What Parents Need From Your Church Nursery

What Parents Need From Your Church Nursery
By Heather Dawn


Every pew was filled waiting for the pastor to teach when I noticed an  elder nod to the mass of moms and dads swaying in rhythm with their babies  at the back of the church. “I wonder why they’re not using the nursery?”  he whispered to another elder. If only he would’ve asked one of the new  parents lining the wall!

Living in the information age, parents are bombarded with child-care  warnings from their doctors, parent magazines, talk shows, and newspapers.


Frightening images from Dateline and 20/20 fill their heads as they’re  told to interview each baby sitter and child-care provider thoroughly,  make surprise visits, and ask for references. The result? Fear.

The fact that your nursery is located in a church isn’t enough for parents  anymore. So what’s a nursery filled with loving volunteers to do? Simple.  Jump into the shoes of your new parents to see their fears and understand  their needs. Let’s crawl into the mind of an informed parent as she thinks  about your nursery in each of these areas.



The people seem to be nice enough, but I wonder if they have any  experience or training. Let’s see: 1, 2, 3, 4. Okay, there should be at  least one adult per four babies. I hope they have backup in case more  babies come. I’d love it if just one familiar face could greet my baby  week after week so she’d have some consistency.



The toys look cute enough. I hope they’re all age-appropriate. Hmmm. Some  of this equipment may not have been checked for recalls yet. Does all the  staff know that my baby is too old for the swing but too young for the  walker? Are the toddlers and infants separated? Surely all the cabinets  are childproofed. Do they disinfect the toys each week? Uh-oh, are sick  babies allowed in here?


How do I know that someone can’t walk in here and take my baby? I know  pedophiles and kidnappers seek easy targets. I don’t care as much about my  diaper bag getting mixed up, but I want to make sure they don’t get my  baby confused with another baby. Is my baby kept in this room at all  times? My friend came out of the service the other week, and it took her  half an hour to find her baby! A volunteer was walking around the halts  with her baby. I couldn’t handle that happening to me.


Separation Anxiety

What if my baby needs me and I’m not there? Will they really make the  effort to find me in a crowd of people? Will she be traumatized? I’d feel  awful. What if she’s scared? She clung to me when I dropped her off; I  know I saw fear in her eyes. What if they let her cry the whole hour? My  baby!

Jump into the shoes of your new parents to see their fears and understand  their needs.

Okay, now let’s crawl out of that young mother’s mind, and let’s talk.  Even though you’ve heard some of the concerns of a new parent, you know  each parent carries a set of fears as unique as each baby. So what can you  do? Here are four low-cost steps you can take to give parents peace of  mind and confidence in your nursery.


1. Remember New Parent Jitters

Many of your volunteers are excellent veteran parents who may not remember  the jitters new parents experience leaving their first baby in new hands.

There are simple things you can do to be sensitive to new parents. For  example, allow a parent to decide when to hand over an infant. There’s  nothing more unsettling than having a stranger, no matter how
well-meaning, take your baby out of your hands and walk away with “she’ll  be fine; just relax.”

If an infant is crying when a parent comes to your nursery, remind the  parent that it’s her choice to leave the child in the nursery. If she’s  comfortable with trying your nursery, let her know she can check back
later. Reassure her that you’ll locate her if her child hasn’t stopped  crying within 10 minutes. Constantly consider parents’ feelings. Remember:  You’re caring for the most precious thing in their lives.


2. Get To Know Parents

Start a conversation. Address any concerns the parent may have, taking  caution not to belittle his fears in any way. In the few minutes you  interact with a parent, introduce yourself and ask as many questions as
you can. The stronger the relationship between parents and nursery  volunteers, the more confident parents are in your volunteers’ ability to  take care of their angel. You’ll also make visitors feel welcome. Remember  that many parents try church for the first time or return to their faith  because of their newborn child. What a great opportunity to make their  visit one worth repeating.


3. Inform, Inform, Inform

This is the greatest thing you can do for any parent with needs and  concerns. Knowledge truly is power, and informing parents of your  nursery’s policies and procedures will only give them more confidence and
a greater sense of control. Let parents know what a great nursery your  church offers!

The first church my family attended after moving with our new baby had a  statement boldly printed in the bulletin, “Parents of infants are strongly  encouraged to take them to our nursery.” That was it. I searched through  their information center and brightly colored bulletin boards to find more  information, and I found nothing. When I actually went to the nursery and  asked about training and security, I got shrugs. Needless to say, I didn’t  feel safe leaving my baby in that nursery.

The following Sunday we visited a church that had a nice pamphlet  detailing policies, training, and their security and notification system.  On the way to the nursery, a bulletin board with a couple of Polaroid
photos introduced me to two ladies who were committed to being in the  nursery every Sunday. When I went into that nursery, I instantly knew who  was in charge and the quality of care my baby would receive. What a  difference in my anxiety level when I worshiped that morning!


4. Evaluate Your Nursery Every Year

Have there been any world changes or tragedies that might bring up new  fears or concerns for parents? How can you address their new fears?  Proactively address any issues that parents may be dealing with. Keep  up-to-date on the latest parenting issues and infant development  discoveries. Update written communication to parents when necessary. Check  out current parent magazines or books to understand the information new  parents are receiving. You can find great magazines online or at a local  newsstand. For Parents magazine, log onto  www.parentsmagazine.com. For Christian Parenting Today magazine, log onto  www.christianparenting.net.

Review your policies on staff, training, and security. Update your staffs  infant and child CPR certification. Locate the Red Cross nearest you by  logging on to www.redcross.org or checking the yellow pages.

Check for any recalls on your equipment and toys. You can learn more about  recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. On the Internet,  go to www.cpsc.gov. Or call 800-638-2772. Add your name to a list that  automatically emails you with the latest recalls.

Admittedly, running a nursery that meets parents’ needs is hard work, but  one of the greatest things about nursery ministry is the instant reward  you receive. There’s nothing like spending time with infants who know and  trust you, then watching spiritually revived parents return to greet them.


Establishing Peaceful Traditions

Routine helps babies feel comfortable. What may seem monotonous to some  adults can help babies feel safe, secure, and protected. Whether your  volunteer staff rotates weekly or is the same each week, create a
predictable and peaceful environment by developing activities and  procedures that stay the same each week. We call these peaceful  traditions.

Think through a perfect morning. What is it like? What do volunteers say  and do for babies? Take a look at the four times below. Place the  traditions in your manual so they’re easy to refer to.



Welcome Times

Greet the baby in the same manner each week. Use a puppet, an interactive  mural, or something uniquely yours. Play the same music in the background.  Let the babies make both a visual and auditory connection to the nursery.  You might even have a signature scent for greeting, such as simmering  cinnamon or soft powder air freshener.

Think through your welcoming traditions. Do you want workers to always  call the baby by name? To bend down and look a walker in the eye? Specify  these traditions that are important to your sense of atmosphere. What do  you want volunteers to communicate to parents? How do you want volunteers
to greet new parents? Don’t leave anything about this critical time to  chance. Be intentional about what you do.


Snack and Bottle Times

Designate specific areas of the room as snack areas. Keep food and drinks  within this area. Think through your snack traditions. Is there a specific  time you will serve snacks? Will all babies eat and have bottles on
demand? Is there a difference in scheduling for infants and toddlers? Is  there a snack-time prayer you’d like babies to become familiar with? Are  there manners that are important to you? Make a note of these things so  that every worker can follow the same procedures.


Changing Times

How can workers convey that changing time is a pleasant routine? Do you  want babies checked for changing needs at specific intervals throughout  the morning? We consider changing time as individual attention time. We  also suggest a stash of special changing-time toys to keep babies’ hands  occupied. Be sure workers are aware of your sanitation policies.


Goodbye Times

Who picks up babies in your nursery? At what time? Do you use songs or  little games to make goodbye times more fun? What are some things you want  done each week before babies leave? What do you expect parents to do when  they are ready to pick up their children? How will you tell each baby  goodbye? What will you do to help ensure that parents know what their baby  has done this week? We suggest making copies of some of the nursery manual  activity pages included in our book to send home. Be sure to adapt them  for family use by personalizing the “Other Notes” section.


Provider Checklist

CareGuide.com gives a checklist for parents to evaluate a child-care  provider. Use this adapted checklist to look at your nursery from a  parent’s perspective and determine if your nursery makes parents feel
secure in leaving their babies with you. For more information, log onto  www.careguide.com or e-mail care@careguide.com.


General Questions

1. Does the facility take your needs into consideration? Is the staff  accommodating and flexible?

2. How long has the facility been in business?

3. How many children is the facility licensed to provide for?

4. What is the philosophy of the center or home?

5. Does the facility allow non-toilet-trained children?

6. Does the facility serve meals? Are they hot meals or snacks? Are they  well-balanced and nutritious?

7. What is the facility’s policy on sick children?

8. What supplies and equipment does the facility provide and what is the  parent expected to provide?

9. Is your involvement encouraged?


Facility Atmosphere

1. Do the children at the facility look happy?

2. Did your child seem to feel comfortable during your visit?

3. Did she/he like the other children?

4. Is there a feeling of belonging at the facility?

5. Does the environment seem child-oriented?

6. Would you enjoy spending time in this environment?

7. How is the lighting? The ventilation?

8. Are safe and sanitary conditions maintained?

9. Are there several toilets and wash facilities available, and are  children encouraged to wash their hands?

10. Where do children nap?

11. Is there an outdoor area that is safe to play in?

12. Is there space for running about freely for active play and still  other space where quiet play may go on undisturbed, both indoors and out?


Staff/Child Interaction

1. Observe the interaction between the providers and the children. Does  the staff seem happy and attentive to the children? Do they instill  confidence in the children?

2. Do the children get individualized attention?

3. How does the staff physically handle the children?

4. Are the providers the kind of people you would enjoy being with outside  of the facility setting?

5. How capable do the providers seem at being able to resolve conflicts  between children?

6. How long has the staff been working at the facility (average tenure of  staff)?

7. What is the staff-child ratio?

8. Does the classroom staff have experience and skills in child-care  methods and developmental learning?

9. Are your questions, comments, and visits welcome?

10. Does the center have strict procedures for hiring caregivers?

11. Are applicants interviewed by management, fingerprinted when required  by state law, and required to take a medical exam in compliance with state  licensing regulations? Are background checks and written references  mandatory?



1. What is the emphasis of the activities? To have fun? To learn? Both?

2. Are the learning programs specifically designed for each age group?

3. How big are the activity groups?

4. How noisy is it?

5. Are the activities the kind your child enjoys?

6. Are the toys used in the activities safe and appropriate for the  children’s ages?

7. Do the children have sufficient rest?



1. How is the facility set up to handle emergencies?

2. What are the procedures for contacting you?

3. Is the staff CPR and first-aid certified?

4. Which hospital are they affiliated with?

5. Is the staff prepared or trained for possible allergic reactions or  other special needs?


“What Parents Need From Your Church Nursery”. By Heather Dawn.

“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains  many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most  churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”