I remember when Emerald was tiny, and I was completely overwhelmed with my life. I had a first grader, a preschooler, and a new baby, and I couldn’t wait for those glorious two hours on Sunday when I could drop all of them off in their various classes and go have some adult conversation, without any tiny hands grasping for my dress, my hands, my hair, or any other body part. For two hours, I was my own, at least physically. I thanked God for those blessed men and women who volunteered to take a needy baby out of the worn out hands of her ragged mother, those saints who were willing to handle the crying, the spitting up, the diaper changes and the bottles. It was a magnificent ministry to exhausted, overwrought mothers like me.
Yet, the nursery always seems to be a touchy subject in churches. Everyone has their own ideas about how it should function and who should work in there. Some churches have more resources than others, some have more small children than others, some have an easier time finding volunteers than others. Just a few days ago I ran across an online discussion about church nurseries, and tired young mothers were declaring that they shouldn’t have to volunteer there, that other people should step up and take care of the babies and small children so that these exhausted moms can enjoy their time at church, one of the few respites that they get in their long week.
I understand why they feel this way. I have felt that way myself at different stages of life. But, there’s an important reason why mamas should continue to volunteer, even if it means that once or twice a quarter they will be rocking babies or playing with preschoolers during the church service. And that reason has nothing to do with the fact that churches need that young mama demographic to help out (although they do). The reason mothers should help in the nursery is because it gives us a chance to serve one another.
Who can better sympathize with an overwhelmed, somewhat depressed, sleep-deprived, dark-circles-sporting mother than one who is there herself? Who will be most sensitive to a mother’s needs and concerns? Other young mamas, of course. Who sees most clearly how frightening it can be to drop off a baby for the first time? Who can most sincerely take a young mother’s hand and say, I’m with you, sister. I am just as tired as you are, and there is solidarity in the two of us caring for each other’s children in the name of Christ.
Now, these young mothers can’t carry this task of serving one another all alone. We often hear older mothers saying that they’ve already served their time in the nursery. We hear men claim that the nursery is a woman’s territory. We hear young married couples say that they aren’t equipped to handle small children. But young mothers need help. They need our ministry and and our assistance and our encouragement. They need us to say, Just get here, sweet girl, and we will take care of the rest. It really matters. And it sets up a pattern in that family’s life–one of regular church attendance, of reliance on the church, of children who love to come to God’s house.
Sometimes we tend to think that when we are in the nursery we’re cut off from worship. We feel like we missed church. Even those precious young mothers may claim that they simply can’t worship if they are sequestered to the nursery. But, if any of us feel that way or try to use that as an excuse not to volunteer, then we are forgetting an important element of worship: service. Coming to church isn’t just about us getting our “Jesus fix.” It isn’t about seeing what we can get out of it or waiting around to be served. One of the functions of the church is to serve each other. We should be trying to out-do each other with love and help and servanthood instead of keeping score to see if enough is being done for us.
And, yes, dear church. These truths apply to the church nursery.
So, all of us–young moms, college students, grandmothers, dads, and all–should view the church nursery as an opportunity to serve the families of the church, which is a true act of worship. And, young mamas, don’t miss out on your chance to sympathize with and help out other women who feel just as overwhelmed as you do. They need your arms, your understanding heart, your gracious overlooking of the disheveled state of their hair. They need to know that you are all in this together, and what better way to show love to your fellow mamas than to love on their babies on Sunday morning a few times a year? I don’t think it’s too much to ask of any of us, no matter our phase of life.