What Do Nursery Workers Really Do? [Blog]

Church-Nursery-workers-e1336476667166Every church that wants to attract and keep young families knows that they must have a first class nursery staff and facility.  While well balanced church growth covers folks from a wide span of ages, young moms and dads are the most likely demographic to be seeking a church home. If your nursery ministry and facility come at the end of the management list, your church will struggle to keep these vital new attenders.

A nursery ministry must be more than just a baby sitting service.  Here are three thoughts to use when you get ready to upgrade this vital piece of the ministry.

Don’t look for folks to just hold babies.

When a church is small and there is only one or two kids you can get away with this.  It is often a trusted aunt or grandma that is staffing the nursery and everyone is happy.  But as a church grows, this must change.  The nursery adult-to-child ratio must obviously increase, but you also need to add a new skill set to the mix—management.

Parents that drop off kids are looking for more than a baby holder, they are looking for someone with attention to details. Which bag is which? feed or don’t feed? diapers or pull ups? fussy or fever? and on and on! As the number of small ones increase, the number of big problems can get out of hand. Here are a few ways to tame this monster.

  • Staff level treatment- Address these issues with administrators and not just nursery workers. Meet during the week and not just during nursery times.
  • Create good procedures and paper work systems. Take time to work on it, and and not just in it. Midweek planning will help solve weekend disasters.
  • Train all workers. Grandmas and aunties will push back on this, but insist everyone knows and follows the predetermined rules and regulations of your nursery.

A nursery is really for moms and dads.

Like many facets of a growing ministry, a nursery has “customers” and “indirect” customers. The main folks that get the biggest attention, are of course, the babies. But the real customers are the moms and dads.  Here is why.

  • A baby will come in and go out with not much of a fuss (hopefully), but a delighted (or disappointed) mom will make the decision that counts. Keeping those babies happy and dry is often much easier than satisfying a picky, clean-freak, safety conscious parent. The wise nursery manager (that’s right, I said “manager” not baby holder) will be critically aware of who the real customer is when a new mom walks through the door holding that baby, diaper bag and satchel full of various snacks, bottles and favorite blankets. The first impression of managing all the special needs will go a long ways in developing a satisfied and returning customer.
  • Additionally, by focusing on and then delivering a top-totch nursery experience, a ministry can align themselves with the most trusted vocation in our society—the childcare provider. A family’s personal babysitter ranks as high as you get with the trust factor. Why shouldn’t a church make every effort to be positively associated with this vital element of a young mom and dads everyday life?

The nursery worker’s real work is 100 feet away.

While the little creepers and crawlers are corralled in your safe, secure and sanitized nursery (listen to the free audio: What Parents Look for in a Church) the real action is over in the main church service.  It is here where parents can sit, listen, sing, worship, fellowship and grow unhindered.  None of these important elements of becoming a flourishing believer can smoothly happen if worry and concerns about their little ones overwhelm them. A well staffed and well managed nursery creates what we call a “Worry Free Zone” (podcast).  In our church the WFZ exist about 100 feet away in the sanctuary. Wise nursery workers know creating this zone is one of their most important jobs. Here are five tips on creating a WFZ.

  1. Clearly identified workers and nursery procedures.
  2. Smooth check in procedures.
  3. Big people literature showing policies and security measures.
  4. Sanitary and clutter free first impressions.
  5. Emergency communication method clarified.

Summary: 
A church nursery can be a perfect microcosm of a local church. What happens over in that smaller room can be a great demonstration to moms and dads of what a flourishing church life has in store for them.  Nurturing relationships. Caring for immediate needs. Attention to details and “changing” when necessary. Dreaming of future development.  All of these are phrases that need to be the focus of both a nursery worker and a church member. It takes a lot of concentration and planning to build a community impacting local church these days.  Youth ministries, music, preaching and teaching all wrestle for budget and calendar priority. If a church is dedicated to reaching out and keeping young families, the nursery ministry must be moved to a position very close to the top of the list.
Question: What areas of nursery ministry present your biggest challenge?

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Mike Holmes

  • pastor’s wife in the north

    We have the most trouble with workers’ attitudes and unwillingness to follow procedures and the spirit of why these procedures are in place. Unfortunately at this time we have a small church and are strapped for workers to begin with. Praying much that God intervenes in these ladies’ hearts and that they will see the big picture of why they are there.

  • pastor’s wife

    Our biggest problem is issues with workers, however we are a small church strapped for workers to begin with. We are praying much that God will intervene in our ladies’ hearts so they will realize the importance of what they do in the nursery, and their willingness to serve will increase!

  • Thanks for the reply pastor’s wife, What might help is to think outside the pulpit. So often we think the maturing of our folks all come from Bible messages, but our churches could use much more worker training. These are non-sunday, non-auditorium, worker-specific, training meetings. Just yesterday we had all of our children’ ministry workers gather for training. I did a short (5 min.) presentation on the imporatnce of first impressions. We covered some upcoming scheduling issues, a few logistic problems and had prayer. We concluded that we need to communicate better and setup a “closed group” on Facebook to we could easily send out reminders, schedule changes etc… What I am saying is workers need to mature just as baby Christians do. But we must create venues that match the goals. Sundays and pulpits have their place, but there is much to be done with other training events as well.

  • CarrieL

    I loved your What Do Nursery Workers Really Do? post. My biggest challenge is arguing for the re-establishment of a church nursery in churches who are happily welcoming all children in worship. That’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work for all families. I’ve found that toddlers are staying at home with dad or mom at those churches and they mostly always have. Churches think they just need to do a few things to be kid-friendly while missing really simple measures: is a changing table accessible? Do signs point new families to Sunday school rooms? Where can my toddler go during Sunday School? Beyond birth and baptism, the zero to three age range is being missed by these so called intergenerational family ministries.

    • Excellent observations Carrie. Many new guests at our church are looking to put kids into a nursery so they can get to the main worship service and begin to solve the problems of their life. The parents that want the kids with them are usually the one with newborns and the established church folks that want to be together as a family. The folks we are trying to attract and help at our church, gladly put their kids in a nursery. A growing church that is paying attention to finding new families will gladly staff and train a great nursery.

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