Donna Perugini Children's Author

“A Church Nursery Volunteer? Um, I’ll Be Leaving Now!”

Donna’s books are for preschool to eight www.DonnaPerugini.com

You’re going to church…super!  Your children are in the church nursery and you’re glad you get the break.  You’ve been asked to participate in the nursery schedule…but you wanted a break!   You and all the other moms want a break.  “Many hands make light work”is an old Ukrainian proverb with real truth.  The system works best when everyone participates.  Here’s a young mom’s positive take on the situation.  My guest blogger is Becky of ‘A Happy Christian Home’.    

A Great Children’s Ministry Starts with You!   

When I became a member of my church eight years ago, it was not based on whether my children would like it there, or whether they would thrive in the children’s program that was offered. I didn’t have any children yet! I wasn’t even married at the time. That was nowhere close to being “on my radar”. Of course when my son was born over three years ago, all of that changed.  If he was going to be in the nursery during the church services, I wanted to be involved somehow- I wanted to know what was going on. So, here are some tips that you, as a mom of young children can use for being more “hands-on” in this area.   

1. Why Children’s Ministry?   

First of all, let me just say that your church probably doesn’t intend for the church nursery volunteer or children’s ministry volunteers to be a baby-sitting service for your little ones! What?! Okay, I know you don’t think that, but sometimes we just drop them off and run so we don’t miss any part of the message, right? Most ministries consider it a serious responsibility to help parents teach and train their little ones in “the way that they should go”.  Sometimes, the nursery is understaffed, and it will be difficult to implement the programs that they desire to incorporate. The workers are busy breaking up a scuffle between two toddlers, or trying to wrangle all the children together for the lesson (this can be quite a feat if the grown-ups are outnumbered!) Which leads to my next point:   


2. Volunteer to Help in Your Children’s Ministry!   

Thumbs up to Nursery volunteers!

Have you heard of the 20/80 rule? Where 20% of church volunteers do 80% of the work? I think in my church and probably countless others, that’s a pretty accurate statistic. Could you realistically volunteer one or two services per month? Probably. You may be able to do even more! And that would be a huge help to the three church nursery volunteers that are in the nursery during every single service.  Ask what you can do. I’m sure they would welcome your help!  But don’t overdo it, mama!  You know how much you are capable of, and if you have a newborn at home, maybe now is not the time to head up the Easter Pageant committee or something.  Trust me, probably nobody will tell you when enough is enough! Don’t be afraid to say “no” if it’s just too much for you in that season. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have little ones- don’t add to that by biting off more than you can chew! Just- don’t be afraid to say “yes” either- you may find that you really enjoy being with the little ones and sowing into their lives. What if I’m not “called” to the children’s ministry? Regardless of where you are called, it’s very likely that if you volunteer your time in the children’s ministry, God will “promote” you to wherever it is you are called simply because you are willing to be used in whatever area may be in need of help. On the other hand, if there’s another area of ministry that you think would be a better fit for you, volunteer there- you may be freeing someone else up who can work with the little ones. 

  3. Offer Your Support as a Church Nursery Volunteer  

Perhaps, if you aren’t ready to commit to serving in that area, you can ask if you can do something on a smaller scale, like bringing in snacks or juice for the children to share, or providing supplies for the crafts or something. Little things like that make a big difference!  Another way to support the children’s ministry program is to go over the lesson with your child throughout the week. Usually children are sent home with a lesson and a coloring sheet or something along those lines. Talk to them about the lesson they learned and look for everyday opportunities to enforce the principles behind the story. Sometimes the older children have a Scripture to memorize, so you could work on that with them too! This of course is in addition to the teaching you are already giving at home. 

  4. Avoid a Negative Attitude as a Church Nursery Volunteer!   

Maybe something isn’t going quite like you think it should in the children’s ministry. You’ve discovered that (gasp) the children have been watching videos during church (or you don’t like the discipline methods being used, or the snack being served, or whatever). Well, like my pastor says, “negatives don’t go down, and they don’t go around”- meaning don’t complain to other parents about something you don’t like- and certainly don’t tell your family members or co-workers (or whoever you talk to outside of your church) about your disappointment. In humility, go to the teacher, and express your concern. If for whatever reason, you can’t do that, talk to the pastor. Perhaps if you are dissatisfied with what you’re seeing this could be a clue that you should offer to step in and provide some assistance. (See #2) But on the same token, don’t make it your life’s goal to overhaul the children’ ministry- make sure you aim to serve in a spirit of humility! However you choose to get involved, just know that your involvement matters! “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23) Parental involvement on any level is the key to a great children’s ministry- and the “church experience” will be one that benefits the whole family.  

Your thoughts on helping some way  in children’s ministry?  Leave your comments and share this post with your friends, family and church by clicking on the icons below!


Becky is a wife and stay at home mom who writes at her blog Happy Christian Home.  She is a former staff member and current volunteer at Compassion Christian Center ,  where she has been a member for eight years.  


13 Responses to ““A Church Nursery Volunteer? Um, I’ll Be Leaving Now!””

  1. 1
    Audra says:

    The 80/20 rule is so frustrating! Our church has over 1000 members and has 4 services each week. The children’s ministry has been completely cut from one service and pared down to just three classes. The two main services have changed structure to maximize the limited help. It is frustrating to see those moms working every service when so many other moms do the drop-and-run. A church this size shouldn’t have such a problem. I felt so guilty taking time off after having Scrunch to get my home back in order. Thank you for the reminder to set limits for myself. It’s all about outreach and spreading the gospel – not all about me!

    • 1.1

      I hear you, Audra.

      With 1,000 members, you would have at least a few leaders for the Children’s Ministry. There are ways to put all the kids into one large room with a main teacher/leader and helpers. That’s how I used to run our Children’s Ministry. The first hour is with puppets, object lessons, scripture races, altar call, and games if time permitted. It was always fast paced and using one scripture to base the teaching time on. The kids would sit in front of the puppet stage..the lead teacher would be the emcee…and we’d take off running. Then we’d send the kids to their age-related groups for the rest of the time in Sunday School. Sometimes, we’d just take both time slots and give the Sunday School teachers a break.

      As far as the nursery, the moms really do want a break. I understand that, but if they knew it wouldn’t be an every week deal, working in the nursery, they might be open to coming in once every six weeks. If you had a Grandmother come in every so often to rock babies or tell a story it would break up the time and make it more doable. We also had a program for our nursery kids that was aimed at the preschoolers. We had stations that we would put the timer on for ten minutes and then go to the next station. The littlest ones in the nursery would follow along, be sleeping, or in a walker.

      Churches of all sizes have problems with children’s ministry. Some churches don’t even believe it’s necessary, so they keep the kids in church.

    • 1.2
      Becky says:

      One thing that my church does is when people go through the membership class, my pastor tells them that part of being a member is serving (people generally aren’t allowed to volunteer until they become members). Another thing we do for children’s ministry workers is provide a free CD of the message, so if they’re working, they won’t miss the message. Also, for a while we asked that the parents of children in the nursery serve in some way- whether it be with older kids or younger ones- at least once a month. For a bigger church with probably lots more children, that might be a good idea (obviously making exceptions in some cases).

      It can be overwhelming as a parent to feel like you have to do something, but a lot of times, I think that people just don’t realize that it’s not an all or nothing situation. They think they will have to commit for the rest of their lives or something. 🙂 But like Donna said it does seem like staffing the children’s ministry is a pretty common issue among churches.

      • 1.2.1

        How true, Becky. It is a common issue. Our church also gives a free CD of the service. What we have is the same people in the nursery on a rotation basis. Unfortunately, the leader of the Children’s Ministry is on the worship team, and in the elementary age group. She’s pregnant and then the Pastor’s wife will shoulder a lot of the responsibilities for awhile. The Pastor’s wife also works with the children..missing a lot of the services.

        Some churches I’ve been in want the nursery workers that do such a good job to never quit. That’s where the workers get the idea of being ‘stuck in the nursery forever’.

        I like Becky’s idea of having some of the moms volunteer to bring snacks or make the craft up in baggies that are for that day.

  2. 2

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  3. 3
    Michele Marie says:

    I work at my church in childrens ministry. The drop and run parents are enjoying the service but not contributing . Church is to bring the body together for worship and to serve The Lord in some way with our gifts, not for an opportunity for free baby sitting. The 80 must believe the 20 are there for them to get a break. If you need a break call your mother or A friend If you are being blessed week after week after week by a ministry it is only right that you contribute to that ministry if you are able.

    • 3.1

      First, thanks for taking the time to comment..I appreciate that!

      I know how children’s ministry is as I was doing that for over 30 years. As the leader, if someone was not there for their commitment I took their place. You can get run into the ground easily. If you are the leader, you can have more leeway than the workers. Yes, your voice can still be heard if the leader is listening. Often they are as overwhelmed at the workers.

      Can I ask, who does the leader of the children’s ministry report their concerns and have interaction with? The workers need to talk with the leader. The leader should be conversing with their supervisor…be it another church member or the Pastor. Depends on the size of your church. What you are voicing here should be brought to your leader. Often times Christians thinks it is wrong to make your complaints and needs known to the leaders/Pastor. You should be able to let them know how you feel and what kinds of actions you think would be a positive way to bring it to the church body’s attention. Some parents are oblivious to the fact that you are NOT a free sitting service, but it is a collective effort by all members to help the church operate. I know moms want a break…need a break. But if everyone was on a rotation that used the children’s ministry, then it would benefit everyone instead of just the few. There’s an old European saying, “Many hands make light work.” Some of that feeling oflight work is due to the fact that you get to know the people you’re working with and begin to feel a part of the Body of Christ. Many friendships develop as parents participate in spiritually educating their children with the other believers, not APART from the other believers. We are all to be servants to each other…sometimes you just need to show the non-participants how. It also helps when the Pastor begins to teach everyone about serving each other. In other words, it starts from the head of your church down.

      Be sure to get yourself some down time so you are in the church services with the other moms and dads. I know it feels and looks like everything will fall apart if we don’t show up and do the work. But even Jesus took time to get away from the crowds and His own disciples to rest and recharge. Pastors fall into the same situations wondering when they will get a break. You have to plan a break and then make yourself take it. The blessings of taking a break are ‘fresh material’, ‘new insights’ and more ‘energy’. I know of people who have left a church because they could never take a break from children’s ministry. Parents were demanding their child be cared for with no intention of participating as a helper.

      Talk with your leader, come up with ideas for the leader to gain new parents for help and then take a break. If you don’t have anyone stepping in to help, leave the children’s ministry for a longer period. Let the people see that you are stepping back and watch…someone will step in or it will be closed down until someone picks it up again. Sometimes by being too available the parents don’t think about their role as a servant too. Your church belongs to God. He started it and He will supply the needs through the people there. If the people refuse to be part of ‘supplying the needs’ of their body, then the Pastor needs to teach them in this area. If you’re feeling ‘used’ and ‘angry’, you’re overdue for talking with your leaders/Pastor and/or taking a break.

      Remember to talk with the Holy Spirit about all this. The Word of God tells us that He’s your Counselor and your Teacher. How could you go wrong with that help?

  4. 4
    Carol DeLong says:

    You mentioned stations in your nursery and setting the timer for 10 minutes. What kind of stations did you gave set up? I am
    Needing some ideas! Do you have other toys available for them as well? Thank you for your help.

    • 4.1

      Hi, Carol,
      The stations mentioned would be for the preschool group. Stations included 10 minutes for opening songs..teaching finger play with song (use a timer), move to 10 min. for thanking God for the snack and then eat the snack, 5-10 min. for teaching, move to 5-10 min. for a craft (longer if desired) related to the teaching, 5 min. for free play, 5 min. for story time and keep adding in whatever works for your group. The stations are separate areas so they feel like they’ve traveled around the room. This keeps it interesting and lets them move their bodies. You might not make all your stations…some kids may not like the idea, etc. Be flexible. You can use teens or pre-teens for reading the story. Take time to let them put on costume hats, dresses, etc. for the story. All of this may sound good in a post, but you’ll have to find what works for your group. Keep Jesus at the center of each station! Let the kids know often how Jesus loves them and so do you.
      Have you visited my Children’s Ministry board on Pinterest? I’ve pinned lots of ideas for all ages on it. There’s many ideas for the nursery also. Always check the pins to see if that’s what you believe and you’d teach your kids. http://www.Pinterest.com/DonnaPerugini

  5. 5
    Kezziah June says:

    I think it’s equally important to volunteer as it is to know that someone (anyone!) cares about you volunteering. If you spend two years volunteering with your church nursery, and make the gut-wrenching decision to step down from volunteering, the church staff/volunteer that gets your notice of resignation should – at the very least! – acknowledge that what you did was appreciated while you were there, and wish you luck in your future endeavors. If volunteers don’t even get a response, that just reinforces the fact that volunteering in a church nursery is not the place to spend your time. No matter how much you believe it’s important to do.

    • 5.1

      June, It’s sad that your volunteering was not appreciated enough to acknowledge your long term committment to the church nursery. It is still an important position to serve in and you served well! Two years is a very committed volunteer.

      Although you felt slighted by your church staff, not all church staff can be put in the same category.

      Let this offense slide off you and forgive their behavior. You can be sure that your time with the nursery was very well known to the children’s best friend, Jesus Christ.

  6. 6
    Becky says:

    I agree with Donna, as we should all do our work as “unto the Lord- not unto man”. Though I would probably feel the same way if I were in a similar position. (My husband is always reminding me about that!) 🙂

    I do appreciate your comment, though, because I think it can serve as a reminder to leaders of what NOT to do. Sometimes people do get too caught up in their own world, as I’m sure I’ve been guilty of and have offended others. We’re all a “work in progress”. 🙂


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