Volunteers who work in the nursery sometimes wonder if what they do matters. The people they serve can't recite Bible verses they've taught them. They can't tell their parents about the Bible story you shared with them. They can't pray with you. If you want to make a big difference in the lives of kids and parents, the last place you'd think about serving is the nursery.
In spite of that, many people do choose to serve in the nursery. The reasons? They may like babies and enjoy holding them, rocking them and caring for them. Perhaps their grandchild is in the nursery and it's a way to spend more time with them. Or they may be in the nursery simply because that's where they were asked to serve when they signed up as a volunteer.
Ask a nursery volunteer if they believe they are making an impact in the babies' lives, and you will get mixed responses. If the volunteer says they feel like they are just babysitting cute little babies so Dad and Mom can enjoy the service, then it's probably because no one has shared with them the huge impact they can make in the lives of the babies in the nursery.
Some new research reveals that the nursery is one of the best places to serve if you want to make a difference in other people's lives.
Let's look at three reasons volunteers can make a huge impact on babies' lives.
The spoken word. Babies usually start speaking their first words when they are 12 months old. But new research shows that they understand a lot more than they say. The University of Rochester ran tests that reveal that even at 6 months old, babies can recognize words that are spoken.
Volunteers in the nursery should understand that though babies may not be able to communicate back which words they understand, they understand much of what you are saying.
Help nursery volunteers see that the words of love, encouragement and validation they speak to the babies in the nursery, are heard and received. Nursery volunteers can make a huge impact in babies' lives by:
- Reading Bible verses to babies.
- Sharing Bible stories with babies.
- Speaking words of life and encouragement to babies.
- Singing songs to babies.
Make eye contact. Research shows that when you are holding a baby, making eye contact helps the child sync up with what you are saying. Looking into a baby's eyes translates into enhanced bonding and learning.
- When you are quoting a Bible verse to a baby, make sure you look into their eyes as much as possible. It will deepen the impact it has on the child.
- Have a goal each weekend that every baby in your nursery will be held by a volunteer who looks into their eyes and tells them that Jesus loves them.
Nurture the babies in your nursery. A new study at Washington University in St. Louis says that nurturing babies can have a big impact on their brain growth. Babies who were nurtured in their early years ended up having better brain growth. You can nurture babies by:
- Having a good ratio of volunteers to babies. Ideally, you want to have 1-on-1 care in the nursery, 2 to 1 at the most. Without a good ratio, volunteers will not have the time and ability to nurture the babies.
- Providing training and insight for volunteers about nurturing the babies.
- Only placing people in the nursery who feel called to be there. Nursery is one of the volunteer roles you might be tempted to fill with anyone who is breathing. You might also have a policy that says if you have children in the nursery, then you need to sign up to serve there. I don't believe that is the best way to impact babies. Rather, I believe the best way to staff your nursery is to find people who have a clear calling to invest in people at the most critical time of their life.
- Pray Bible verse promises over the babies. You can put the verses on the wall as a reminder for volunteers to pray the prayer promises over the babies.
- Partner with parents. Invite parents to join you in praying Bible verse promises over their child. Give them a list of verses they can pray over their baby. Make parents aware of the impact they can make in their child's life if they will be intentional about nurturing them, reading Gods Word to their baby, having faith conversations with their child and singing Bible songs with their child.
I love the truth found in 2 Timothy 3:15: "and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
It's time we see the nursery for what it really is, a critical time in a person's life that will mold and shape them for life.
If we will do what Timothy's mother and grandmother did for him, we will see more of the babies in our nursery grow up to love and serve Jesus.
Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry, 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool Ministry, Children's Ministry in the 21st Century, Sunday School That Works, the churchleaders.com Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.
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