I believe a church has one main purpose: to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If a church loses sight of that purpose, it ceases to be effective. I also believe that any ministry a church has should support that purpose. In my mind, one of the most important ministries a church can have is a nursery. I am a firm believer in the church nursery for a multitude of reasons.
First, we should always remember the pastor has a responsibility. He is called by God to preach the Gospel and minister to the saints. In that same vein, we have a responsibility to help him. How do we do that? By being attentive to the Word and engaged in the service. We have a nursery to allow our pastor the freedom to preach whatever the Holy Spirit has laid on his heart. It is much easier to do that when the service is free of distractions. You might not see the little kid 3 rows behind you that is waving his hands in the air (waving like he just don’t care) and twirling around, but the pastor sees it. We should determine to do our part to keep the services free of distractions. We should also remember that services are not just for the saved. Hopefully, there are lost people in your service. (A wise pastor once said, “If everyone in your church service looks just like you, you’re not doing something right. You should want those that look different to walk through the doors.”) Satan wants nothing more than to distract them from hearing the most important message they need to hear.
Secondly, kids make noise. God designed them that way. They coo, they giggle, they talk, they belch and pass gas. The nursery is designed to allow those children who do not have the capacity to be still to be a kid. The nursery is designed for kids to be kids and to allow adults to listen in the service without distraction. I recently read an article on this where the author was adamant: Babies are NOT a distraction. I respectfully disagree. Babies can be a distraction. They are cute. They smell good. They smell bad. They smile. They giggle. They spit up. Babies are wonderful creations, but they CAN be a distraction. Again, we should do everything within our power to keep the services free from distraction.
Not only that, sometimes it’s not the child who is a distraction. Sometimes the adults accompanying them are the distraction. The baby smiles and the adults start elbowing one another to look at baby Joey. Now those adults are distracted, the pastor might be distracted, and the adults around them may be distracted. Once a child becomes mobile, they want to move. Trying to keep them penned up on your lap is a difficult job. Very, very few children under the age of 1 will sit quietly without squirming. When the child starts to squirm, the adult feels like they have to entertain them. Yes, this can be done without noise, but it can’t be done without distraction. I’ve watched plenty of parents play peek a boo or make faces at a child to keep them entertained, but to do that, the adult becomes a distraction. Also, many times they lose track of the message.
I once had someone tell me they were taking their child out of the nursery because they were starting preschool (3 years of age) and needed to learn to sit still. Honestly, that would have been fine, had they made their child sit still. But unfortunately, that was not the case. This child didn’t even have to sit down. Sadly, one Sunday, guests sat behind them. After services the guests told me they would NEVER sit behind that family again. What a sad testimony! Our actions don’t affect only us, they also affect all those around us. This couple had a hard time paying attention to the service because the mom either let the child do what he/she wanted or she was disciplining the child right in the middle of the service.
Let me add right here that training your child to sit in services does not start at church. It starts at home. Waiting until they are in the middle of a church service to sit perfectly still and quiet is unreasonable. If you teach them little by little at home, they will be much more successful at church.
Also, a nursery frees you up to be involved in the ministry yourself. I play the piano for a majority of the services. It would not work for me to sit out of that ministry or try to juggle ministry and sitting with my child. I have friends who teach Sunday School, and one just recently told me she needed to put her baby in the nursery because the teens (whom her husband teaches) would be easily distracted by such a beautiful baby. (She didn’t say beautiful, but trust me, this little girl is a cutie!!) One teen has special needs and he would love to look and coo at this sweet thing, but taking her to nursery helps keep him engaged in the class.
Nursery workers should realize what a wonderful opportunity they have. They have a direct part in the service even though they are not in there. I firmly believe when someone gets saved, the nursery workers play a part in that. They are lovingly caring for the children so the pastor and the adults can pay attention. Nursery workers may also be the first members a guest comes in contact with. Their attitude has a profound impact on whether or not the guest feels comfortable. When we travel and are at other churches, the nursery is a key factor. While on vacation recently, we attended a church where the nursery was well staffed, and more importantly, very friendly. When we dropped them off, we had the feeling the workers took their ministry seriously and deemed it important. The workers were very welcoming and were happy to explain where they would be and where we would pick them up. When we went by after services, our children were called by name, we were told how they behaved, and all of this was done with a sweet attitude.
I encourage you, if you don’t already, utilize your church nursery. Give the message your undivided attention. At our church, our nursery is not an after thought. I want it to be an important ministry. I don’t want the nursery workers to be on time, I want them to be early. We never know when a guest will walk through the door and if no one is in the nursery to greet them, they assume the church doesn’t place a high priority on taking care of their children.