Ellen Wehn is the Director of Children's Ministry at First United Methodist Church Owasso in Owasso, Oklahoma. Ellen also has experience in church daycare and week day preschool ministries.
Easter is a time when churches prepare for visitors. Of course we want all of our visitors to feel welcome. We make sure there are volunteers in the parking lot to help with parking, as well as volunteers inside - available to give directions to classes. Easter Lilies line the altar in keeping with the occasion.
But what about one of the most important areas for young families visiting your church?
The nursery is one of the most important rooms in the church. It can mean the difference in a family making the decision of returning to your church after Easter. This area of the church should always be a warm environment for these young families. If the nursery doesn’t feel welcoming - and most importantly - safe, it won’t matter how many volunteers you have helping with parking and giving directions or how many Easter Lilies are lining the altar. Those families won’t be back.
Here are some tips to help you get your nursery ready to greet Easter visitors.
- TOYS: The church nursery seems to be the place people bring toys that their children have outgrown. Unfortunately, some of those old toys can make the nursery look like a forgotten area. Take some time before Easter to inspect all the toys. Get rid of old and broken toys, and toys that look dirty.
- SAFETY: A major concern for all parents is safety. Are all your nursery workers and volunteers background-checked and CPR certified? Is your nursery there some kind of boundary to limit only people with background checks into the nursery? These things help parents feel secure about leaving their child with you. Don’t be afraid to post a sign letting everyone know about your safety procedures and background checks.
- HAZARDS: Look around for any safety hazards. For example – If you have no door to a restroom in the nursery, be sure there is a baby gates to keep a toddler from going into a bathroom. Dangerous items need elevated beyond the reach of babies. Electrical outlets should be covered. Check for rips in the changing pad. These are things that visiting parents will see.
- A CALM SPACE: This might be a good time to update the look of your nursery by giving it a fresh coat of paint. Remember, the child is separating from their mother, you want this to be a very calm area. Avoid a bright color on the wall with bold designs or huge murals. You want to choose a very soft color. Gray is very popular right now and very calm. You can always add a few areas of color in the room to give it some pop, but be sure to emphasize a calm feeling.
- DECORATING THE NURSERY: A great way to decorate your nursery is with pictures of your happy babies in your nursery. One of my favorite pictures we have hanging in the nursery is a 6 month old child playing with one of our pastors.
- HOSPITALITY ROOM: Some parents are not comfortable leaving their child in the nursery. Is there a room you can have available for mothers to nurse, change diapers, or just calm a fussy child? Even better, stream the worship service into the room.
- FINAL TOUCHES: Ensure the nursery smells nice! Use an appropriate, safe device that can emit nice scents (the scent needs to be mild and not over powering). Some soft music playing helps with a relaxing drop off time.
- GOING HOME: Be sure to provide the parents a report they can take with them of how many times the child was changed, as well as bottles or snacks they have had. Include a few details about activities to show the visiting parents that their children are kept active whenever possible.