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Nursery Care vs. Nursery Ministry
By: Jennifer George

Many churches make nursery care available to parents during the Sunday School and church hours. But is your nursery simply a child care area, or does it go beyond that? Is your church nursery a nursery ministry? Nursery care and nursery ministry are quite different. Here is what each looks like.

Nursery Care
* Caregivers are present and attentive.
* Babies and toddlers' physical, social, mental and emotional needs are met.
* Caregivers provide play time for babies and toddlers.
* Children are occupied while parents learn.
* Caregivers inform parents of the child's behaviors and events of the day.
* It's all about the child.

Nursery Ministry
* Caregivers are consistent and attentive, and they try to practice the presence of Christ for the children to see.
* Babies and toddlers' physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual needs are met.
* Caregivers intentionally design activities to teach Biblical truths.
* Children receive Christian education in ways they are able to understand.
* Caregivers equip parents to continue ministry to their children at home.
* It's all about the babies and their families.

You are doing a great ministry to parents by caring for their children so that they can focus on Christian education and worship. But you have the opportunity to take your ministry much further by providing Christian education for the babies, toddlers and two-year-olds in your care. Just as parents and older children need Christian education, little ones need it, too.

Babies Can Learn, Too!
Babies are born wired for learning. All you have to do is provide the appropriate information and experiences to help them learn about God. While babies cannot memorize scripture or understand abstract ideas, they can learn God loves them, God gives them people to care for them, and Jesus, God's Son, wants to be their very best Friend. The earlier learning begins, the easier it will be for children to remember it.

Have you heard a person say, "I don't remember a time when I wasn't a Christian? I guess I have always believed." It is possible for a child to grow up so aware of God's love for them that they simply do not remember ever not believing. It is possible for a child to accept Jesus as personal Savior very early in life. It is possible for children to grow into faith, without having to be convinced God exists and Jesus died for them. Children can know this, if they are raised in an environment where a loving home and church work together. If children are able to accept the gospel as truth at a very young age, then we should present it to them as early and as often as possible.

How Do I Teach Christian Education to Babies?
You don't have to plan an elaborate presentation to teach the church's youngest attendees about spiritual things. If you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior, then you can begin to teach them about this love that has changed your life. How? Practice the presence of Christ in the presence of babies. Is the love of Christ in your life? Let it affect everything you do and say. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to exhibit "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV). Live in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, and children will learn about faith from your example. You represent Christ to the children in your church. Your example will give the children an early start on the road of faith.

Here are some simple ways to teach faith to babies and toddlers.

Be present and loving. Children become comfortable with a caregiver who is consistent. The more consistent you are, the more children will trust you, and the more willing they will be to learn from you.

Talk about God. As you hold a baby, say, "God loves you." As you feed a baby, say, "God gives us food to eat. Thank you, God, for food." Make praises to God part of your everyday conversation.

Pray for the children in your care. Then, pray with them as you care for them. Your example of prayer may be all they need to learn how to talk with God.

Learn about the children you teach. Read up on the little ones' development. Observe what the babies, toddlers and twos are doing, and imagine what it feels like to be in the children's shoes. How do they view you and their world? Encourage them as they grow, and remember that they see things differently from you. This will change the way you present information to them.

Use age-appropriate curriculum. It is likely not everyone working in your church nursery is a trained teacher. They may not know how to plan activities that not only encourage physical, mental, emotional and social development, but also foster spiritual growth. When teachers use a doctrinally sound curriculum in the nursery, you can be sure children are getting the correct information in language they can understand.

How Do I Equip Parents for Ministry?
Your church nursery can minister not only to the children, but also to their parents. You can walk alongside the parents as they start the parenting journey. This, too, does not require elaborate planning. Try these simple, loving touches to minister to the parents in your church.

Be a friend. Find out what is going on at home and at work. Give encouragement often, and pray for the parents of the little ones in your care. Pray for each family by name on a weekly basis. Get involved in their lives.

Pray with them. If you notice a parent seems frustrated, discouraged or upset, offer to pray with him or her.

Share the joy. When a child does something new or wonderful, tell his or her parents all about it. Encourage the parents to share their "baby brags" with you.

Keep them informed. Tell the parents what you did in the nursery. Explain what you taught the children. If you tried a particular activity the babies loved, explain the activity to the parents and encourage them to try it at home. A take-home paper is a great way to encourage parents to repeat favorite activities with their little ones.

Resource the parents. Do a little research, and give parents suggestions for baby Bibles, board books and other Christian education resources. Find quality books, magazines and DVDs about Christian parenting, and suggest them. Better yet, buy these resources and give them as gifts, or make them available to parents to check out.

With these few simple ideas, your church can have a nursery ministry and not simply provide nursery care. These fragile participants in God's Church can experience His love, grace and acceptance through you. It is more than child care, it is a ministry.

Nursery Care vs. Nursery Ministry, (c) 2006 by WordAction Publishing Company, Kansas City, MO.  Used by permission of Publisher.  All rights reserved.

Product Roundup

Carpets for Kids
Carpets for Kids is a leading manufacturer of area rugs for the early childhood education market. Their carpets are proven to be excellent teaching tools. Check out their new line of Faith Based Rugs. Their "Bible Basics" rug:
* Displays letters of the alphabet
* Uses Bible stories
* Creates a positive learning experience for children of all ages

JTECH's ParentPass
JTECH's ParentPass nursery paging system was designed specifically for the unique needs of the church environment. Key features and benefits include:
* Strong pager vibration
* Robust, two-piece "cell phone style" clip
* Vibe/flash option
* Out-of-range and search features
* Long-life, rechargeable NiMH battery

Jonti-Craft's Bench Locker
Jonti-Craft's Bench Locker 5 Sections features five handy foot lockers topped with a bench. It is great for storage of footwear, or it can be used as a reading bench with ample storage underneath for books. Jonti-Craft offers a wide selection of creatively designed products, including these three product lines:
* Birch
* Rainbow Accents
* Sproutz

Falcon Direct
Falcon Direct is a leading supplier of on-site wireless paging systems with services to churches. The AirPage System II nursery paging system is one of the latest products available from the company. Falcon Direct offers products of its own and works with strategic partners to provide the best products for individual client needs.  In addition, the company offers:
* Assisted living devices
* Radios
* Replacement batteries

Busy Kids Early Learning Furniture
Your church nursery requires children's furnishings that can withstand years of use. Busy Kids is proud to offer a wide variety of safe, high-quality products from the finest and most experienced manufacturers in the United States, at factory-direct discount prices. The company:
* Chooses their manufacturers carefully
* Insists on only premium-quality products
* Features responsive customer service
* Offers attractive pricing

Microframe's MultiPage
Microframe's MultiPage church nursery paging system was specifically designed to meet the unique and diverse needs of churches. This wireless system features three receiver options, including:
* Hand-held vibrating pagers
* Wireless Visual-Pagers
* Informant classroom signal light
With the versatility of the MultiPage, churches can operate any one of these receivers individually or in combination. The MultiPage is a comprehensive communications solution for parents, as well as church staff, medical personnel or volunteers.

Southern Aluminum's Optional Table Finishes
In addition to the many benefits of Southern Aluminum's lightweight, durable aluminum tables are the optional Antimicrobial and Anti-Graffiti coatings. The Antimicrobial coating inhibits the growth of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and algae, which leads to:
* Odors
* Discoloration
* Formation of mildew
Adding the Antimicrobial coating to tables being used in high-traffic areas protects users against such microbes. The Anti-Graffiti coating allows tables to be easily cleaned without causing damage to the finish.

Toddler Tables
The Toddler Table provides ample table area around each child, while providing comfortable seating and a recessed area for the teacher.
* Table tops are made from 1 1/8-inch laminate.
* Table edges are covered with high-impact molding. 
* Tubular steel legs provide strength and stability that can withstand constant use and unexpected weight demands.
* Plastic seats are made to last, while providing ease of cleaning and maximum comfort for children up to 30 pounds.

SafeKids Nursery Security Labels
Nursery Security Labels from SafeKids offer an easy and cost-effective way to check children into your nursery. They:
* Provide the information your nursery workers need in a handy location
* Summon parents to your nursery when problems arise
* Provide a security feature when parents pick-up their child

Save space with these original beautiful oak Bunkies. They:
* Are made of solid, quality oak wood with hand-crafted workmanship
* Are durable and long lasting
* Include mattresses
* Offer a roomy storage drawer as an option

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