Dear Mom in the Church Nursery
Every Sunday, we load up the car and drive the windy road to our little church on a hill.
The children’s Sunday school class follows a spectacular curriculum that we love. The church’s baby room is filled with wonderful women who love holding babies on Sunday morning.
Yet, neither of my children go to their respective classes.
My oldest is easily overstimulated, and really struggles with large groups. He’s always dealt with separation anxiety, and though we work with him frequently, he’s still young and learning to muddle through his wide range of emotions. We are working with our children’s church workers each week to help him grow more comfortable, but it’s a slow process.
And I’m okay with that.
My baby is still nursing and taking a morning nap, which means he needs to stay with me during church, yet he won’t sleep in his car seat or in my arms. He will cry uncontrollably without his rest, so I usually end up leaving the service.
And I’m okay with that.
I take my toddler and my baby to the small church nursery just outside the sanctuary. I pull the curtains closed on the window connecting me to the body of believers and snuggle down into the nursing chair with my baby. I pull out the crayons and hand my toddler a snack.
Sometimes, this whole process seems pointless.
Why do I even bother taking my children to church when we end up squirreled away in the nursery?
Most of my time at church is spent shushing a loud toddler, rocking a crying baby, and trying my best to conceal the huge glob of spit up running down my chest. I rarely listen to the entire message, and my conversations are often interrupted by a fussy child (or two) who is hungry and ready for his afternoon nap.
As these thoughts tumbled through my mind one Sunday morning, my heart growing more and more embittered, I felt the Lord impress upon my heart a sweet and precious truth.
My commitment to the building up of the church body, in whatever season I’m in, will speak far more loudly to my children than any words I ever speak.
This difficult season is not overlooked by my Heavenly Father. Today is not forever.
Fellow mama who is walking through this season with me, take heart – your sacrifice is not in vain. Don’t give up.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. ~Hebrews 12:12-13
So keep shushing and teaching your toddler on Sunday mornings. Rock your baby and nurture the way only you can, mama. Pack an extra burp cloth or two, load up on crackers, and go in faith that what you’re doing, as hard as it is right now, matters a great deal.
Her children rise up and called her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” ~Proverbs 31:28-29
I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Do you spend your Sunday mornings wondering if it makes any difference?
By the way, I wrote a follow up post for how to spend your time in the church nursery. Don’t waste this opportunity to serve the body of Christ in a way only you can!
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Oh I totally understand where you are coming from!! We’ve had MANY Sundays where one or both children were hysterical and wouldn’t stay in their classes. Titus assays actually the worst with this. We still went and tried every week and worked with him. Now he kisses us goodbye and takes off running with his backpack to his class before we can get our own coats off. It literally was a 180degree change overnight it seemed. Faithfulness does pay off. Once Sam learns how fun and exciting his class is he might surprise you and take off running!! Praying for you Momma!!
Leah, he enjoyed it for a while, but we go to a small church so all the kids are in one place. That’s really overwhelming for him. He will go, but he ends up laying down on the side bc he’s so overwhelmed by the commotion! We finally recognized it for what it is bc it’s exactly how I am. I’m just older and know that I have to take regular breaks in large group settings. He just doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings of being overwhelmed yet. So this is the root of separation anxiety. Time will help. It helps that his mama *gets* it lol
I have no children of my own, but I am a teacher in the toddler room at my church. I Love being in their and seeing their personalities and their love for story time as we learn about God and the Bible. I would encourage those mothers whose children cry at first to try to leave them for a few minutes to see if they calm down (sometimes it just takes a little distraction) or those who have to be called to retrieve their child to continue trying. Once they know the drill and remember they will have fun, they may be excited to come in 🙂
Thank you for this! I don’t think I’ve sat through an entire service since my oldest was born 3 1/2 years ago, but this was a sweet reminder that I am not alone and that church is about more than ME being fed.
Laurie, it is and I’m thankful for these gentle reminders from the Lord. Hang in there, mama! 🙂
So true! It’s not forever. I keep our two kids in the service and every once in a while we make it all the way through (great once in a while) and some Sundays longer than others. You are right, it is worth it though! It is neat seeing the 3 year old ask questions and observe what’s going more and more. Learning to sit is a good skill for her to learn too! Spencer is at that age (almost 9 months) where he is started to like to use his voice and use it loudly ha ha. Pacifier helps some of the time but not always. 🙂
I’m glad to know I’m not alone 🙂 I’m the same way with my 3 year old. He listens to the sermon while coloring most days, and you know, each week gets better. I love hearing what he has picked up here and there. We will never force him to stay in the children’s area if he wants to be in big church. He asks to go downstairs, but is struggling to stay the entire time (only an hour or so, so it’s not like it’s that long…). Eh, we’ll just take it one week at a time. ha!
I am totally down with your post. I find it hard to seperate from my nurslings and was surprised at the flack I got at church when I took a year to man the nursery for our women’s bible study. I felt I was ministering, but the leader of my study told me that wasn’t normal and I should talk to someone. I finished the year and switched studies 😉
I’m sorry you caught flack. 🙁 That makes me sad! I”m glad you switched studies!
Oh how I feel your longings and guilt that led to this sermon to yourself in this season. It was a sermon to me too. Its true that it can seem exhausting. I have 1,2&4 year old daughters. And to be truthful have said its not worth it most of this winter we still attend classes but have nixed family worship. My 2014 goal was to accept grace and be a leader in our family. You speak to my heart too with encouragment for this season where days are never-ending but years pass in a blink.
Winter is the hardest! Please know that I, too, stay home sometimes. Sometimes it’s just not worth it. Sometimes everyone’s sanity rides on meeting naps and resting. It’s my heart motivation and orientation that must be dedicated and devoted to building up the church body. So do accept grace, mama! You’re not alone in staying home either 🙂
I can totally sympathize! We went through a phase where I was ready to take turns going to church and staying at home with the kids. Going is important to us, but I just felt like our girls couldn’t handle it. My husband insisted that church as a family was important and for us, church isn’t optional, so we kept going and kept trying. And it was just a phase… our girls are getting better now. 🙂 Although now we have a one-year-old again and this is the hard phase for us – she wants to explore and crawl, not sit still or nap anymore. 🙂 Good luck! It sounds like you have a church that is supportive of families and that is so important. We found a church where we feel welcomed, even when the kids are screaming (the priest jokes about whether he has competition or not) and there are other young families so that helps. 🙂
We do have a wonderfully supportive church. I know we are so blessed because it’s not always been the case for us! I’m so glad you found a church where you and your children are both welcome!
Wow, this really touched me today. I don’t have any babies yet, but when I do, I want to remain dedicated to the church like that (pray that I find a good church family first). I know it’s so tempting to just stay home. Great post!
There are definitely days we stay home, but it’s our posture of devotion and dedication that will speak so loudly. Thanks, Jane!
I think it’s so important to remember that there is no “one size fits all”. Every child and every family is different. I’m glad you’ve found what works best for you and your kiddos, even if it isn’t always the easiest thing!
And to the older moms (or ladies without children), I would encourage you to offer to hold that crying baby or play with the moving toddler. For various reasons, some mamas don’t want to leave their kids in a busy nursery, but would love to relax in the service while their little one is being individually cradled in loving arms. I’ve had the joy of ministering to young moms this way, and it’s always so nice to get some baby snuggles while the mommy gets a refreshing break.
Amy, I love your exhortation to older moms! We are so blessed to be in a church who often cares for our children when we’re having a hard time. But this has not always been the case. What you said is just so true! Thank you!
I am a grandmother now but relate to the comments…
What young mothers who attend church with their family are doing really matters…you are establishing firm foundations, something that every building needs.
All family members are unique. Although a church is a community, it is made up of many individuals, many of whom have similar needs (baby nursreys and pre school classes) but some of whom are seeking similar goals but are taking a different route…my favourite words were, “I’m O.K with that”.
Well said Leigh Anne.
Thanks, Ruth! It’s good to hear I’m on the right track from someone who has been there!
Thanks for sharing! I’m right there with a colicky, nursing infant and a two year old and have been wondering if the effort to go is worth it at this stage. God bless!
We have attended the same church for about 8 years. Since starting at that church we’ve had 2 children (already had 2 when started going). Our nursery has a rotation, someone different every week, but if that person isn’t there then no one else steps in to replace them and not everyone actually works their nursery rotation. Which of course leaves us with our children through the entire service, which I’m okay with and have become accustomed to. We bring a backpack full of quiet toys/books/busy bags. We have recently started investigating a new church. They have a fantastic nursery with a regular rotation of the same people, its offered during Sunday school (its not at our regular church) and they have a neat little system to “call” you if your child is inconsolable (those little buzzers like at restaurants). However, our 2.5yr daughter is so used to being with us that she only stays in the nursery for a short amount of time, she always ends up spending more than half her time with us in the service. Don’t worry, I still bring along the faithful backpack of busy! ;). As Mom’s we do what we need to do in order to be there for our children and at the same time be in the word of God.
Thank you for this! This is exactly where we are now.
My children are 4,2, and 3 months. My 2 older children don’t always do well being away from mama for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here. I have spent over 4 years worth of Sunday mornings in the nursery. It can be frustrating and it’s easy to get discouraged, especially when others decide to pass judgement and criticize you for being out the the service, being late, etc. I appreciate the encouragement of your post and from the ladies who have commented. *This* is what mothers of young children need!A little encouragement goes a long way!
I’m sorry you’ve been criticized. That certainly doesn’t make things any less difficult. 🙁 I’m learning that so many who move out of the season just forget. I don’t think they mean to be snarky, but I think we remember our former selves as much more put together than we actually were. Hang in there, Mama!
I remember this stage well.
At times I felt quite dispirited but I’m glad we stuck at it.
At the time you are going through this stage it feels everlasting but really it’s just a drop in the ocean.
The problem is it is easy to forget when you get past this just how hard it was to deal with little ones.
Well done keeping on going. I know how easy it is to slide into staying home. It’s worth it in the end.
“The problem is it is easy to forget when you get past this just how hard it was to deal with little ones.”
This is definitely something I’ve learned, and it’s also one reason I try to write through these seasons. Even this post, which posted last year, is a distant memory. I still end up in the nursery, but we’re in a new season with different challenges. It is easy to forget where we’ve been.
We attend a tiny rural church that does not have a Sunday School class during worship (it meets during the week) and we do not have a baby room. We have a place where mothers/father’s and “disruptive” children can go if need be, but it is rarely ever used. As a whole, our congregation believes families need to be together, our society splits them up so much, and that children belong in the pews. Both of my children, now 6 & 4, began attending at less than one week of age. On any given Sunday we may have as many as 15 children ranging in age from 1 to 10. Every church finds something that works for them. 🙂
I grew up in a more family integrated church. Children were expected to sit still in the service and listen respectfully. And those were not days of 20 minute sermons! haha! I still hold to those values and beliefs pretty tightly, but you’re right, every church finds something that works for them. 🙂
I’ve just recently emerged from a 3 year stint in the church nursing mothers room. 🙂 I so can relate to all those struggles and often wondering if it was worth it. But I’m happy to say it was. And now I’m very very thankful for the volunteers in the nursery and Sunday school that now spend time every week loving on my kids! There’s a season for everything. It’s hard to see that it’s just a season in the moment, but it’s amazing how quickly it all passes!
Ah! I love hearing from moms who are emerging! 🙂 Keep on keepin’ on, Mamas!
I really appreciated this post. I face this same thing every Sunday. My husband pastors our small church, and I do every service by myself with my five children. I usually end up being in the nursery with the one and three year olds while my 5, 8, and 10 year old stay in the service, hopefully behaving.
There are times when I feel so tired and wonder why I do bother, but I know that it’s for the very reasons you stated. Our example speaks loudly to both our own children and the others in the church!
Thank you for this. There have been several times I’ve wondered if it was worth going to church just to sit in the nursery with my son. In December I truly only heard 1 full sermon, and half of a Sunday School lesson. I just figured that is what happens in a small church. This month I have been truly blessed as my son has been able to sit through 2 of the 4 Sunday morning services and 3 of the nights. I know it is a season, and I use the time to pray, sing, and teach him the Bible. At 9 months he might not grasp everything, but it truly is laying the foundation of church and of Jesus Christ in his brain. My prayer is that by 9 years he will enjoy going to church, and that he will know Jesus Christ personally. Then at 19 he will continue to stay close to the Lord, and at 29 and beyond he will continue on God’s chosen path and lead his family in the way that they should also go. It all begins now, and I pray God helps me with this great task!
I think you have a beautiful perspective!
This phase will pass all too soon, so although it may not seem such a blessing while going through it, you will look back and remember how blessed you were to have that time with your little ones. Prayer is a powerful tool that will help your babies, toddlers, children, and mommas with the separation anxiety & other issues that may cause difficulty with leaving them in their designated areas for church. Also faithful attendance to all of the weekly services (Sunday School, Worship, Sunday night, & Wednesday night) will help them to get used to the nursery and the fact that church is a joyful place to be!
It’s a blessing to read of the wisdom God is imparting to you in this stretching phase. Thank you for sharing.
I walked it myself for many years and want to encourage more parents to do the same. That’s why, after 30 years in pastoral ministry, my husband and I wrote our book, Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship.
Grandma age here, too (though none yet). Beautiful post! I echo all the “it’s for a season” comments. I want to encourage the Moms to know it is a blessing to the Pastor! To see young parents dedicated to raising their children as believers who are faithful to the local assembly is SUCH a blessing to a pastor! And, frankly, it’s a start on the concept that all of us need to learn – that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Yes, you must care for your baby and your toddler and your children. But you are teaching them that their needs can be met WHILE they worship the Lord, not instead of worshiping the Lord. God will bless a faithful heart.
This season for me has left our church going schedule in recent months less than constant, which had also be leaving my heart less than full. We finall returned this past Sunday and this is how I spent the service…it’s been working in my heart all week and I needed this. Thank you.
Please know that seeing the moms with the babies in church is such a blessing to me. Mine are all teenagers, and I know how hard this phase is. BUT you and your children are such an important part of the church family. Let there be grace and blessings for when you can’t make it and blessings for when you can.
Thank you for your post! I love how God can call you to write this almost a year ago, yet it’s still speaking to Mama’s in that season today!
Thank you for saying so well something that I have felt for a long time. My husband is the pastor of a small church and with having eight children over the past sixteen years I sometimes feel that I have spent more time out of church than in it. Our church believes in keeping families together. So other than Sunday School my children are in all the services from the time they’re newborns. My seventh was especially difficult to teach to sit quietly, and at nearly four we’re just now getting him to sit quietly. Sometimes even when we sit for the whole service I still feel lost as to what was said because I’ve been so busy helping little ones sit quietly. I’ve just had to determine that I’m doing this to set the example for them of going to church. I’m trusting that this will establish a godly habit in their lives.
My now 16 yo was always with me in “big church”. She still colors and doodles while listening to the sermon because that is how she best learns and can debate religion with any adult.
Thanks for the post.I am at my wits end,being told mothers shouldn’t take their kids to the nursery,that it should only be for diaper changing.What are we suppose to do if they are loud and cry?? The nursery is not fun,and its very stressful,and to have a preacher,preach against it,is upsetting.
I just found this post while searching for something else on Pinterest. I am not a mother yet….I have been waiting very patiently (and sometimes not too patiently) for the Lord to fullfill that dream. I do work in children’s ministry and I am also a teacher in our school system. I LOVE your post and I am glad I found it as I was begining to think I was the only one on the planet who held these ideas! I’ve wrestled with if and when the Lord allows me to be a mother if I want my child to be in the nursery to always be in children’s ministry programs. I see so many kids that grow up and leave the church and frankly, I think a lot of it is because they never were exposed to church, they participated in children’s activities all the time. I don’t think those are wrong in and of themselves, but I think exposure to “big church” is essential. I love the idea of having a small child draw or color what the preacher is preaching about.
As a teacher I know that you can’t expect a child to value something when you repeatedly make situations where the child is not a part of what you are valuing.
On a personal note, I cringe with how many loving volunteers feel a need to hold and handle babies and then pass them on to friends (strangers to the mom) to hold and handle. Also, as a teacher I completely understand your comment about your children not enjoying their class. Each child is different and learns differently, so often in church you have volunteers who do love the children but they expect every child to be just like their own.
I am so glad I found your post and glad I am not the only one that thinks this way! 🙂
I am super encouraged to find this article and others like that reassure me that my decisions as a mother is ok. My oldest daughter is very social and is ready to leave my side at any moment. She actually worries me more than my youngest who dreads leaving my side. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure from some of the older women in my small church to just let my daughter cry it out for the entirety of the service and it’s caused me a great anxiety and stress to go to church but each Sunday I push through the anxiety and go. I had to stand my ground the last two sundays because they even stripped my daughter out of my arms and everyone in service could hear her screams and pleas for me. I was devastated. I started looking for articles by Moms who experienced a similar situation. Something in my heart feels I shouldn’t force my daughter and feels wrong about just forcing her in this way. I’m just glad I’m not the only one who disagrees with forcing anything on a child so small. It’s given me courage to make my choice as a parent and stick to what I believe is best for my daughter.
You are not alone! I know the cry it out thing works for some people, but it doesn’t for us. And for us, it doesn’t need to work so I don’t make it work. The season of babies and toddlers is so short. It goes by so fast. Keeping them in service, or letting them roam the halls while you try to listen to the sermon, will be over and gone before you know it and then, they’ll be fully ready to sit in the service with you. Or they will go to their own classrooms if y’all prefer. My oldest now goes to his own class mid-service happily. He never went to the nursery. My middle son sits quietly throughout the service with us because he doesn’t like going to a classroom by himself. He is completely content sitting with us. My third baby is in the roam the halls phase, but I know that it goes fast now. So take a deep breath, Mama. You aren’t alone and it’s okay to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!” 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with your baby. It’s normal, and it will pass. Take those cuddles, hand holds, and desire to be with you while you can! And let the well meaning nursery workers, tend to the other babies in their care. ((Hugs!))
Leigh Ann, I am 70 years old age have kept nursery, been nursery coordinator and taught children fi 50+ years. I hope I never get too old or sick to keep babies. They are the delight of my life. We struggle having enough volunteer workers. I cannot understand able bodied Christians not wanting to keep these precious babies. Many people think it is an unimportant job, but it th most important job in the church. If parents can feel confident that their babies/children are safe, they are able to concentrate on their spiritual wellbeing.
Thank you for your heart to care for parents and their babies. I’m so thankful for the nursery workers especially in these years of having little ones. 🙂