Is having five children radical? Apparently. Whatever happened to Children are a gift from the Lord? (Psalm 127:3) I think it's time that we reclaim this verse.
I will readily admit that we had some tough years (and that life sure is full, still). In those early church nursery days we had to put in our time. The assumption was that this was “fair.” They were our kids, after all. We chose to have them. So all of the young parents rotated. If a family had kids in two nurseries, we were rotated so that we served once or twice a month. That was nice on the weeks that we could go to church. Otherwise, we got up, dressed up a bunch of preschoolers, schlepped them to church and sat in a small room and babysat our own kids with eight or so kids that belonged to other people. Then we went home. It never really worked for us, but we did it because we were “fair” people.
That fair system continued through until recently (we admit that our age range is wider than most). Now our youngest is out of the nursery, Praise God! Obligation met. But after almost 20 years of nursery duty, I don’t want to run, amazingly. Many people do and never look back. They have done their time and want to do the fun, “real” church ministry stuff, or at least attend the actual church service more than two Sundays in a row. They now think that the new sets of parents should watch their own children because that’s how it’s done. They did, after all. Or at least a lot of people (maybe even subconsciously) think that way. All I want to do is stop this system! Some churches have. But others have not.
My hope is that someone in each church everywhere gets a burden to come alongside young mothers, or parents in general, and give them a break from the demands of parenting for an hour or two a week. That would have changed church for my husband and me for decades. Imagine what we could have done if all of our energy didn’t go just to this one church obligation. Sadly, we were just too tired to see this as a ministry opportunity.
"The church nursery is a ministry opportunity,
not just a babysitting service."
Second, intercessors should be lining up for this opportunity. I will admit readily that I pray enthusiastically for each little one when I have nursery duty. I pray extra hard for the children who seem to have issues at such young ages. And when a mom ends up not leaving, what an opportunity to encourage an exhausted, sometimes discouraged, young mom! “Look I made it! You can, too!” I say when my sweet 15 year old is there with me. She is Exhibit A at times.
“Train them up in the way they should go.”
Lastly, if they are less-frazzled, non-nursery-confined parents can use their spiritual gifts to benefit the church in other ways. Wow! That would be awesome! I will be frank that it is very frustrating as a mother when you can’t use your “other” gifts, whatever they may be. It is partly a time issue, but it is mainly an energy issue. Each of us has only so much to give to our church when we have young families. And to miss a worship service is missing a fill-up at the gas station, so to speak. For most young parents, remaining energy is funneled into the nursery because that is how the system has worked. So many years in one obligatory ministry limit growth in giftedness for young parents. For some, this is a five or six year stint. But for those who have their children farther apart, this can be much longer.
Of course there are parents that want to be with their kids and enjoy the nursery ministry. We would have still wanted to be part of nursery rotation, but maybe not so often. Those little “gifts” eventually leave the nursery. The window of opportunity to spiritually and physically nurture each one is short. What a privilege it could be to be part of a voluntary team that is devoted to launching these little members of His Kingdom! How wonderful for them if the people caring for them and nurturing them were there because they wanted to be; fresh, energetic and ready to pour out to them. And how wonderful for them to be handed back to parents who have just been filled up in the presence of the Lord.