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.
There are two important and influential devices in every home. Whoever controls these devices wields great power and influence. They have the potential to bring great joy and excitement as well as tension and discord.
The second important and influential device in the home is the thermostat. In contrast to the remote control, no one can have the thermostat—it’s attached to the wall. Results of the thermostat being changed aren’t realized until later. Are you cold? A quick fix is to grab a blanket or put some warm socks or cozy slippers on. It’s interesting, though, just grabbing a blanket or slippers for yourself will not help anyone else in the house (who might be cold) get warm. The thermostat has the ability to warm everyone up in the home.
I live in the Upper Midwest so it’s more appropriate for me to talk about getting heat into our homes. For those of you who live in the south, it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of cooling and taking clothes off (although you can only take so many clothes off)!
By implication, whoever sets the thermostat is setting the temperature for the environment of the home. In other words, whatever the temperature is set at, the environment adjusts to the temperature of the room.
I am speaking in obvious terms, but think in relation to setting the tone of your family. What does the environment of your home feel like? Is it positive (warm) or negative (cold)? Is there tension or freedom? Do your children walk on eggshells around you (parents) or do they have the freedom to make a mistake and be gently guided to understand how NOT to make those mistakes again? Does your home exude love and laughter? Or does your home environment radiate judgment and apathy? Do your kids smile because they have something to smile about? Or do your kids mope around the house because their families don’t do many activities or play with them?
What does the spiritual environment of your home look like? Do you read your Bible and pray? Or does the word of God collect dust on a shelf and petitions to God remain unasked?
Who sets the tone of your home? Who adjusts the temperature as needed? Or does no one care about the thermostat, leaving each individual to work out their own environmental conditions?
While most of us as human beings care about the remote control (usually because it’s of more immediate concern), we should equally care about the type of environment or culture we are raising our children in. We don’t realize environmental issues until it’s too late: why does my teenager want nothing to do with me? Well, it may be the fact that they are a teenager and don’t want anything to do with adults, but perhaps it has more to do with the fact that you as a Mom or Dad (Uncle, Aunt, or even Grandparent) did not take time to develop and nurture a relationship with them when they were younger. At least make the fact that they don’t want anything to do with you not about your lack of relationship, rather your continual pursuit of an active relationship with them.
Don’t let environment issues surprise you. Adjust and care for your environment right now.
Setting the tone of your home is one way to use the thermostat principle well. Perhaps thinking in terms of a community of homes (a city, town, or suburb) or a community of faith (churches and small groups) is an appropriate application of caring for the thermostat. What does the culture of community feel like? Are people supportive and encouraging or are people individualistic and rude? Are you welcoming? Or do you slam the door in people’s faces? Do we welcome tourists in Hayward, WI because they need a break from their hectic, city-based lives? Or do we want to “shoot them because it’s tourist season”? Are we open to new people visiting our faith community? Or are we a closed group?
What is the temperature of your community? And, more importantly, who are you (as community members) letting control the temperature of your community?
Thanks to Steve DeNeff for the inspiration for these two metaphors!