“Linda” (not her real name) came to pick up her eighteen month old daughter from the church nursery one Sunday. She saw her daughter sitting in a swing watching Barney. The other children in the room were playing or looking at toys on their own while the workers sat in rocking chairs.
Linda felt uncomfortable with the situation. Shouldn’t the workers be engaging the children more often? What were they doing in the toddler room? Were they learning anything? She wondered if she should even expect a church’s nursery to have higher standards. How can you as a children’s minister or nursery director help alleviate Linda’s concerns?
- Encourage Linda to join the nursery team as a volunteer, if she is not one already so that she has the additional perspective of being on the “other side of the door”
- If this is not possible (because Linda is already committed to another ministry, etc.), talk with Linda and explain the different activities children in that age group are encouraged to take part in so that she can be reassured that her daughter is being engaged.
- Have volunteers take notes on each child’s behavior and progress for that day, to help reassure parents that their child did receive some individual attention and to help parents better understand what went on in the nursery that day.
- Walk around the nursery and preschool area and encourage volunteers (require paid workers) to engage with the children, even something as simple as a child standing next to a worker seated in a rocking chair while the worker and the child play with a toy in the worker’s lap.
- If you notice volunteers consistently socializing while giving the children minimal to no supervision, make a note to place those volunteers in separate rooms the next time you reassign volunteers to a room.
- Do not permit workers to sit or stand in one part of the room (or playground) together to visit while the children are playing throughout the room. Encourage them to move about the room or playground, engaging with the children. Inform your workers during prayer time together that this is expected.
- Do not permit cell phone usage while workers are “on the clock” (whether paid or not) and helping to care for children.
- Give parents a take-home sheet which explains the day’s lesson, and perhaps includes an activity, song or game they can play with their child to drive home the lesson. Parents may better appreciate the difficulties faced by nursery workers when they also take it upon themselves to teach!
- Avoid using television or movies for children under two years of age, per American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations.
In short, pray for wisdom, that you both encourage parents to have confidence in your church nursery and that you encourage your workers to have high standards for their ministry. May the Lord grant you wisdom and bless you for your due diligence in working to bring a God-fearing solution to this problem faced by many young parents in church nurseries.