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Some people are perpetually called to serve in the youth programs of the church, others find themselves always in leadership. Me? I’m repeatedly rotated into the nursery. And let me tell you, I can’t think of a more noble place to serve.
Whenever someone talks about how wonderful a lay ministry is, they usually explain the breadth of callings something like this, “whether you’re a bishop or work in the nursery…” Now, I love having a variety of callings, but this comment unwittingly implies that working in nursery is the “omega” of all callings, “the least of these.” If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to propose a more elevated view of a calling that requires you to sit on the floor.
1.) Just because they won’t remember their time in nursery does not lessen its impact.
All early childhood development experts agree: the first three years of a child’s life are crucial. The synapses in the brain are developing at a faster rate during those three years than at any other time of life. By age three, the brain has reached 80% of its adult volume. Foundations of love, trust, and relationships are all formed during this critical time. What better time to establish a bedrock of faith?
We do this through playing together, singing songs about our Savior, and constantly reminding them that they are children of a God who loves them. Whether they feel cherished and nurtured at church during these formative years will absolutely affect how they feel when they walk through the chapel doors in the decades to come.
2.) It’s almost impossible to expect or seek praise from your charges, and that’s a good thing.
Sometimes the Lord gives us callings that come with lots of kudos. “That was such a great lesson! Thanks for putting together this amazing activity! You outdid yourself this time!” You won’t hear such things from a group of people who still eat crayons. You needn’t worry about “inhaling” the praise. In fact, you may be handed just the opposite in the form of tears, screaming and tantrums. I’ve always viewed the nursery like a microcosm of the world and have often thought, “Is this how Heavenly Father sees us? All little children still learning how to share?”
But how freeing, to serve such valiant spirits and never expect a word of praise or a thank you in return (except for the occasional, contagious smile.)
3.) There is no one to spoon feed you a lesson, so you get to up your spiritual game.
After years in the nursery, I came to miss studying the scriptures with other adults in Sunday School and Relief Society. I finally realized nothing was stopping me from creating my own opportunities for learning and sharing. I missed preparing lessons, so I upped my personal scripture study and came to family time locked and loaded with insights to share and questions to ask. I missed the comradery of sharing with my fellow sisters, so I started inviting my ministry sisters over to study the Come Follow Me lessons together regularly, and what a blessing that has been!
4.) The Savior said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Who has less power than someone who can barely drink out of a Dixie cup without spilling? Who is more vulnerable than someone who can’t put on their own shoes? If we are to truly internalize Matthew 25, then it’s our duty to seek out “the least of these” to serve. The scriptures are replete with the paradox of servant leadership. We lose our life to find it (Mat. 10:39), the last shall be made first (Mat. 20:16), the Savior himself became poor that through him we might be made rich (2 Cor. 8:9). It feels the lower we willingly descend, the higher we reach.
When we want to feel close to our Father in Heaven, don’t we all fall to the ground on our knees? Then what a better way to spend the second hour of church than literally on the floor, helping his little ones. We don’t serve for reward, but to know God (see Mosiah 5:13). After all, He is both Alpha and Omega.