The Hyles Church Manual
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 15 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)
15. The Church Nursery
There are several reasons why the church should have a well-organized and well-operated church nursery. In the first place, the church nursery can eliminate disturbances in the services. Through the years I have seen many services ruined, or nearly ruined, by crying babies and thoughtless parents. One wonders how many people will miss Heaven because they could not hear of the way to Heaven as expounded by the pastor from the pulpit due to some misbehaving baby who was required to be in the services because adequate nursery facilities were not available or because the parent would not cooperate in the reaching of people for the Saviour.
Not only does a nursery eliminate disturbances in the services and allow visitors to hear the plan of salvation but it also frees parents to work in the Sunday school, sing in the choir, etc. It also provides the ladies of the church an opportunity for service. They will respond to this opportunity if the importance of the task is properly presented by the pastor.
Few things make a better first impression upon visitors as a beautiful, clean, well-organized nursery. Immediately the visitor gets the idea that this church cares and knows what it is doing and does it well.
We will divide this chapter into two main headings: the organization of a nursery and the proper procedure for the nursery.
Organization of the Nursery
1. Choose a competent, spiritual, and hard-working nursery director. This is the key to the entire program. As someone has said, “Everything rises and falls upon leadership.” This is certainly true in a nursery. The pastor should bear in mind also that the nursery is one of the few departments of the church in which he is not an expert. If a Sunday school department goes wrong, the pastor knows how to correct it. He is, however, almost at the mercy of the nursery director to see that it operates smoothly. Because of this, much car should be taken in the choosing of a proper director.
2. A census should be taken to find the need. Then a meeting could be conducted with those interested and a list of all of the babies could be made. At this meeting the parents should be invited and they should be set at ease about the future of the nursery. It should be a meeting that is impressive so as to tell the parents that they may feel secure as they place their baby in the nursery that is being organized.
3. The locating of facilities is very important. Most churches do not have adequate facilities. However, the best facilities should be given to the nursery. Many churches have lovely adult classrooms and leftovers are given to the nursery. We have found that the opposite is the wise plan in the drawing of a church. Give your best and most commodious facilities to the babies. The next best should be given to the beginners, then primaries, juniors, and on up. An adult will be more impressed when his children are cared for properly than he will if much care is made for his comfort and little for his children.
When choosing proper facilities, several things should be taken into consideration. The location should be as near the auditorium as possible, yet far enough away so the noise will not interfere with the service. The nursery should be as near the level of the auditorium as possible in order to avoid the danger and discomfort involved when parents are required to carry babies up several flights of stairs.
Tile floor is certainly advisable for a nursery. If this is not available, then some other nonskid material should be used.
If at all possible, there should be a division between the bed babies and the toddlers. It is best to have four rooms for the nursery-age children one for bed babies, one for toddlers up to their second birthday, one for two-year-olds, and one for three-year-olds. This is, however, often impossible. In such cases, room dividers may be used. At any rate, the children who are on the floor walking should not be allowed to get close enough to touch the bed babies.
It is also wise to have plumbing facilities very near to the nursery or, better still, in the nursery.
4. The basic equipment for a nursery would include cribs and mattresses. (These are often donated by members or even by local merchants. At any rate, they could be purchased at discount stores.) Small cribs may be used for babies six months and under and larger cribs for babies approaching their first birthday. Since they take less space, the more small cribs that can be used, the better.
Other equipment needed for the starting of a nursery would be rockers, a cabinet, a blackboard, a coat rack, a clock, a PA system from the auditorium enabling the nursery workers to hear the services and the message, an intercom phone to the ushers’ station or a PA room to be used in case of an emergency, bottle warmers, playpens, jumper chairs, and toys. (One-piece washable soft toys are highly preferable.)
Most of the above equipment can be secured through a church shower or a special offering taken for the purchase of such materials. Many people have lovely nursery equipment stored away at home that will probably never be used again. They would love to donate it to the church. In some cases, they can simply let the church borrow the equipment. At any rate, sacrifice somewhere else but provide for the babies and see that they have the best of equipment.
5. The needed supplies can be brought as donations by the church members. A baby shower would be very appropriate. These supplies should be secured: sheets, Kleenex, baby powder, Vaseline, plastic bags, washcloths, blankets, and even extra clothing. Oftentimes a baby becomes sick in the nursery and will soil his clothing. It certainly leaves a good impression in the minds of the parents if they can return to find that their baby has been supplied with clean, dry clothing even through the emergency.
Many churches are small and the church nursery budget is limited. As aforementioned, a special shower could be given, a special offering could be taken, or, as many churches have found advisable, the Women’s Missionary Circles can provide supplies for the nursery.
6. The enlistment of workers is a very important phase of any church activity or, for that matter, any thriving institution. The proper enlistment of workers should include the following:
(1.) All workers should be approved by the pastor. This is true in every phase of the church program.
(2.) A meeting with a group of mothers and faithful ladies of the church can be held where the need for nursery workers is explained and the idea of working in the nursery is sold to them. The pastor could conduct this meeting or, if the nursery director is persuasive, she could conduct the meeting. The need should be presented and the idea should be sold to these ladies. (All the workers in our nursery are mothers.) At this meeting it should be emphasized that working in the nursery is a service for the Lord. It is like teaching, singing, superintending a department, being a deacon, etc. Here is a chance for spiritual service, service that will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat, and service that is pleasing to God. It should be emphasized that this is a means of soul winning. Unsaved people can now hear the message of hope without interruption. How important it is to stress this upon the minds of the group.
(3.) The workers should be well-groomed, clean, pleasant, and faithful.
(4.) Both permanent workers and substitute workers should be used. This should be explained at the aforementioned meeting. Some may have a desire to work regularly on a schedule basis; others, perhaps, would rather be substitute workers to be called in case of emergency. Each job is important and sufficient workers should be enlisted for both permanent and substitute work.
7. The workers should be assigned. First, the children should be divided by ages as it is easier to care for children nearer the same age. As mentioned before, the bed babies should definitely be separated from the children two and three, if possible. Each worker should have the same assignment each week. In other words, each worker should become an expert in her own particular age level.
It is also advisable to have one worker for each six children. When the attendance is one to six, use one worker; seven to twelve-two workers; thirteen to eighteen-three workers, etc.
It is also advisable to have different workers on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. Now it may be satisfactory for one worker to work two of the three services but because the nursery workers also need spiritual nourishment they should be allowed to be in at least one service a week. It is highly preferable for them to be in two serves of the week. Of course, this would fluctuate with the conditions of each individual church.
Proper Procedure for the Nursery
1. The children should be divided by age and no exceptions should be made. Rules are very important in any organization. This one is vital to good nursery procedure.
2. The room should be set up according to the developmental level of the baby. The atmosphere should be conducive to his age level.
3. The nursery should be open at least fifteen minutes before each service. This is a minimum. Thirty minutes is even more desirable. One reason for this is that the Sunday school teachers is the other departments should be in their places at least fifteen minutes before the service. Consequently, the nurseries must be open even earlier for the use of their children.
4. Enroll all babies and keep their cards posted. Below you will see typical enrollment cards:
These cards should be posted on a bulletin board so that the worker may know in detail the needs of each baby. Such things as allergies, special care, etc., are very important to parents and should be important to the worker.
5. The child’s name should be written on a blackboard along with instructions as given by the parents. Each bed is numbered. When the child is placed in the bed, the number from the should be written on the blackboard and beside the number the child’s name should be written, and any special instructions for the day should be listed. This is not only a double check but it also gives added temporary instructions that the parent would give the nursery worker that would not be listed on the enrollment card. Also little bins, or cubbyholes, may be made for the purpose of depositing the diaper bag, etc. Each of these little bins should be numbered. The number on the bin, the number on the bed, and the number of the blackboard should correspond. It is very important that the children’s equipment such as diaper bags, diapers, bottles, etc., be kept separate. Along with this, bottles, diaper bags, etc., should be marked. Toddlers and babies who play on the floor should be marked with some means of identification. This may be done by writing the name on a bracelet made of bias tape and fastened with a snap or gripper. You may also use a tag that can be pinned to the back of the collar.
6. The doors should be locked to keep the children in and the parents out. The nursery is a place for children and not for parents. It is best to have half doors so the baby can be deposited over the half door without the parent entering the nursery. THIS SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE MEDES AND PERSIANS! When parents come inside, it creates more confusion and causes the children to cry more. It is always best for the children not to see their parents. Especially is this true in the case of the toddlers. When the parents are dept. out and the babies are kept in, it helps the organization, sanitation, privacy, and protection of the babies. Babies should be discharged from the nursery only to the parents or to the one who brought the baby, if this is not the parent. When the parents see that the nursery is operated properly, they will be comforted by this kind of arrangement.
7. Educate the parents and get them interested in the church nursery. Occasionally send out a mailing to all parents giving the room assignment, marking tag, etc. The proper kind of procedure and the proper kind of communication can sell the parent on the nursery. When the parent is sold, complete confidence is developed and rules are happily followed.
8. The workers should be in uniform. White uniforms may be purchased at a nominal cost and will present an efficient appearance. Perhaps few things will do more to settle the minds of the parents than to see a clean, uniformed nursery worker come for the baby. These uniforms are owned by the church. If possible, a dressing room should be provided so that the ladies can change after they arrive. In some cases uniforms can be secured that simply can be worn over the dresses, then these can be removed and placed in the uniform room or the dressing room.
9. As implied before, we ask each worker to work one service a week in the same room
at the same time. On Sunday morning this would be both Sunday school and the preaching service. On Sunday evening it would be both Training Union and the preaching service, and on Wednesday evening it would be both Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting and the preaching service.
10. It is always best, if possible, to play the nursery workers. Of course, no one will get rich on what they make working in the nursery but if a salary could be paid, for example, a dollar an hour, it would encourage the worker to be on time and be in uniform. It would make him more responsible as an employee rather than a volunteer, and it would give liberty to the nursery superintendent or pastor to call upon the worker for extra service above his regular time. A bulletin board should be secured. The time should be kept on time cards, and the cards should be placed on this bulletin board.
11. One person should be assigned to get substitutes for the nursery. This person knows who is to work and is the one to be contacted in case a regular worker must be out. A proper substitute must be chosen. She must be one who meets all of the qualifications of the regular workers.
12. Appreciation for the workers should be shown. Periodically at a service, special and public recognition should be given to the nursery workers. Their names could be read, they could stand, and receive a word of commendation from the pastor and a resounding “Amen” or grateful applause should come from the congregation.
It is interesting that oftentimes we overlook the most important things because they seem small. Few things are more important in the building of a church than adequate nurseries. There are many ways to operate a successful nursery. We have offered a skeleton outline of one. May God help it to be used of the Holy Spirit to make our services more conducive to reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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