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Laying a Sure Foundation for Babies and Toddlers

How would you describe your church’s nursery environment? What are the expectations when parents hand over their child to the nursery workers? How do nursery staff perceive their role? How does your pastor and leadership view the nursery? These are all good questions to ponder.

For too long nurseries have been part of church life because somebody has to take care of the infants and toddlers while their parents participate in worship services and Sunday school classes. But we at Truth78 believe the church nursery can and should be an exciting and vital ministry in the church as it serves to nurture the faith of the next generation.  We believe that the nursery should be a place where babies and toddlers are:

  • welcomed and cared for with the love of Jesus
  • prayed for
  • taught about God through the repetition of simple truth statements
  • introduced to foundational Bible stories
  • encouraged with Scripture memory verses
  • surrounded by sights, sounds, and experiences that provide spiritual nourishment for young souls
  • tenderly acquainted with the Gospel

This puts nursery ministry in a whole new light. Nursery is not just a ministry to parents as we care for their children. It is more than changing diapers, feeding a baby his bottle, and calming a crying child. It is kingdom ministry to the “least of these.” Consider these words from John Piper,

Jesus took the child-belittling culture of his day which defined “greatness” to exclude “receiving children” and he turned it upside down. He said: “Receiving children in my name is the world’s least, and the world’s least is my great.” So wherever the Spirit of Christ pervades, the people who receive children will no longer be the “least.” They will be “great.”

Really? Why? Because to receive a child in Jesus’ name (i.e., out of love, in his strength, and for his glory) is to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus is to receive God the Father. Which means that the nursery may be more full of God than any other room in the church.

At Truth78 we earnestly desire to highlight the significance of the church nursery by providing resources and training that aids churches–ministry leaders, volunteers, and parents–in creating a Gospel-loving, Bible-saturated, Spirit-dependent atmosphere for babies and toddlers. When this type of vision and philosophy is established and communicated, a nursery worker will no longer see his or her involvement merely as babysitting. Rather, participation in nursery ministry will be understood as laying the foundations for the faith of the next generation. An hour strategically used for kingdom purposes can, by God’s sovereign grace, reap a harvest of souls.

How to nourish the spiritual lives of babies and toddlers

We believe there are at least three important elements of the atmosphere of the nursery. Each is strategically incorporated and further explained in our nursery curriculum: A Sure Foundation: A Philosophy and Curriculum for Ministry to Infants and Toddlers.

1. Create an atmosphere that is God-oriented in its character. A nursery ministry focused on spiritual work will have an atmosphere permeated with the fragrance of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). It should be obvious to anyone entering the nursery that it is a place of loving kindness and soul nurturing. Here are several practical ways to implement this:

  • Strive for calmness and joy in the nursery. Be the “fragrance of Christ.” Encourage volunteers to exhibit this demeanor in their interactions with the children and each other. To facilitate this, consider playing hymns and worship music in the background. Join in the singing at times. These can be upbeat, happy songs or soothing, gentle music. Posters of worship songs and hymns can be posted on the nursery walls to facilitate singing.
  • Decorate the room with pictures or posters that reflect biblical truth. These can then be used to point children God-ward. For example, it is more strategic to have a picture of Jesus with the little children than a picture of a cartoon character. A volunteer can use the former to tell children, “Jesus loves the little children.” A poster of a kitten is cute, but a poster of a kitten with the saying, “God made kittens” is better.
  • Be intentional in using speech and singing as a means of conveying biblical truth. Although a baby may not understand the words “Jesus loves you” or “God made these little toes,” we should not underestimate what God might be pleased to do through the telling of these simple truths. Prayers and words of blessing can be spoken over a child as he is placed in a crib or as he leaves the nursery.

2. Create an atmosphere of humble dependence. Psalm 121:1 says that “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”  All our efforts will be fruitless unless the Lord is at work in the hearts of the little ones in the nursery. We are called to be faithful in imparting truth and sharing our faith, but God is the one who causes our efforts to bear fruit. It is good for nursery workers to remember that our attitude should be one of humble dependence on God. One way to exhibit this is to begin the nursery time in prayer and incorporate it throughout various times of the nursery session.

3. Create an atmosphere characterized by godly people. Although the words spoken may not be understood by a baby, the tone or the emotion of the adult caring for him can be sensed. In other words, the godly spirit of a nursery worker can minister to a baby in his care. Therefore it is strategic to nurture the souls of the nursery workers so they can nurture the souls of the babies in the nursery. This means that hiring unbelievers to work in the nursery will defeat your goal of having a spiritual atmosphere in the nursery. Carefully screen, train, equip, and encourage nursery volunteers.

Getting started

Truth78’s nursery and toddler curriculum, A Sure Foundation, provides a thorough explanation of our vision, philosophy, and methodology as well as numerous visuals, Bible stories, memory verses, and other helpful resources. We encourage you to carefully read all of the introductory material in order to understand how the curriculum is structured and how it can be used in your particular setting. We also highly recommend the following seminar and accompanying handout. They offer inspiration and practical tips for using the material:

Nursery and Toddler Ministry (audio) 

Nursery and Toddler Ministry (PDF) 

 

That They May Know, Honor, and Treasure God

Our new vision statement communicates our heartfelt desire for the next generations and begins with three distinct goals: that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. Why these three? Because we believe each communicates essential, foundational realities necessary for the Christian life.

Know God  

In its totality, knowing God encompasses both an intellectual comprehension and a covenantal relationship. Both are crucial. Consider these words from John Piper in an Ask Pastor John segment, 

If you start at the beginning, the first and great commandment says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). So I would think, since that is the first commandment, that is the first challenge in every generation. Does the church and does the world love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind and all their strength? …if we don’t know God, we can’t love God.

Our worship to glorify God must be based on what we have seen of God, what we know of God, what he has revealed of Himself. If we are just worshiping a haze, God is not getting a lot of glory from the warm feelings that we are having in our hearts because of the ignorance of not being in our heads, because of the haze over our lives.

So today I think the biggest challenge is: Do people know God? Do people have a knowledge that is trustworthy? Therefore a huge issue is: What is the role of the Bible in the church today and is it trustworthy and are people basing their lives on it…? Are they getting the whole counsel of God so that they can love the whole God?

When we say our desire for the next generations is to know God, we want them to come to genuinely know the truth of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—by becoming acquainted with His divine character, glorious deeds, redemptive work, and steadfast promises as revealed in His inerrant Word, the Bible. Our prayer is that, by God’s sovereign grace, this knowledge will bring them into a covenantal relationship with God.

Honor God

Honor is a word that has become almost obsolete in contemporary culture. So few things are honored and so few things are worthy of honor. Tragically the church has not been immune to this trend. The late Jerry Bridges gives us a wonderful reminder we need to heed,

It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God.

In our day we must begin to recover a sense of awe and profound reverence for God. We must begin to view Him once again in the infinite majesty that alone belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the entire universe (The Practice of Godliness—Godliness Has Value for All Things, 21).

When we state our desire for the next generations to honor God, we want them to honor and revere God in a way befitting His incomparable greatness and worth.

Treasure God

As the most important command of Scripture points out, love for God is to be ultimate, and it should involve every aspect of our being—every thought, emotion, attitude, word, and action. God is worthy of our greatest affections. One way in which to communicate this type of love, especially to children, is to speak in terms of treasuring God most. As Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Therefore, we could define loving God as knowing, feeling, and treating God as your greatest treasure. Treasuring God in this manner is the only thing that will ultimately satisfy the soul. It is within this context that we realize that the command to love God most is not only our greatest duty, but also our greatest delight.

So when we state our desire for the next generations to treasure God, we want them to treat God with undivided love and devotion, experiencing Him as their all-satisfying joy.

At Truth78, our hope and prayer is that the next generations know, honor, and treasure God. But this statement would not be realized if not for the very next words: setting their hope in Christ alone. Our children and students must set their full confidence and hope in Christ. It is only through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection that Jesus redeems sinners so that we might truly know, honor, and treasure God for all eternity.