class? Use that as a guide to be selective in the lessons that you teach. Choose only lessons that point to that mission. While it is true that every word in the Bible is inspired of God, not every word is profitable to a 2 year old. Pick the ones that are and teach them, with love. Emphasis on the love. If your 3 year old knows that God loves him unconditionally, I believe you can call that a win for your nursery as you send him to preschool.