Baby Love

by Dale Reeves
Story Pastor

 

Theologian J. I. Packer said this, The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”

The baby we celebrate this month came to earth to change the course of history, and to bring redemption to each of our lives. That’s why we value every baby and every family that sets foot in our building, whether they need to be fed, changed, or talked to about Jesus. The director of children’s ministry at Christ’s Church, Shawn Lewis, explains, “In our nursery we want our babies to be safe and loved—and boy are they! We also want parents to have a connection to other adults and feel safe to stay and talk if they are tired, concerned about development, or just need a hug on a hard day. Our nursery is a community of volunteers who not only love babies—they love to build up families and one another.”

Dedicated to Loving Babies

Shawn continues, “Our nursery ministry has some of the most dedicated and caring volunteers I have ever met. While it’s my ‘job’ to staff this room, I really just stop in to say hi, get a hug or two, and admire how dedicated and wonderful these volunteers are! They don’t  need  a staff person because they love what they do—they trade with one another if they need a week off, they check on each other, and care for one another’s needs beyond their Sunday service.” Shawn is grateful for the new nursery that was part of the recent renovation of the church building. She says, “Our new nursery is one of the nicest rooms in our building. Our space is so inviting, clean, and safe! I love to hear how the warm, caring environment of our nursery opens the door for parents to breathe, refresh, and grow in their spiritual journey so they can lead their homes.”

One of the rock-star volunteers in the nursery is Jon McCann, a former elder at Christ’s Church. He states the reason he has been involved in this ministry for many years: “We get to watch the babies grow, help them as they learn to walk, and make sure they are fed and dry. We want to care for them so their parents are comfortable knowing that they can worship, serve, learn, or teach and they don’t need to worry about their babies while they’re here.” Jon recalls, “We cared for a little girl who had major separation anxiety. The first Sunday they came, her grandmother handed her to me and said, ‘She will probably hold her breath until she passes out. But that’s OK—she’ll be fine.’ I took the little girl, cuddled her, talked to her softly, and was pleased that she did not hold her breath long enough to pass out. They kept coming back, and after a couple months, the little girl was no longer screaming or holding her breath when she was dropped off. The grandmother said she was thankful she could attend the worship service and not be distracted worrying about her granddaughter.”

Sheryl Overstreet was raised in a preacher’s home, the youngest of three daughters. She walked away from the church for many years, but after ten years of marriage to her husband Ed, she decided something was missing, and they started attending church together because they wanted their marriage to be more centered on God. Sheryl states the reason she serves in the nursery: “I have always loved children, especially little ones. I have no children of my own, so I enjoy loving on and caring for other people’s children. I like to feel like I am giving the parents an hour to worship, without worrying about their children. It doesn’t matter to me if the babies cry, spit up—or poop on me—clothes wash! I just want to give them the best care I can.”

Ellen Hughes has been coming to this church since her high school years. Now she and her husband call Christ’s Church their home. She remembers being challenged in a sermon to get more involved at the church, and she says, “My entire life I have LOVED babies. I knew the best place to serve in the church for me was with babies. I love cuddling babies and being able to get some sweet innocent snuggles.”

Nick and Karen Salyers are dedicated to the ministry of the nursery as well. Nick says, “I didn’t grow up going to church with my parents. I attended church here and there. For a number of years my wife and I struggled to become pregnant, and when Karen became pregnant with Harper we decided it was time to find a church. We came to Christ’s Church over seven years ago and got plugged in. I have been able to grow in my faith with Christ and three years ago became one of the elders. The nursery was a conduit of this as it allowed us some great opportunities to connect with others, worship God, and grow in our walk with Jesus.”

Parenting God’s Way

Shawn Lewis leads a Baby Dedication Day every year at our church in which she invites parents to make Christ the center of their home as they raise their bundles of joy. Parents are invited to bring their immediate family members for this special time of dedication and prayer over their children. She reminds parents of the task Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV). Those who have the greatest potential of passing on the truth of God’s Word to future generations are parents, not priests or rabbis or preachers. And, Shawn says, “We want parents to know that they are not alone in their task of raising children. Good parenting doesn’t happen by accident. It’s intentional. The church is here to partner with them.”

Karen Salyers has worked in the nursery at Christ’s Church for six years. She says, “I really enjoy being around this age and the simple care involved—holding, snuggling, bottle feeding, and playing. And the diaper changes are much better than in the 2s and 3s rooms!” She continues, “We get to ease parents’ minds about their babies so that they can go focus on worshiping God. I’ve met many new parents in this ministry and I’ve had the opportunity to invite new moms to our Moms’ Group as well as exchange tips on getting through the baby years with a little more ease.”

Ellen shares, “I love that because of this ministry parents can be filled and fed with the gospel and then go home and demonstrate that to their sweet baby.”

Shawn adds, “The precious gift of children is something God says we are to rejoice over. Caring for the well-being and spiritual development of children is a great honor, but also can be a daunting task. Keeping anxiety at bay through prayer and trust keeps us focused on the goodness of God as we pour into children and help shape their futures.”

Not Just About the Babies

Nick explains, “The people we have met through the children’s ministry have helped us in our parenting and in our faith journey. They have been supportive through our continued infertility issues and our decision to adopt children. The nursery isn’t just about the babies, it’s about creating a space for parents to have a break from the craziness and simply be able to grow in their walk with Jesus.”

Jon shares another story that speaks to the importance of the nursery ministry: “We had a little boy whose life was traumatic. The family was homeless, but we did not find that out for a while. There was a loving mother in his life, but no father or grandfather. When he started coming to the nursery he would just sit quietly and was very withdrawn. Each week I held him in my lap, played with him, talked, and sang to him. Over time, he slowly came out of his shell. He would get down from my lap and play for a little while, then come back for more time in my lap.”

“As he got older, when he moved on to the toddlers’ class, I still stopped in to see him many Sundays and he continued to be close to me. The teachers in that class continued to love him and as months passed by, he seemed to feel much more secure and started playing with the other children without needing to climb into someone’s lap. The family had found a home, we were able to reinforce the love his mother was providing, and helped her to give him confidence and feel loved.”

If you feel God calling you to serve in this wonderful baby ministry, email shawn.lewis@ourchristschurch.com to find out more.

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