Managing Your Church Nursery Volunteers
By: Tony Kummer
Too often, serving in the church nursery can seem like a thankless job. One of the key tasks for children's ministry leaders is to help volunteers understand their importance. With that in mind, I offer these following seven reasons why serving in the church nursery is important.
God is in the church nursery. This may come as a shock, but the Bible has specific promises about God's presence when children are welcomed and loved in Jesus' name.
Service in the church nursery allows churchgoers to focus on worship, rather than worrying about their children. In a very real sense, the nursery ministry makes it possible for the pastor to fulfill his ministry.
The first (and sometimes lasting) feelings a child will have toward church are formed in the nursery department. While not everyone may agree, I believe that a positive experience in the church nursery is essential.
When you serve in the nursery, you are being entrusted with the most important (and vulnerable) members of the church family. There is no greater treasure on this side of Heaven than the little ones God has given us. You must be someone special to have a job that is so important.
Your service is essential for your own spiritual growth. You may have never looked at it this way, but a growing Christian is always a serving Christian. Jesus was known for putting others first. When you serve in the church nursery, you are walking in this example.
The church nursery is the first contact young families will have with your church. Your friendly greeting and exceptional care for their children can make a great first impression for your church. If they don't feel like their children are safe, they will not return—and rightly so.
Your service in the church nursery is a powerful opportunity for prayer. If every nursery worker would spend several minutes praying over the children in their care, imagine how God might begin to change this coming generation. There is no better way to create an environment of spiritual nurture than to pray while you serve in the nursery.
Next, here are six steps to making a church nursery schedule.
1. Revise the Old Dates
I've moved to a six-week rotation for our church nursery. I simply open the Word document on my computer and edit the old dates by looking at my calendar. This saves me time because I don't have to shuffle workers for 5th Sundays. It also makes the commitment level seem more manageable for the volunteers.
2. Review for Special Dates
While I have the calendar out, I look for special dates that will affect the nursery. These might be weeks when we cancel Sunday night church, or when we don't offer a nursery because of a church-wide dinner.
3. Remove Any Outgoing Volunteers
I keep a master copy of the church nursery schedule in my office. I use it to make notes when workers need to come off, change their service dates, or I have new volunteers to add. It helps to keep these notes in a central location by actually writing them on my copy of the schedule. I just delete these names at first and leave the spots as blanks until the next step.
4. Fill the Empty Spots
Then, I find workers to serve in the blanks on my schedule. I should probably write more in depth about finding volunteers, but for now here are a few time-saving tips. How do I get volunteers for church nursery?
Identify and recruit new nursery workers before you need them. While drafting the new schedule, I often think of potential volunteers to add to my recruiting list. Why not contact these people before you're in a pinch?
Use a church nursery job description or volunteer handbook to set clear expectations. Having clear communication upfront helps you avoid nursery burnout.
When I can't fill all the nursery spots I will just write "Volunteer Needed" and send it out anyway. This lets usually results in a wave of new workers. Seeing the specific need in the bulletin is much more powerful than sending out a generic appeal for help. In cases where I still don't have workers, I call on my substitute list.
5. Pray for the Volunteer List
Why not take 10 minutes to pray for the nursery roster while it's top of mind? Pray that God will bless them for their service. Ask for protection for their health so they don't call in sick. Mention each volunteer by name. Then, expand your prayer to include the hours of ministry represented on the list. Ask God to call out new volunteers with a heart to love and serve the little ones. Don't waste this opportunity for specific prayer.
6. Encourage the Workers
Send encouragement with the nursery schedule mailing. I always like to send notes of encouragement to the volunteers included in their nursery schedule. This can be a great way to remind them how important their ministry is to the church.
Send a handwritten thank you note. Just something simple to say, "I'm glad God has you in our church, and I've prayed for you this morning. May God bless you."
More Time-Saving Tips
Keep a list of volunteers on call. These can regular volunteers who are willing to take an occasional second shift or others who can only work on occasion.
Send the schedule in several different formats. We put it in the church worship folder (Sunday bulletin) two weeks at a time, post it around the church, and I mail everyone their own copy of the six-week schedule. Some churches like to do reminder calls, but this is overkill in most small churches. If your congregation is tech-savvy, you can e-mail the church nursery schedule, as well.
Use a one-page format (or smaller) and alter paper colors each month. Most of our schedules end up on people's refrigerators, so I try to keep it as fridge-friendly as possible.
Put your contact number on the schedule. This gives people easy access when they need to make a change to their nursery commitment.
Tony Kummer is a children's pastor from Indiana and founder of Ministry-To-Children.com.