Tending a garden is hard work. Tilling, weeding, planting, watering, and pruning takes constant and consistent work, and if the Lord gives the growth, harvesting nets positive. With all of the work, the fruit of the gardener’s labor by God’s grace will be worth it, whether that is beautiful blooms, full fresh fruit, or a luxurious lawn. The sweat, the blisters, and the patience result in a plentiful harvest because God gives the growth. The seeds of faith for your congregation should start just as early as a garden: in the nursery. You may have the same blue-hairs in the nursery since you came to the church. You may rotate parents of infants and toddlers into the nursery. Fair is only fair, right? You may outsource your nursery to hired professionals. Regardless of how you structure the personnel of your nursery, Jesus has something to say to the allowance of children in his presence.
In all three of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ disciples rebuke people from bringing their children to Jesus. Of course, Jesus rebukes his disciples and teaches them how to receive the kingdom of God: like a child. In Luke’s Gospel, the evangelist specifically says, “they were bringing even infants to him”. A very clear and familiar event follows this event in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts. The rich young ruler follows the children each and every time. The difference between these two stories is irritating for both Jesus and those who take the Bible seriously. The irritation is this: keeping children from Jesus. Now, I am not saying I know what the disciples were thinking, but it seems like they were looking for the big donor rather than the models of kingdom living. Mr. Moneybags can step into a meeting with Jesus, but don’t let the rugrats close.
You may think I am against sending children out of the Sunday meeting. I am not against that at all and do not believe this passage says anything about the inclusion or exclusion of children in the Sunday gathering of the church. I gladly serve in our nursery rotation (and did so the morning of writing this article), and I was excellently cared for in a church nursery as an infant. I praise God for the testimony of faithful men and women who cared for me as an infant and child within the church nursery. What I am saying is that our churches should not look to net positive in the bank account before we net positive with the lives and persons the Lord has given us to serve and minister, regardless of age or giving ability. We should bring even infants to him. So, how do we do this in the nursery? The next three suggestions are only the beginning of ministering to infants in your nursery.
First, prayer. The first action is prayer. Some of the parents who left their child with you have prayed for this child every day they knew of the child’s life. Other parents may not have prayed for their children. The privilege of praying for children is one that the Lord has allotted to you during this time in the nursery. Laying hands on children may not look like a formal ordination service, but more like rocking them as they gently sleep in your arms. The nursery attendant has the opportunity to pray for these children by name. You have the opportunity to pray for these children that their names may be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Actively praying for the children and begging the Lord to save these little ones is not a small request. Actively praying for children’s salvation is a noble cause and can net positive for God’s kingdom.
Second, scripture. Read it. Sing it. Pray it. For Eugene Peterson’s sake, paraphrase it, if you must! The Word of God is powerful enough to be used for forming minds. Reading to children is the best language learning practice for them. What better than the divine literature for a child to learn a language? The more they get the better. I’m no education specialist, but I know that the Bible being read to a child is better for them than a DVD you could play. The awkward look of passing adults as you are reading scripture over babies can net positive in the economy of God’s kingdom.
Third, safety. Safety is not just to keep parents content. Safety is not to keep the church from a lawsuit or a news story. Safety is for the purpose of practicing the care and protection that is found in the local church. Historically, the first orphanages and hospitals were founded by Christians. In the same vein, the care of the nursery should excel. Our care for children should not be against the evils of the world or the human heart, rather our safety should net positive for the glory of God. Our plans for fires, natural disasters, active shooters, or discipline should all look to glorifying God with the stewardship of the persons left in our care.
Cyprian was correct in stating, “No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother.” This statement does hold an obligation to church membership; however, the statement also has an obligation for the church to be the nurturing mother for spiritual children to the Lord. If one plants, one waters, and God gives the increase, then the same should be true in our nurseries. Let the little children come to him.