Babysitting or Ministry: The Important Basics of Running a Good Nursery

We have all sat through a church service where a small baby starts crying and the flustered parents do everything they can to calm the child, only to eventually leave the service with a tinge of shame.  Perhaps we have even been those parents. Children are a vital part of the church, but when they are infants, it is obviously difficult for them to engage in the life of the church until they mature.

Churches of all sizes can offer a meaningful ministry to parents and their babies by offering nursery care during worship services.  Parents can rest assured that their children will be well cared for, while at the same time allowing these parents to engage in the worship service undistracted.

While the level of nursery care may vary based on the size and tradition of the church, there are a few basics that every nursery should have to ensure effectiveness and success.

  1. Make it safe. The hallmark of any nursery must be safety. Parents should not have to worry about their children while they are in the care of the church. Instituting policies to ensure safety will help churches maintain the security of each child. Create a Child Protection Policy and have all nursery workers read and sign it. Perform background checks on anyone wishing to serve.  Keep the checks on file and never allow for exceptions to this vital practice.  Conduct training on a regular basis with nursery staff, informing them of the church’s policies and helping them to improve the care they give.  Ensure an environment free of hazards and in compliance with any local regulations.  Keeping the babies safe should be your number one priority.
  2. Make it clean.  A clean environment should be another high priority when creating your church nursery. Sanitize all the toys, floors, and furniture with anti-bacterial agents to kill viruses and other germs.  Be sure to use closed garbage cans, especially for storing dirty diapers and used diaper wipes. Assign one person on the nursery staff to clean the nursery between, during, and after worship services so that messes do not threaten the health of the children.  Have lots of soap and paper towels on hand to keep spills contained. Encourage parents to keep their children home if they are sick to avoid the spread of illness to other children in the church.
  3. Make it well stocked. Nothing is worse than running out of extra diapers during the middle of a worship service!  While most parents will bring a diaper bag full of essentials, part of the nursery’s ministry can be having everything needed to care for the child even if a parent forgets to bring something.  Be sure to stock the nursery well, assigning someone to check the supplies during the week so that needed shopping can be done well ahead of time. Be sure to stock the following: diapers, diaper wipes, simple snacks (i.e. Cheerios, Graham Crackers), paper towels, hand sanitizer, soap, anti-bacterial wipes, first aid kit, water bottles, and a list of important phone numbers in case of emergency.
  4. Make it engaging.  Although most infants just like to be held, some do like to play with a variety of colorful and noisy toys.  Make sure your nursery has enough simple toys that will entertain active infants of all ages and maturity levels.  Avoid stuffed toys that tend to collect germs faster than other easily washable plastic toys.  Find a volunteer artist in the church to paint a mural on the walls of the nursery with colorful characters and scenes which babies will enjoy looking at. Have some infant-friendly books on hand that have tactile elements, make noises, and have colorful pictures.  Reading to infants at such an early age will aid in their development. Have some soft inspirational children’s music playing that will calm and soothe the children, as well as fill their minds with good things.
  5. Make it reliable.  Once you’ve committed to offering a nursery at your church, keep it going and don’t miss a week.  Parents will come to rely on the nursery and will be disappointed if this valuable service is not available for them.  Create a volunteer team that’s big enough to cover every week with ease. Realize that your nursery is a vital ministry to parents and their children, allowing the parents to worship and to rest, confident that their precious child is being cared for with love and excellence.
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