One of my first callings (responsibilities) at church was to be a nursery leader. I felt at first as though I'd become doomed to spend every Sunday babysitting a handful of rugrats while all the other grown people at church got to enjoy uplifting classes and learn wonderful gospel knowlege. After a couple weeks I came crying to my mom about my sad situation. And she completely helped me have an attitude adjustment. Good ol moms.
She helped me come up with some goals and a schedule to give structure and meaning to each day at nursery. The goals were simple:
- Each child would love coming to church (and look forward to nursery instead of crying when their parents dropped them off).
- The children and me would feel the Spirit of God through a meaningful lesson each week.
There were a few sub-goals that helped achieve these ends, but overall we just kept a simple routine in the classroom, having some freeplay, snacks, music, lesson, activity, and story time. I ended up developing a deep love for those toddlers in nursery, and they truly did blossom while I served them. My testimony of the importance of nursery grew even more when I attended a stake leadership meeting where the speaker talked about how readily young children learn of Christ, but how easy it is for them to fall away during their teen years if they have not already learned to have a testimony of their own by then. It became my personal mission to help each of my nursery kids get their own testimonies of the reality of Jesus Christ and His power in their lives. I have an (appropriate) sort of pride when I think back on magnifying that calling.
When my Lo became an avid walker at 9 months of age, I soon found myself thinking, "this kid is too old for sitting through my 'grown up' classes each Sunday." And waiting until he was 18 months old to send him to nursery seemed an impossible eternity away. During the last General Conference, I prayerfully listened for inspiration on what to do to help Lo Lo have more meaningful times at church. It wasn't just me wanting to get more out of my own classes; I wanted HIM to get more out of church than just a feeling of frustration that he had to have three straight hours of quiet stationary play. I wanted him to have those same goals that I'd developed for my nursery kids a few years back: a love of church, and feeling the Holy Spirit at church.
During General Conference, I had the inspiration to order the most current nursery manual for myself. I decided that I would begin studying it and see what I could do to implement some of the ideas in it for our church times. But God had something better in store...He asked me to work in the nursery! And I get to bring that Lo! Even though my sweet baby has a few months to go before he is technically "nursery aged," he has benefited a lot from getting to come to nursery each Sunday. And I have been having honestly the most fun ever serving in this calling. I love preparing the lessons and practicing on that Lo during the week, and reviewing with him after Sunday has passed. I love getting to know the other kids and parents, and truly I do feel the Holy Spirit each Sunday at church.I tried to edit out one of the faces because I wasn't sure how that girl's parents felt about her photo being online. The other kids all appear on their family public blogs using real names & places, so I am hoping it is ok to post. By the way, this isn't even our whole nursery. If everybody attends, there are eight kids, and in another few months, we'll have one more graduating into the 18 mo. or older club, so that will make nine! Keeps us on our toes sometimes, but they are all really sweet kids. =)
Last Sunday, that Lo had diarrhea right before we went to church. The nursery rule is that kids should stay out if they have any type of illness symptoms, unless the parents are certain the symptoms are due to allergies or teething, etc. I wasn't sure if Lo's diarrhea was due to teething, since he had been drooling/chomping his hand a lot lately. But to be safe, I had Jerry take that Lo during church while I stayed in nursery. When they found out why I had not allowed Lo to come to nursery that day, a couple of the parents of other nursery kids said, "Oh, we never pay much attention to those rules." I was horrified. I said awkwardly, "well, I do hope you'll try." But wow, now I feel nervous about Lo Lo coming to nursery. It is sort of the germiest place in the church, come to think of it. We wash the kids' hands before they eat, and sanitize their table, but cannot possibly police all the toys that go in mouths, etc.
So here is my plea to parents everywhere: do NOT bring your sick child to nursery. As difficult as it may be to take a toddler to an adult class, or hang out with your kid in the hallway while everybody else in the church gets to learn great stuff, just do what you need to do to be a good citizen. And consider getting yourself a copy of the nursery manual, so maybe you could do a lesson or two with your child on your own while they are sick home from nursery. I promise you will BOTH feel the Spirit of God and be edified.