Probably the goal of your church nursery is to provide a safe and caring environment for children, ensure that children's church times are happy times, and to provide a foundation for their developing faith. But unless you've formulated and publicized a mission statement, your mission may never implant itself in the ears and minds of church members, parents, or even workers.

This is the first step to compiling a complete nursery manual that includes specific ministry objectives, parent guidelines, worker policies, and health and safety procedures.

Developing a Nursery Manual:

  • Do we need one? Regardless of the size of your nursery program, a manual is important. It doesn't have to be fancy or lengthy. Start by listing procedures that you already use. Distribute it to workers, parents, and church leaders.

  • How do we enforce policies? You'll have a better chance of encouraging policies if those using the nursery have had a hand in developing them. One church had a committee of 10 to write a manual, including a writer, a lawyer, a public school teacher, someone with medical knowledge, and several preschool Sunday school teachers and parents.

  • Will workers feel we don't trust them? They may at first. But if the workers truly have children's best interests at heart, they'll understand when you explain that the manual will help all of you provide the best possible care for the children. Point out that many of the policies are simply verbally agreed-upon procedures that are already in place - but now committed to paper.

  • Why do we have to write it down? This is so nothing gets overlooked or forgotten. It may also include information that workers aren't likely to use often but may need to know in the event of an accident or emergency. Workers may know your policies, but parents probably don't - but they'd like to. Parents - especially visitors - will appreciate a well thought-out procedure in the nursery.

  • What should the manual include? All existing policies or procedures that pertain to your nursery's facilities, equipment, workers, parents, and children. It should also include guidelines for handling legal issues such as accidents or misconduct allegations.

    • Facilities:

      Who may use the rooms?

      How will the room use be scheduled?

      Will you require users to leave the rooms as they found them?

      Who will clean the rooms?

      What regular cleaning procedures will be followed?

      Will rooms be locked? Who will hold the keys?

    • Equipment:

      Who will purchase equipment?

      Will you accept donated equipment? Who will inspect it?

      Who will clean and sanitize equipment?

      What regular cleaning procedures will be followed?

      Where will supplies be stored?

      What supplies should be in the nursery at all times?

    • Legal Issues:

      How will you handle cases of suspected child abuse?

      How will you handle accusations of worker misconduct?

      How will you handle natural disasters and weather-related emergencies?

      How will you handle accidents?

      How will you treat children or workers with infectious diseases such as AIDS or HIV?

    • Workers:

      What qualifications must a nursery worker have?

      Will parents work in your nursery?

      Will teens work in your nursery?

      Will you have paid nursery workers?

      How many children will you allow per worker?

      How often and how long will workers serve in the nursery?

      Who will be responsible for finding substitute workers if needed?

      What training opportunities will you provide for your workers?

      Will workers be required to attend training sessions?

      Under what circumstances can a worker be dismissed?

    • Parents:

      What supplies do you expect parents to bring for their children?

      May parents stay with their children in the nursery?

      May parents come and check on the children in the nursery?

      How will parents be located if they are needed?

      How will parents check their children in and out of the nursery?

      How will parents communicate children's special needs, if any?

      Who will communicate with parents about nursery news, needs, or special events?

    • Children:

      What ages of children are included in your nursery program?

      What ages are grouped together in each room?

      Who will decide when a child will be moved to another room?

      Under what circumstances will a sick child be denied admission to the nursery?

      Will snacks be served?

      Will children participate in potentially messy activities?

Reprinted by permission from The Safe and Caring Church Nursery by Jennifer Root Wilger, copyright (c) 1998. Group Publishing, Inc., 1515 Cascade Avenue, Loveland, CO, 80539, 1-800-447-1070.