Wow… convicting. I was talking with a friend the other day about the evolution of my thinking as a pastor. More and more I’m asking myself the question: “Is what I spend the majority of my time doing, what I should really be doing?” I spend a lot of my time planning events, curating and studying content and resources for teaching venues, archiving and linking video, curriculum and graphics, and other “computer” stuff. It seems to me that the organizational beast needs to be uniquely fed to continue to work. Most of the articles and thinking out there is on how to feed the beast, rather than asking: “Should we be feeding the beast?” Or “are we feeding the right beast?”
Another question: “Is what we are doing in children and youth ministry helping to disciple kids and teens?”
Almost 2 years ago, we relocated our church’s nursery to another part of our facility. In conjunction with this move came a refocusing of our programming and curricular intent. We thought it was important to use the hour the infants and toddlers are in the Nursery for intentional spiritual instruction rather than just mere childcare. We wanted the best of both worlds – fantastic, professional and high quality childcare, coupled with intentional and structured spiritual instruction. And it has worked marvelously!
One of the gems of this whole process was NOT finding the “magic” curriculum which made everything hum along and fulfill our goals; rather it was a consistent routine. We created and posted a simple and sustainable routine which has been in effect since day one. I personally have two daughters who are in the church nursery and they can tell you the routine by heart! The kids know what to expect, they know what’s next, they know what to look forward to. There are no surprises or inconsistencies other than: what is the story today? or who is going to be hanging out with us today doing the singing and the projects?
It’s been amazing to watch what has happened over the last 2 years in our nursery. Our Early Childhood Director, Linda Waystedt, has zealously implemented this strategy (which she helped to create, which greatly helps the implementation by the way!). She is to be commended for her tireless work and leadership. Speaking as a parent, it’s incredible to me that when my girls come home from church they can tell me the story that Miss Linda (or someone else) taught them that day! It makes my heart happy!
I came across an article which emphasizes intentional discipling in our church nurseries:
Too often the church nursery is thought of as “only childcare.” What if it come be something more? What if the infant and toddler ministry was a prototype for the rest of your children’s ministry? If you want to take today’s child to the place where he will be a Christ-changed, hope-filled, productive adult we must begin in the nursery.
To start, both men and women must serve in the nursery. Kids need to learn, from their first Sunday in church, that men walk with God not just women.
God has given infants a very important task – learn to trust. However, when there is a different adult in the nursery every Sunday how can the child learn to trust in relation to the Body of Christ?
A “Discipler” is intentional in building a relationship with a child and with his parents. She knows everything there is to know about this child. She visits the child in his home and has their family to her home. On Sunday morning it isn’t a stranger who greets the child it is someone the child has grown to trust.
One Sunday I was getting out of my car when two families pulled up next to me. One dad had just gotten his six month old son out of the car seat and was walking to the back of the car when the other dad walked by. The six month old lunged out of his dad’s arms and the other dad just barely caught him. That other dad was in the nursery every week with the child – they had connected.
The adults who serve with the kids are trained to get to know each child beyond name and what family she comes from.
- Because a “Discipler” is building a relationship with the parents too he knows what the needs and wants of the child are.
- The “Discipler” knows the hopes and dreams of mom and dad for the child.
- The “Discipler” has thought through and written out a plan of how each child to whom he is committed will be discipled in the coming year.
Add to this the value of indirect parent training that happens when your nursery volunteers come to the Children’s Ministry trainings – not only are they learning to disciple someone else’s kids, they are learning to disciple their own kids. Parents are studying the concepts that are taught in children’s ministry because they are serving in children’s ministry so it much easier to naturally continue the discipleship at home.
This approach will minister to each child as an INDIVIDUAL and we must be INTENTIONAL in everything we do. This begins in the nursery and is carried through the entire children’s ministry.