Church Nursery Volunteer Worker Guidelines (job description)

Here is a list of volunteer expectations that I have been using for our church nursery. We don’t have a formal church nursery worker manual, but these guidelines have several ideas for safety that move in the right direction. I do not use the term ‘job description’ in the document. We want our people to think of their work in the church nursery as a ministry or service to the Lord. Feel free to use these in your church or leave a comment to help me revise them in the future. You can download this as a word document: Church Nursery Worker Guidelines

When I first introduced these, I called a meeting for all church nursery workers. It was a process of re-teaching what many of our best volunteers already knew. Do these guidelines solve all our issues? No, but they set clear expectations and help the church nursery minister more effectively.

Church Nursery Volunteer Worker Guidelines (job description)

Service Description – Early Childhood Ministry Volunteers

And Jesus took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

Service Titles: Nursery Volunteer (Babies & 1s), First Steps Leader (2s & 3s)

Ministry Purpose: Your role is to provide safe, secure, nurturing, clean and efficient care to our children. Your ministry responsibilities include playing with the child or directing his play, reading to him, praying for each child, exhibiting Christ-like patience and love, and relating the events of the day to the lesson and theme in words the child can understand.

Service Expectations:

  • Arrive 15 minutes before scheduled service time.
  • Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray individually for children as they play, as they listen to the story, and for the other caregivers as you work together.
  • Every child’s diaper should be changed before parent’s pick up. Potty training children should ‘try’ at least once.
  • Oversee the check-in process. All children should have name stickers on their back. All cups and bags should also be labeled.
  • Oversee the check-out process. Parents will need their “ticket” to claim their child. If they don’t have they will need to wait for the Children’s Minister before the child is released.
  • Clean and straiten the room after the children leave.
  • Report and concerns or ideas for improvement to the Children’s Minister.
  • Attend occasional Early Childhood Ministry meetings.

Interacting With Parents:

  • Always thank the parent for bringing their child. It is our privilege to serve them
  • Always smile (even when you are tired)
  • Always tell the parents about any diaper or feeding events
  • Always follow dismissal plan

Teaching Little Ones:

Early Childhood is best time to build a God-centered worldview for children. We have provided age appropriate teaching material for all Early Childhood Ministries. This material is easy to prepare and use. Instructions are written in the curriculum. Here are some suggestions. If you need additional help see Tony or Kellie.

  • Integrate the biblical truth or theme into the activities the children are doing. Take advantage of every opportunity to make the truths “real” to the children, repeating them over and over, applying them to anything normal around them.
    • Example: “Do you see the elephant in the puzzle? God made elephants. What else did God make? God made everything!”
  • Your role is to teach the children a short Bible lesson each week. It is important to be able to express excitement, energy, and love for God’s word when sharing the story and its principle. It is to be taught as truth, not as just a story.

Please sign and date if you agree to these expectations.

______________________________________________________________________________


Comments

  1. Marilyn says

    This is great! I’ve been setting up the nursery schedule for 3 years. I’m going to print some of this in our church newsletter. Hopefully it will encourage more volunteers. Thank you so much.

  2. bbcole says

    Is everything here termed “nursery” as 5 and under? Or is there an early childhood section and then an actual baby/nursery section? I have done the volunteer descriptions for our earlychildhood volunteers. I am looking for ways to word our two nursery descriptions. But it seems like perhaps you term all kids under kindergarten as nursery? Thanks!

  3. Judy Stepler says

    Thank you for the information and permisson to utilize your material. As a member of the Personnel Committee at our church, this format and information has been invaluable. I will respond later when we formulate the final draft.

  4. Ruth Dejesus says

    this is really encouraging! Your website help me a lot,not just through giving knowledge but also making my heart more passionate on serving God and His children..thanks a lot!

  5. Paulina says

    Hi!

    Thanks a lot for the information, it encourage us to serve better, thanks for your time and heart to share all this unvaluable knowledge, we serve in Mexico and there isn´t too much material, but this is great!

    Thanks again! Blessing from Baja Mexico

  6. Alicia says

    Thank you so much for the information that you have provided! I recently took over our church nursery/toddler rooms and we did not have any guidelines in place before I started. I have found your website to be so helpful! I was wondering if you have guidelines or some kind of welcome kit you give to parents of visiting children or new members?

  7. Shebba says

    I am a new parent getting back to my ministry at church. I now need to depend on the nursery at my church while I participate as needed. My church nursery is awesome with, as always for anything..room for improvement. I am doing my part by finding sound and valid suggestions to make things better for my children and others. Thanks for making your handbook available!

  8. Sarah says

    I like your idea of having one person constantly there for continuity for the children and the parents but how do you plan for that person to attend a church service at least once a week?

  9. Deb says

    I attend a small church (congregation is about 80) and recently was contacted to see if I would become a nursery volunteer. Additionally my church has one service per week which I enjoy so much after working 60 hour a week. I was honest with the person who called me and stated that at this time I feel I need the spiritual fulfillment of attending the service. (Also, there is no part of me that wants to work in the nursery as I have raised 4 children and am quite honestly burned out). I work as a mental health therapist and see approximately 25 children each week for hour long therapy sessions- so again, I am truly burned out.
    The problem: today was the first church service since I declined the request to volunteer in the nursery. I said hello to the person who had requested my help and she snidely turned away from me. It was very difficult for me to say no when I was asked and now I am left feeling guilty. I just need thoughts from others- am I being selfish or neglecting my christian obligations by turning down this request?

    • Robin Harris says

      Deb, I am a Director of a Nursery and Young Children’s Ministry … You are absolutely the “better woman” here. You do soooooo much for our children, just by doing what you do. You have no OBLIGATION to the church or nursery to volunteer in children’s ministry. Your obligation is to SERVE GOD !… it sounds like you already are. Our worst enemy is ourselves. We work so HARD for others, we forget God wants us to take care of ourselves as well. Spiritual care is as important as any other ministry. Without it – our ministry work is just empty work. God bless you in your life …

      • Deb says

        Thank you so much Robin for the comment. I have been struggling with this decision so much- I really needed someone to tell me that it was not unchristian of me to turn down the request to volunteer in the nursery.

        • florence Ajayi says

          Dear Deb, i totally agree with Robin Harris. you have no obligation to the nursery ministry;besides, our service to the Lord must be from our HEARTS otherwise it becomes eye service /men pleaser and that the Lord hates. I will suggest,if truly you re interested in the nursery ministry, takeout time to wait on the Lord He will instruct and GRACEwill be granted despite your tight schedule/burnouts.

    • Robin says

      Hi Deb, I have worked in the nursery for a little over a year and I have just transitioned to director…neither one of these decisions were made just because I was asked…I prayed and I also sought the Lord and His calling :) Don’t feel guilty…we are different parts of the same body, Christs. God will call you to the service or ministry He want you to be in because it’s all for Gods Glory not ours…Please pray for this person and forgive them for making u feel guilty because u don’t want to any unforgiveness or bitterness to take root, the person maybe disappointed because she is having a hard time finding someone…pray for the Lord to give her wisdom and put the right person in her path…Blessing :)

    • Val Salentine says

      I was in the same boat as you when I taught school and worked regularly in the nursery. I shared my feelings with the pastor’s wife, who ran the preschool program. She said that in order to allow God to work in the situation, I needed to step back. In other words, by continuing service while I was burned out, I was preventing others from receiving God’s call to service. Even if no one were to step forward, it was my duty to allow God to work in that situation. I was being selfish by continuing in a service for which I no longer felt called. Things eventually worked out, and I’ve recently stepped back in to prepare the weekly curriculum materials but not teach. Love it! :)

    • tammyk says

      Deb, I agree with what the others have said to you. I would like to add, please give an extra measure of grace to the person who asked for you to volunteer. Sometimes when a ministry is struggling for volunteers, the responsibility can be all-consuming. Perhaps she saw you and knew that you’d said no, and was on a search for other possibilities and so looked past you and on to others.
      I’m not saying it’s right– we should take care to not overlook people that we don’t “need”– but it can be a situation that has less to do with you saying no, and more to do with survival mode.

  10. Deborah says

    Well, it isn’t easy to practice…. but this article is very helpful. Sometimes we have no idea how to develop our small church. Thanks so much… May God bless you

  11. Teresa says

    Our church membership is small and our children’s classes are also small. The one thing I have repeatedly stressed to Pastors is that children are more comfortable with the same faces all the time. So, it works better, especially in the nursery, to have one or two consistent workers that are there for every church event. This sounds like a job so guess what. We pay that person in our church. Although the older children’s teachers are all volunteers our nursery worker has one full time paid lady that attends all the various events. She is very good and the babies get used to her and don’t cry. This makes the parents feel comfortable. The other thing that I have repeatedly stressed to the workers is not to let a child cry for very long. If a child is distressed, then find the parent or bring them to me. No Mom wants to find out that she left her 6-month old in the nursery and she cried for 30 mins straight. Now that is not to say that if I have a Mom with a chronic cryer who needs a break that I won’t walk the floors with that baby just to the Mom a brief respite. Just make sure that the Mom is comfortable with this.

  12. says

    Jennifer, I have also struggled with this, and have a few suggestions. I have been a nursery director for a couple years, and this is how we have dealt with them successfully (I am currently fully staffed, PTL!)

    1. Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. While some people will devote almost every Sunday to helping, and show up every other week for meetings, it’s safe to say these are in the 5% minority. I have anywhere between 85 and 90 volunteers, but only 3-5 of them meet any time other than Sunday. Even our once-a-year retreat only pulls 1/4-1/3 of them. Most people want to help, but simply do not have the time due to work, family, and other obligations. Be thankful for the handful that show up to meetings, and put these people in charge of groups or classes within the nursery… this way the training and information you give them on a regular basis can be passed down to the more irregular volunteers.

    2. The no shows on Sunday are more challenging, and no amount of planning can completely eliminate them, but it can be greatly minimized. I have done the following in our nurseries (keep in mind your church culture can be completely different, so trial and error is in order!)
    a. Start out, again, with reasonable expectations. If someone says they can show up every Sunday, that is AWESOME! It’s also the minority. Some churches are blessed with many of these responsible people, usually established churches with a more traditional congregation who understand the importance of a servant’s heart. If you are in an up and coming church though, or one that reaches out to more baby-christians (my favorite kind), you are more likely to run into a population that is unable to serve at that level yet. Recognize it, but don’t regret it! These are also the people that are on fire and feel the new power of the holy spirit in their life, so this gives you the chance of discipling them into a giving lifestyle. Don’t expect more than they can give. Ask each volunteer what they can do. If it’s only once every other month, take it thankfully! Then go to work scheduling…

    There is a good scheduling arcticle on this website, you can start that as a guideline. This isn’t exactly how we do it, but I am going to comment on how we do it as well at the bottom of that arcticle. I think the MOST important issue with volunteering is this… they are VOLUNTEERING. You serve them, not the other way around. Too many people are turned off because of two things directors do… give attitude when the volunteer can’t live up to their expectations, and frustration because of lack of communication.

    It sounds like you have a good communication system, of emailing & mailing schedules (only half of the people will read an email), posting them at church (be sure to keep them updated,) and then doing reminder calls. I would add to this direct communication when scheduling – just because someone does the first Sunday every month does NOT mean they will realize that happens to land on the Women’s Retreat they are going to. Anticipate these problems a month or two ahead of time, and work for a switch then, being persistant. Then be sure to take accurate records of who you have talked to when, and what exactly they said they could or couldn’t do. I cannot count how many times I have heard the line “I’m so glad you called, I’ve been meaning to tell you….” This is also a common reminder call line, so give yourself enough time to do switches the week before – do your reminder calls Tuesday or Wednesday, NEVER Saturday night. There is almost nothing that even the most willing person can do to change their schedule Saturday night if they honestly forgot… then they feel guilty, don’t want to face you, and may quit altogether out of embarrasement. Especially with your most devoted yet busy people… I know, I was one of them, and instead of quitting I decided to manage it myself!

    If you are still having problems, the last point is doing some sort of more assertive motivation. Some churches make service manditory for parents, but this has a negative connotation to it as well… if people have to do it, and then don’t, what do you do? Refuse their children? Some still choose to do this, but I believe we have found a more effective motivation. We use age-appropriate ratios. It is involved, but it boils down to this. There is only so many kids per adult. If we don’t have enough adults, the additional kids are put on a waiting list, to be called back when we find another volunteer. This not only shows the need to the entire conregation, but it keeps a safe and non-chaotic environment firmly established, which is also a fear of potential volunteers (who wants to volunteer if they think they are going to get stuck with 20 two year olds on their own?!) Again, this must be very carefully done, I can go into more detail if you are interested, but with proper constant coordination was the final piece of the puzzle to make our nursery successful. I also want to add for any critics or nervous leader, we have NEVER kept a child on the waiting list the entire service, 95+% of the time we are able to call them back before worship is done.

    Just keep in mind that people want to help, but will quit on a dime if the service becomes to difficult for them. Take out any challenges that you can anticipate, then always shower them with appreciation… and I mean SHOWER. There is not enough thank yous. Especially from the pulpit. Which brings up my last point, make sure whatever changes you do make, you have complete support from your leadership. Maintain constant weekly to daily communication with your supervisor and Pastor. Make sure they understand your concerns, listen to advice they have, get advice. Visit churches that have a thriving nursery, both of your church size and of anything you may grow to soon.

    I know, this is a lot of work. If God has called you to this position, though, seek him and he will give you the strength to pull it off. And just know that the better you do, the less people will notice the nursery, because it will flow smoothly. But GOD ALWAYS SEES. He sees your desire to serve well, and will reward you with success when you seek him… after all, it’s not your nursery, it’s His. Walk in the Faith that he knows how to do it… and with prayer, you will too.

  13. says

    I love this website! I just found it today and will be sharing it with my team. I agree with this article greatly, with one exception. Changing of diapers or potty training is important when needed. This needs to be attended to for smelly or full diapers, or when the child asks to go or shows signs of being uncomfortable. However, I feel an hour and half without a diaper change doesn’t impact them at all if they are obviously fine. With all the business in a healthy, active nursery, the rest on this list are such a high priority, don’t stress about missing a few relatively clean diapers! Otherwise, keep up the great work!

  14. Jennifer says

    My obsiticals are getting my volunteers to show up for our bi- monthly meetings and their Sunday Rotation. I have tried changing the day- even to Sunday after church for meetings, also we send out Calendars, as well as reminder calls. We have recently changed Directors, also changed currcuilium for more excitement based teaching. Why I am getting No Shows to both? Any suggestions?

  15. Nicolle says

    Thank you! What a blessing! I am a missionary in Mexico and my ministry is the nursery at church! Its so crazy somedays, today i was at the end of my rope, until i read this.
    Great
    God bless you.

  16. phoebe says

    Hi Tony, I really appreciate this article.I am a sunday school director in Burkina Faso and this will help me reorganize our nursery
    Blessings

  17. Abiose Haruna says

    Hi Tony. I find your articles very instructive. I am a female Nigerian. I used to be with a big church where the children’s ministry was structured and I was a teacher.Sometime ago my husband and I moved to another town where we have a smaller branch of the church.
    The problem is this – the church does not have much space for a children’s church. I thought we could make do with outside but 95% of the children live in the area and are always distracted by friends or other people they know passing by.
    The church’s budget is so stretched that building an addition to the main church is out of the question for now. I tried having Bible clubs on weekends but it didn’t work out. Parents need thier children at home to help out with chores and other errands.
    I would be grateful for any suggestions you can give. Thank you.
    Abiose

  18. Alice says

    Joy, we have the same hurdle; dealing with siblings to those in the nursery. We’ve been allowing their older siblings, but we are bursting at the seams and looking for ways to reduce outside traffic without offending anyone. Looking forward to hearing some feedback on this one. This website is a tremendous blessing to me!

  19. Khu says

    Praise God! I am thanking our Almighty God for He used this site to provide us information, teaching ideas and inspiration that will help us to be more effective and effecient sunday school teacher of our church here in Bacolod City, Philippines. I was challenge to serve more in this children ministry where i can use my gifts of teaching, talents, abilities and skills.
    More power and Godbless us all.

    Sincerely yours,
    Khu

  20. Joy says

    We are writing policies in my policies it says no one but parents and the nursery can be in the nursery at any time. How can we enforce this without offending families who have siblings to those who use the nursery. We serve between the two service 100-200 people in our church.

    • Joyce Hall says

      Would the lady who is in the process of writing nursery policies
      please contact me @JoyceHallW@aol.com.

  21. talkwithhands says

    I am in charge of the nursery at our church. Sometimes it does feel like a thankless job but when you see the child’s face light up with a smile when you walk into the room it makes it all worth it. When you call each child’s name in prayer you begin to bond with the children. Many children are being raised by grandparents and have no direction. I have a few of these children in my care. these are challangeing children but with prayer you can do it. I ended up adopting a child from our nursery like this. Now that she has slept in the same bed every night for the past few years her behavior has changed. All children need to be loved. Remember you are not going to change a child 30 minutes in the nursery. You can however be the light that the child needs once or twice a week. Show love and remember to keep the love in your tone of voice.

  22. Evelyn Key says

    I like the ideas and information I have read today. I am particularliy interested in learning more about the process of signing children in and out of the nursery using the ticket method. How does this work? Thank you and God Bless You

    • kristi christopher says

      I have been struggling w/ the check in & out process too and keep hearing from other people about the stickers but can’t seem to find out what the process is or where i get the stickers. I would love some more info on this! THANKS for all you do!

  23. Linda Farm says

    Thank you for the insight; I plan to share with the other volunteers at our meeting tonight. The 7 points help to put things in perspective.

  24. says

    Melissa – It sounds like you only have two options: find another volunteer or make a policy exception. We allow it unless there is a problem or overcrowding. But it seems like most kids prefer children’s church.

  25. Melissa says

    Although I’m over the 1st – 6th grade children’s department. I deal alot with the nursery. I have a question. One of the nursery guidelines we have ( we have a small church- abouth 150 members) is that children that are not of nursery age not come into the nursery. we offer children’s church for 2-7 years of age. One of the parents insists on bring her 4 and 3 year old to the nursery when it is her turn to volunteer, instead of sending them to children’s church -HELP!!!

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