Cradle Roll – Birth to 2: Before They Are In Church




“What is a Cradle Roll ministry?”

“We already have a good Nursery class. Aunt Mag organized it and ran it for years. How is a Cradle Roll ministry different?”

“Where will we ever find teachers? It’s hard enough to get Nursery teachers.”

“What will we use for a classroom? I’m not artistic. I could never decorate a classroom like Sister Georgia does in the Nursery.”

“What curriculum is needed? I don’t remember ever seeing any. ”

These valid questions and many more may arise as we consider starting a Cradle Roll ministry. They are good questions which need clear-cut answers. It has been well said that if the human mind can identify a problem, then an answer can be found.

Not too many churches have an active Cradle Roll ministry. Not many of us actually know too much about it. So let’s begin at the beginning and learn together.

Cradle Roll is the department of the Sunday school that ministers to expectant parents and parents of children up to two years of age who are not enrolled in Sunday school.

The Cradle Roll Department is not the Nursery Department. The Cradle Roll classroom is not even located in the church. The Cradle Roll classroom is the living room of the homes of the babies enrolled.

You may not have a planned curriculum to teach. No lessons to study. No visual aids to cut out. No classroom to decorate. (This may make Cradle Roll teaching more attractive to some but read on.)

Well, what good is Cradle Roll teaching then? What will Cradle Roll ministry do that is not already being done effectively by the church? Is this just a punch and cookies, tea and sympathy kind of do-gooder deal to make busy work for psuedo-church people?

Not at all. If it were, we would be wasting our time to even read this chapter much less take time out of a very busy schedule to write it!

Cradle Roll ministry is an outreach caring ministry that reaches out beyond the church walls to young couples at their most approachable, vulnerable, impressionable time–the time when they are brand new parents with brand new and awesome responsibilities. Brand new parents of beautiful children. What a great moment in time this is for the church to minister.

And the church is there at that very special moment-ministering, teaching, caring, loving with no other motive, no other purpose but to give divine direction to this brand new life. What an opportunity! What
a moment!

We have this moment to minister. Can we do it? Will we do it? Who will grab the golden ring and bring the message of Pentecost through the Cradle Roll ministry?

Who Will Minister?

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ‘

“Who is my neighbor?”

This question was posed to Jesus Himself hundreds of years ago.

Look up the story in Matthew 19:13-22 and read it for yourself.

In today’s busy impersonal world the question still resounds. Do you know your neighbors? Can you call them by name?

Cradle Roll teachers are first of all good neighbors. Actually they do not have to leave all and follow Jesus but they no doubt will leave dishes in the sink and perhaps beds unmade and make that special visit to that special home where a diaper on the line let’s them know that “The New Prince” is in residence. The Cradle Roll teachers are caring, friendly persons who seek out the most interesting individuals in the entire community– new babies! What an opportunity!

Visitor-teachers can be recruited from almost any sector of the adult world, although we may as well face it, the active Cradle Roll visitor-teacher will probably be a woman. However, let us not discriminate, we will not turn down any applications from interested, qualified men.

Older women may want to become involved. After their last child is in school or has gone off to college becoming active as a Cradle Roll teacher will go a long way to combat the “empty-nest syndrome.”

Younger women would be excellent as Cradle Roll teachers.

In this sort of teaching a young mother could possibly take her own toddler along to see the new Cradle Roll enrollee. There would certainly be a strong rapport and mutual interest subjects to discuss between two young mothers.

Mind you, intellectuals will be accepted and early childhood majors would be wonderful but one does not have to pass an entrance exam to become an ardent, active Cradle Roll visitor-teacher.

Commitment is, however, essential. Once a baby is enrolled as a Cradle Roll member and an appointment to visit and teach has been established for the once-a-month class-time, it is most important that the teacher keep the appointment. Hit-or-miss methods will not work so some organization and planning are definitely needed. Probably a call should be made prior to the appointment because if you are neatly
groomed (and you must be), the busy mother with curlers in her hair in a faded, worn-out robe may be too distracted to hear much of what you say.

Therefore training, organizing and planning are definitely a must. The Cradle Roll departmental superintendent particularly must recruit and train teachers in order for the ministry to be effective.

How many visitor-teachers will you need? That depends on the size of the community you plan to minister to and the available number of teachers you can recruit. In a large metropolitan city like St. Louis, a dozen committed Christian women could easily be involved. In a small rural village with a country church of less than a hundred, perhaps two visitor-teachers could have an effective Cradle Roll department.

So the opportunity is there. Recruit a Cradle Roll department superintendent then let her recruit as many teachers as she needs.

Who trains new teachers in your Sunday school?

As you begin Cradle Roll ministry in your church, training teachers for the task will be a top priority. If this is your first experience, you will need to do some research. Start with what is already available.

Many United Pentecostal Churches have well-organized Sunday schools with beautiful well-equipped classrooms utilizing learning centers and top notch teaching methods.

Browse through the Nursery curriculum from Word Aflame Press. Become informed about characteristics of young children and how to teach young children. For a specific book on Cradle Roll ministry, order Cradle Roll Visitation by Jewell Wells Nelson from the Pentecostal Publishing House.

In addition to these resources remember that God needs “can-do” people–persons who are filled with His Spirit, called to witness and committed to the task of “The Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”

So hunt for good books on self-esteem such as: The Disciplines of A Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund Lord, Change Me by Evelyn Christensen

What Happens When Women Pray by Evelyn Christensen

It Takes So Little To Be Above Average by Florence Littauer

These and other similar books will help you teach teachers to seek to

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

Teachers will need to be taught to mature spiritually physically, mentally and emotionally. Since their Cradle Roll ministry is outside the church during the week, perhaps these Cradle Roll teachers could meet on Sunday morning for continuing training. Consider a review of a good Bible study course such as Exploring God’s Word, An Acorn To An Oak or Victorious Christian Living for further study in His Word.

For physical growth, remember Cradle Roll ministry is serious and can be strenuous business and it will require teachers who are physically fit as they will be directly in contact with new babies.

Emotionally a Cradle Roll teacher must be a friendly, outgoing, relaxed individual who can bring a ray of sunshine into the home. A new mother may be tense and up-tight with all of her new and awesome
responsibilities. You, as a committed Christian, can help her to be relaxed and joyful in this special time.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

If a door is closed in your face, pray for that home. If someone forgets to order your supplies, smile.

Mental growth and maturity keep one from stagnating and growing stale. Remember, we have this moment–this special time in the life of this special child made in His image. We must make the most of this moment. Read, study, pray and remember He will multiply our small efforts. Our “little lunch” will feed many.

Where Will We Find the Babies?

So we have a Cradle Roll departmental superintendent. She Division of the United Pentecostal Church.

Migrant camps need care. Small children and babies are part of this community and these families need the care of the church.

College campuses include young families. Ask college students how and whom to contact.

Military bases include small family units who need to be a part of an extended family. Loneliness makes these persons welcome visits from their Cradle Roll teachers.

Newspapers, especially small town newspapers, provide helpful information about new babies and also new families who move into town. Utility companies may also have information about move-ins.

Holidays such as Mother’s Day provide an opportunity for your Cradle Roll ministry to contact many prospects. Place posters in laundromats, doctor’s offices, libraries, grocery stores–any place where families visit and offer a free picture to be taken of any child under two-years of age in your church on a given day. Make at least two pictures–one to give to the parent and one to post in the church as a member of the Cradle Roll Department.

Give a Proud as Punch Party! Plan a real fun time and encourage parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to come and bring a photograph and brag about their special baby! Serve cake and punch.

Remember you as a Cradle Roll teacher are a sales person-selling your church, this gospel and yourself. If you are concerned, committed and a caring and compassionate person, this needy world will want what
you have–what money cannot buy–joy and peace in the Holy Ghost.

Now we have a Cradle Roll ministry, a Cradle Roll superintendent, Cradle Roll teachers and Cradle Roll pupils– what are we going to teach and where?

Cradle Roll teaching is a one-on-one, “hands-on” teaching ministry in the church. It is a ministry beyond “Jerusalem,” beyond the church walls–right in the homes of the babies.

Their names will be on your active Cradle Roll enrollment. Their pictures will be displayed in the church foyer or fellowship hall or some such place of prominence. But your teaching will be more immediately received by their parents.

Here is a sample first visit to a prospective Cradle Roll member’s home.

Knock, knock. “Mrs. Jones ? ” inquires the Cradle Roll teacher.

“Yes,” responds the parent.

“Hello, I’m Mary Wallace, a Cradle Roll teacher from New Life Center. I have heard that you have a baby girl. Am I right?”

“Yes, we have a little girl.”

“What’s her name? ”

“Kimberly, but she’s asleep right now.”

“Our church wants you to have this Gift for Kimberly. ” (Hand the parent a copy of “Home Life ” or a small Gift for the baby.) “May I take a few minutes to tell you about our Cradle Roll?”

“Sure, come on in.”

“Our Cradle Roll ministry comes into homes where there are children under two who are not in church. After your child is enrolled, we visit in your home once a month. We want to get acquainted with Kimberly and share in your joy as she grows. (If you take a copy of “Home Life, ” discuss one of the articles or point out a recipe that you have enjoyed.)

“I also want to tell you about our Preschool department at church. ” (Show an album of pictures taken at the church nursery and talk about the teaching in the preschool.)

“I didn’t know that so much went on in the little kid’s classes.”

“Oh, yes, our nursery and kindergarten classes are action packed and once you bring Kimberly to Sunday school she will be transferred to her own department there and her Sunday school teacher will visit her.

“But the other Cradle Roll teachers as well as, the nursery and kindergarten teachers at church have a very real interest in children. We would like to help you as you guide your child spiritually. May I enroll Kimberly ?

“I guess so but she’s too little to go to church. ” (Fill out an Enrollment Card.)

“Thank you so much. I’ll be happy to show you her classroom. ”

“No. We can’t go next Sunday. ”

“O.K. If it’s okay I’ll be back to visit Kimberly the first Tuesday of next month. Will I need to call ahead? ”

It is essential that you plan your regular monthly visit and that you stick to your plan. By establishing a regular day or days or night of the month for visitation, you are able to alert the parents to your visits. Few people really like to have unexpected visitors. During the first visit, tell the parents the days or nights that you have set aside for visiting. Agree on a time. Then remember you have an obligation to keep that appointment just as real as a Sunday morning regularly scheduled class. This is Baby Jones Cradle Roll class time. His teacher must be there and on time. If an emergency arises and you cannot keep the appointment, be sure to call the parents.

When you do visit, make it a brief but friendly call. Remember you are here to guide this parent in spiritual training of her child. Make your purpose clear. Be natural, be friendly but always take time not only to visit with the baby, show your interest in her physical, social, emotional and mental development by quite ordinary observations but also to read a Scripture and pray.

“Oh, Kimberly is really growing! I think she knows me. What a relaxed baby Kimberly is.”

If there seems to be problems.

“I’m sorry Kimberly has such a nasty cold. Shall we pray for her?” .

“So Kimberly has been quite fussy lately, not sleeping well. Do you ever sing to her?” Then sing, “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” very softly. “May I bring you a tape of songs we use in our church nursery?”

Always close your visit by sharing a scripture and a brief prayer coupled with an invitation to church.

As you become better acquainted with the family, perhaps you will feel led to suggest a Home Bible Study class for the parents together with any of their friends. If there is another committee in your church who takes care of the Home Bible Study ministry, this will bring others from the church in contact with this family.

“A regular in-depth Bible study course will give, you a greater knowledge of how to train and guide Kimberly, Mrs. Jones. Our church has regular teachers who teach Exploring God’s Word, a basic Bible
course, right in the privacy of your own home at your convenience. What would be a good night for this class?”

So you see Cradle Roll ministry is not just a “busy work, do-gooder, social action kind of activity.” It is a real ministry designed to help young parents who are not in church realize their need not only for their own salvation but their responsibility to nurture their child not only physically, mentally, emotionally but also spiritually.

It is important, however, to focus on your desire definitely to help the young parents not just a desire to build church numbers.

Here are some good questions that will help you evaluate your visit:

Did I arrive at a good time?
Was the family ready for a visit?
Was I able to see the baby?

What activities did I use to relate to the baby: songs, games such as “peek-a-boo” a Bible picture book?

Did I take printed materials, my Bible, pictures of the Nursery class, a home magazine?

How did the parent react to my visit? Warm? Cool? Indifferent?
Talkative? Silent?

Is there any indication that the parents would come to church or a church sponsored function?

Did I stay too long? Not long enough?

Was I too talkative? Was I a interested listener?

On a scale of one to ten (one “needs work,” ten “excellent”) L would vote this visit as____________________________. What must I remember to do, say, or take to the family on my next visit?

How Will This Ministry Benefit the Church?

The main purpose of the church, the focus of the church and the responsibility of the church first of all is soul winning. Soul winning must be our top priority.

Cradle Roll ministry is just one more way for the church to minister to the needs of the community. In answering needs the church is showing forth Jesus at His very best. Jesus saw the needy and He met
their needs for healing, comfort, instruction but most of all salvation.

New parents have many needs: loving support, concern, interest, direction. They may need financial help, a listening ear and new parents always need a loving heart. As the church effectively meets their real needs, the parents realize,

“Hey, these people care! They want to help us. We want to know them better. Let’s become part of this caring loving, concerned group.”

After they learn to trust and like us as Cradle Roll teachers, they will also trust the Lord Jesus Christ who has met our every need and who wants to meet their needs.

Cradle Roll ministry is the church loving, guiding, teaching caring as only a Christ-centered, Spirit-led church can do.