When I walk into a church one of the first places I inspect is the children’s area. I want to see the chosen aesthetic, how enthusiastic and welcoming the workers are and if they have safety and security in mind. Because, you see, I am the weird one who loves children’s ministry! I have served in various roles at children’s camps, (way too many) Vacation Bible Schools, with internships, as a volunteer and as a Kids Director at a local church. But I wonder if there is something that I see that you also see. If you step into the foyer of the church during the service I see lots and lots of mamas with their babies.
It begs the question… over the past few years why has this become the trend? Why aren’t mamas using the church nursery so they can worship corporately?
I am sure there could be many reasons. Maybe your child is at the end of a cold and you are complying with your church nursery rules by keeping your sick child with you. Maybe you have other children in care, your husband is in the service and you just felt like they would cry without you? Or they were crying when you dropped them off and you were sure they might not stop? Or you were sure that as soon as you sat down and turned your heart to the Lord you would be paged to pick up your screaming child so you just avoid the kids area all together? Or some other reason entirely.
Let me tell you the story of Steph. She was new to our church and her husband had just joined the preaching staff at our campus. Steph had 2 young children and was expecting her third. She was excited to have her kids participate in our Sunday care for kids so she could get to know the people of the church and worship with them. Every week she brought her kids to check in area and dropped them off. But every week she was being paged out of the service because her son was crying. So, as the Kids Director, I went to her and the nursery workers and we made a plan. We decided that as a team we would do whatever it took to help her little one make it through the service. The workers were committed to help Steph and allow her to worship and Steph was committed to believe that we would come to her if he was really beyond consolation. And guess what? It worked! He cried every week. Every single week he cried. But we were committed to allow Steph to worship and to teach her little boy that our church was a safe, loving place for him to grow up. Honestly, I could change the name of the mom in this story and tell you the same story a million times over.
You see the nursery and the Kid’s areas are full of people who love God and love children. More than likely they are serving in Kids ministry because they want to hold your children and teach them about Jesus. Most likely they have been through training that helps them know how to deal with little children and their needs. This is one of their gifts of service to the church. You can talk to them and ask for help and advice. You can talk to the director of the ministry and ask for wisdom. Probably, you are not the first mom with a screaming baby or separation anxiety. In fact, most churches will have a written policy about just this! But there can be cases where the servants, parents and directors need to make a plan.
But I think the main question over why Moms are not using the nursery is: what are they missing in worship? And does it matter?
It matters because worship is a means of grace. Wayne Grudem writes in his Systematic Theology, “means of grace are any activities within the fellowship of the church that God uses to give more grace to Christians.“
I think there are several means of grace given to Christians and many of them happen within the church service. The church has set aside this time once a week believers in Christ to gather together. If we are apart from this corporate time we are essentially missing out on the grace God has for us. Some of these means we would miss while sitting in foyers with our babies would include the witnessing of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, giving, preaching of the word, worship, corporate prayer and confession and the list goes on. We should make every attempt to be inside of the room or gym or cathedral where other Christians are gathered in corporate worship. This is one way to help fuel a tired mom for the week she has to come. We should know that the people volunteering to care for our children are there to serve us so that we can gather together. And if they aren’t, then you can have that discussion with your Kid’s director or pastor. I promise they want to know!
It might be difficult at first, but I would encourage you to reach out to the nursery workers. I would encourage you to ask for help from older women. More than anything, I encourage you to take part in worship. Set aside this one hour once a week to soak in the means of grace. So, by all means, while it may be hard at first, use the nursery and take advantage of the means of grace God gives us in our local church services.
Danielle lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she serves as the Ministry Coordinator for Christ Covenant Buckhead. She is the former East Campus Kids Director at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. She is married to Ryan who serves at the North American Mission Board and has 3 children ages 15, 11 and 9.