By: Gary L. McIntosh

If you want to lead a growing church in today’s environment, you can do it by building your church around the following three strengths.

Strength #1: Celebrative worship

Strength #2: Caring small groups

Strength #3: Excellent child care

Today’s Parents

Child care has always been a contributing factor in growing churches. Parents are naturally concerned for their children and want to place their children into capable hands while they participate in church activities.

However, our changing society has meant that child care has taken on a major emphasis in our society. As an example, in the past couple of years, major league baseball clubs have begun to offer child care.

What’s more, most baseball parks have upgraded their restrooms into scrupulously maintained, modern facilities. “We have diaper-changing tables in both the ladies’ and the men’s restrooms,” says Pat Gallagher, business manager of the San Francisco Giants.

While parents throughout history have loved and cared for their children, today’s new parents approach child care differently than those of only twenty years ago.

1. Today’s parents are starting a new baby boom. More than 3.8 million babies were born in 1987 in the United States, the largest number since the end of the baby boom in 1964. There will be over four million births in the United States in 1991. This new trend for high births shows no sign of abating.

Insight: Parents will be bringing a new wave of younger children into your church nursery.

2. Today’s parents are older than those of past years. Approximately one-sixth of all new parents are over the age of thirty. “They get out of school with master’s degrees at twenty-five to thirty, and that’s when they are having children. That puts a tremendous strain on family life,” says Professor Harry Specht, dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.

Insight: Older parents expect more of your nursery than younger parents.

3. Today’s parents are spending more money on their children. Since 1980, Americans have increased their spending for infant and toddler clothing by 120 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is not unusual for today’s parents to spend $1,000 decorating a baby’s room and more than $300 to furnish it with toys.

Insight: Parents expect your church’s nursery to be comparable to their baby’s room at home.

4. Today’s parents want the best for their children. Older parents, who are having less children, want the best for their children and they are willing to spend the big bucks to get it. Nike, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Guess?, and Christian Dior are among the many big-name designers who have introduced infant or toddler clothes.

Insight: Parents expect your church to provide the best for their children.

5. Today’s parents have less time for their children. Parents are having kids when their careers are taking off, leaving them less time at home. They have more money, so they shower them with material things as a way to show their love, but it comes out of a desire to express great love and caring.

Insight: Parents expect your church to express the same love and care that they themselves show their children.

6. Today’s parents are experienced child care shoppers. Many parents hire other people to take care of their children during the workday. Whether they choose to place their child in day care centers or with in-home care providers, they are experienced at shopping for quality care.

Insight: Parents expect your nursery to provide the same quality care they would find at the best week day care centers.


Use the following checklist as an idea starter to create an attractive nursery.

* Redecorate your nursery every year to keep it up-to-date. Things change and so must the carpet, designs, colors, furniture, and accessories.

Cute animals are always in style. One year it might be dinosaurs. Another year ducks. Today you see cows all over the place.

* Sanitize your nursery weekly. Parents notice whether your nursery is clean or dirty. Regularly sanitize all surfaces, toys, tables, trays, bedding, cribs, etc. Place used toys in a bin marked for washing and cleaning them each week. Clean carpets every other month. Clean walls every month.

* Evaluate the ratio of children to nursery workers. With trained child care professionals, there should be no more than four infants per worker and no more than five toddlers per worker. If you use volunteer workers, it is best if there are 100 more than two infants or four toddlers per worker.

* Provide a hazard free nursery. Replace broke toys, books, furniture, etc. Fix peeling paint, protruding nails, leaking plumbing, and lighting problems. Separate toddlers from babies. Use fire alarms and check them on a regular basis. Maintain good ventilation, heating, and air-conditioning.

* Develop a nursery policy. Your nursery policy should contain information on how discipline is handled, procedures in case of sickness or accident, see guidelines, hours of operation, wellness policies, use of volunteers, registration procedures, and fire escape plan. Provide a copy for all parents and post one near nursery entrance.

* Use the same nursery care workers. As in most other roles, parents like to see the same people in the nursery to gain a sense of trust. A high turnover rate of nursery workers keeps children and parents from building relationships. Rotate workers as little as possible.

* Train all nursery workers. Tell them what you want and how they fit into the overall philosophy of your church. Require workers to take first aid training and CPR for infants and children. Hire nursery workers who interact well with children.

(The above material appeared in the May 1992 issue of New Ideas in Evangelism and Church Vitality.)


By: Jeffrey D. Wilson

More than once in recent years, I have been referred to as a “boomer.” And I suppose, if push came to shove, that even if I didn’t admit I was a boomer, my age would bear witness against me. As a matter of fact, our boom has not stopped with me. This winter the Lord blessed our household with twin boys (just what every two-year-old big sister needs!)

While having three children in two years doesn’t qualify the typical thirty-nine-year-old dad for any Olympic events, it does qualify this typical preacher to speak from experience about church nurseries. More particularly, it qualifies me to speak to the direct relationship that exists between church growth and church nurseries.

As you are well aware, every generation has its own “thing”, its special idiosyncrasy. For boomers with families, it is their children. Boomers are as engrossed with their children as they were with sex in their earlier years. I cannot count the number of occasions I have heard comments like:

* “I don’t care if I sit on the floor as long as my children have the best.”

* “We really like the preacher and the people, but their nursery was the pits.”

* “How can we worship when we are worried about who is looking out for our baby?”

On the flip side I have heard folks in the congregation say things like

* “We will be glad to put together a nursery… just as soon as we get some babies in our church.”

* “What do they want? It was good enough for them- why isn’t it good enough for their children?”

* “Teenagers baby-sit at home all the time. Why can’t they sit at church?”

The first thing a congregation needs to remember is that “feelings are facts” and “perceptions are realities.” In other words, as long as boomers feel or think that the care given to their child is questionable, it is. For the boomers, particularly the visiting boomers who will give a church nursery just one chance with their precious bundle, the only reality lies in their experience as they perceive it. Trying to convince them otherwise is usually a waste of time.

So, if a congregation wants to grow with new young families, if a congregation has a vacuum of folks to accept leadership in the coming years, what is the answer? Well, a big part of the answer is found in the nursery. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:

1. Always have a responsible adult in charge of the nursery. Teenagers can certainly help, but they shouldn’t be the primary caregivers. In the home, teenaged sitters are carefully screened by the parents – a job they don’t trust to anyone else.

2. Keep the nursery clean. No one wants to go to a hotel and sleep on the same sheets as the previous guest or in a room that wasn’t properly cleaned. Boomers don’t want that for their children either.

3. Keep the nursery up to date. Parents know which toys are safe for what age child and which toys have been declared unsafe for any age child. Stock the nursery with toys that are safe and educationally stimulating.

4. Provide a sign-up sheet that serves as a checklist for each child. Parents need to know how many bottles were fed, how many dirty diapers were changed, and if the child napped or played.

5. Know who’s who. Put a name tag on the child’s back. Then learn that name and use it, both with the child and the parents. Let Mom and Dad know you feel their baby is special by calling him or her by name rather than a generic “she or he.”

Don’t let your nursery, or lack of nursery, chase off some of your hottest prospects. We all get ready for company before they arrive, so do the same thing at church. Special guests are coming to visit your congregation’s nursery. They may be little, but they sure carry a lot of weight.

(The above material appeared in the May 1992 issue of New Ideas in Evangelism and Church Vitality.)

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