Something that in recent years that has really impacted my view of ministry is the fact that sometimes we aren't prepared for what we expect.
Let's say I'm a first time guest to a church. I'm looking for answers and help in life. I'm looking to connect with God. My family is important to me. So I start checking out churches in my community.
We decide to check out church #1 on the list. We arrive and there is no signage or direction on where we should take our baby. We finally figure out on our own where the nursery is. The nursery is one room with a boat load of babies from tiny infant to probably three years of age. There was adequate staffing but they were all in one big room and the church has several usable rooms. There was no check-in, name tags or security system at all to make sure the right kids went home with their parents. Pick up time was a bit chaotic as parents just crowded the doorway to the nursery nursery workers were opening the door to let parents in and keep babies from escaping.
More than likely if I had been a first time guest I would not have returned and would have looked elsewhere for a church home. Why? I want my kids to be safe. I want to be given a sense of "these folks have it together" instead of "we are just winging it". Parents want a sense of comfort when leaving their babies in a nursery.
Church #1 is expecting to reach families. Are they prepared for what they expect? A few simple "tweaks" of what is already in place could make a huge change and impact first time guests:
1. Age divide the nursery into at least two groups according to age or milestones.
2. Post nursery staff's names outside the doors.
3. A simple sign in sheet where parents write their name and the name of their child(ren)
4. Order some two part lables for the babies to wear that identifies the baby as well as their need and also has a corresponding security number that matches the label the parent has.
5. Set up a flow of traffic for parents after the service is over.
6. Place a gate across the door and not allow parents or non nursery staff in. Parents hand their babies over the gate and at pick up time the babies are handed back over the gate.
These "tweaks" could be made with a very minimal financial investment and a little organization/administration and a little "training" of the parents.
If we expect to reach young families what are we prepared for that expectation?