Hidden Heroes {Nursery Edition}

As I buckled Brynn into her carseat, I wondered why we even bothered going to church. She was only a few months old, but she made everyone in the nursery miserable—including her parents.

She screamed at the sight of the nursery door.
She screamed louder at the sight of the nursery worker. She screamed loudest when I handed her over and walked around the corner, waiting to see if she would calm down enough for me to attend the church service.

No such calm ever came.

Every Sunday, Jeff and I would take turns. One of us would stand in the foyer, holding our fussy baby, while the other would sit in the sanctuary, listening to the message.

Occasionally, Brynn would last in the nursery a record ten or fifteen minutes. So Jeff and I would sit in the back and try to sing. But mostly, we watched that little black box near the ceiling, waiting for our assigned number to start flashing. It always did.

This went on for months.

I honestly thought we should quit going to church for a while, at least until this fussy baby of ours would stop frightening all the other babies.

My sweet Brynn had a more sensitive disposition than my sanguine firstborn. And she wasn’t used to being cared for by anyone other than Jeff and me. As a full-time-stay-at-home-mom, I was the primary caregiver. Shoot, I was the only caregiver.

During this time, we sold our house and moved to the home we’re in now. This move necessitated finding a new home church. We learned that a small church was meeting at a middle school across the street, so we thought we would visit.

When we approached the makeshift nursery—a room normally used for sixth grade math—the nice nursery lady smiled as we put our names on the sign-in sheet. Since Brynn didn’t recognize this place, she hadn’t started screaming yet. But we warned the nice nursery lady that Brynn was a screamer, so we would sit in the back row in case she needed us.

The nice nursery lady said that she’d had a few screamers in her day and not to worry.

Jeff and I walked away, knowing the nice nursery lady had no idea what she had just gotten herself into.

Of course, within minutes, Brynn started screaming so loudly that we could hear her from the back row of the cafeteria/sanctuary. So we quickly went to the nursery door. The nice nursery lady was gently rocking Brynn, and she smiled and waved for us to hold off a few more minutes.

I had just fed Brynn, so we knew she wasn’t hungry. So we waited.

Another five minutes passed. When we peeked in again, we saw the nice nursery lady walking back and forth, bouncing Brynn lightly. We motioned from the door that we would take Brynn since she was obviously inconsolable, but the nice nursery lady said she was fine. She wanted Brynn to get used to her.

So we waited in the hallway some more.

An eternity later, Brynn stopped crying. Then, of all things, that baby of ours had the nerve to start giggling as the nice nursery lady shook a rattle.

Jeff and I just shook our heads and returned to our seats.

There on the back row, I started to cry. For I realized this was the first time since Brynn was born that I had anyone besides my husband “take over” for even a few minutes.

For the next year and a half, Brynn continued to cry in the nursery if a new helper was in there. But whenever the nice nursery lady was there, Brynn would stay—happy and content. A bond had been formed.

As a mom with small children, without any outside help or support, I can’t express how much this woman in the nursery ministered to me.

I can’t remember a single word from any of the sermons I was able to listen to, but I remember her sacrifice—her willingness to love a stubborn baby and bless a tired mom.

During those baby years, I volunteered in the nursery a lot. But I must say: When you are taking care of babies around the clock—literally 24 / 7—then sometimes the last thing you want to do is volunteer in the church nursery.

This is when the older women in the church can be such a blessing to the younger women.

As much as the nice nursery lady blessed me, and other moms like me, she also showed me the kind of person I want to become. When I am older, and I am tempted to think I am well past those “needing-to-work-in-the-nursery-years,” I want to remember that there will be other new moms, who just might need someone to love their babies, so they too can have a brief respite during the sermon.

* * * * *

There are heroes in our churches, hidden amidst the pews, serving behind the scenes. These heroes aren’t necessarily the ones preaching powerful sermons or singing spectacular solos. They’re the ones who hug kids and welcome strangers. They’re the ones who invite you over for blueberry pancakes.

They’re the ones who hold your fussy baby and let you hear an entire sermon.

Do you know a hidden hero in your church?
Is there someone you could be a hidden hero to?

On Mondays, I am writing a new series called “Hidden Heroes,” recalling the ones who have ministered to me personally in heroic ways.

Today, I am thankful for . . .

114. nursery hands, holding fussy babies
115. gifts of time, the chance to hear a message
116. strangers loving strangers
117. when quiet comes
118. baby giggles
119. a chance to rest
120. an example to follow

While reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I started keeping a list of the things I am thankful for.

44 thoughts on “Hidden Heroes {Nursery Edition}

  1. Pingback: The Definition of an Enemy May Surprise You {It Certainly Surprised Me} | Denise J. Hughes

  2. Pingback: Hidden Heroes {Youth Pastor Edition} | Denise J. Hughes

  3. Yes…I cannot tell you how grateful I am for my “sweet nursery lady” too. I wholeheartedly agree that they are some of the unsung heros in churches today 🙂

  4. Pingback: Hidden Heroes {Memory Edition} | Denise J. Hughes

  5. Funny how you change through the seasons of life. Once I shied away from the nursery because it made me sad about not being able to have any more babies than one. And I had little sense of competence at quieting others’ yowling young ones. But now as a gramma who doesn’t get to hold her grandbabies enough (partly because they grow so fast), I can picture myself as a nursery lady like that, just walking and rocking and holding that screaming baby all warm against me and saying, it’s okay, she’ll quiet after while, once she gets used to me. Hmm.

    • Sylvia, I so appreciate your heart. My “nice nursery lady” was a mom to one child too, who was then a teenager. I’m not a gramma yet, but I can just imagine the joy of holding those precious ones.

  6. As the nursery coordinator at our church, I loved when the older generation would volunteer. Sadly, so many of them believe that they are “past that stage.” But, oh the gift that they give. I love how you tell your story.

  7. Even now, when I walk pass the nursery, I feel this overwhelming sense of gift and gratitude. It’s a sacred space for newly overwhelmed parents. And when I become an old man, I want to do what I can to keep that place special for other parents. My wife and I have talked about it, too.

    Young parents are so hungry for help, even for a Samaritan’s. Most people just pass by, though, offering a quick, easy smile to the family. Maybe pinch a soft cheek…

    But have they forgotten how those parents hunger, how they need?

  8. What a lovely post. I’m now at the age where I love to be the respite for those tired Moms! I think women are wonderful at completing circles of love with one another.


  9. Oh, how I remember those years! We had moved 3 states to the northwest, one week after my 3rd c-section, while simultaneously rebuilding our beloved home after a house fire. The custom at our “old” church was that couples past child-rearing age ministered to the young families by serving in the nursery. The custom at our “new” church was that each family using the nursery would minister in the nursery once a month. There was no way I could make that happen. My well was dry. No way could I even imagine attending Mass at 9 then serving in the nursery at 1130. I had my hands full simply getting us to Mass every Sunday! I wish I had had more in my tank during those years. It would have been great stewardship for my older kids to help out in the nursery with me. And imagine the great socialization my newborn would have enjoyed by being around other children and families. Not to mention that I would have bonded with my new home more quickly as well. Hindsight is wonderful, right? Instead I harbored resentment that my new church wasn’t as enlightened as my old church. And I took my resentment along with me and my three kids directly to the first row of the church every single Sunday. Did I mention that I was a single parent on Sunday mornings because my husband is not Catholic? Yup, just me, weighed down with my resentment and three kids, up front and center every single week. Thankfully, my resentment was transformed to humility and gratitude. I learned that an unexpected benefit of sitting so close to the altar is that children tend to behave like angels when they are close enough to see the miracle, the action, right in front of them. Their attention is held rapt when the priest speaks directly to them. I was surprised that the cheerios and picture books I hid in my purse to distract them ‘just in case’ went untouched. We are long past that time of life now, but I’m grateful for the reminder that I still have a promise to fulfill – one I made 16 years ago as I sat in the front pew with my three little angels. Can you guess where I’ll be next Sunday morning? Yup, I’ll be in the nursery at 9 then front and center with my youngest at 1130. I pray that I will prove to be as loving and as patient as your Hidden Hero was for you and your little one. God bless.

    • Wow. I’ve never heard of a church who made it their “policy” for the older folks to serve the children in the church. That’s amazing! I too once attended a church where it was “expected” to serve one a month. This kind of one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t take into account that we are at different seasons of life. And I think single moms should be “exempt” from such a mandate. Thanks for sharing your story here. It gives me more to think about.

  10. Wonderful post, Denise! I so agree that the older women should be nursery workers! I know a lot of us get tired, but just because we are empty nesters does not mean God doesn’t have work for us to do. In fact, this is the time we can be more fruitful than ever because we don’t have little ones needing every ounce of our energy!

    My hidden hero in the church I grew up was Sister Bates. She was a willing worker. She did whatever needed to be done. She was a deacon’s wife who went the extra mile — song leader, GA leader, play director, training union teacher, you name it, she did it. God bless her!

  11. Enjoying this Monday series Denise. I started a mom’s group at our mega church years ago, when my daughter was only three months old. We couldn’t get enough volunteers to watch our kids so we had to rotate once a month. I vowed then, to never forget that season. Young mothers need mentors and people like your nursery lady to lighten the load. Its a difficult, but deeply meaningful time of life.

  12. I remember those days. I ‘m a few years ahead of you ( well, a lot of years) and I know there are many more heros to come…the best one will be his stories to his children of his childhood and his wonderful parents.

  13. What a powerful post! Have been there and done that! My firstborn, who is now 17 and very well adjusted socially, didn’t do well in the nursery in those early years either. He would begin crying the moment we turned into the church parking lot knowing what was coming. I, too, was so very thankful for volunteers who were willing to go the extra mile in rocking, bouncing, or doing whatever it took to distract him from crying. I said all of that to say, hang in there, mama! This, too, shall pass and one day you’ll be just like me gazing amazed at the confident, young person your child has become!

  14. Denise, this just about brought me to tears. When you said you started crying–I was right there with you. We had one of those sensitive babies too. And I can remember the stress of waiting for the crying to stop and how that wears. Yes, oh, yes. God bless that sweet nursery lady.

  15. oh…those painful moments…leaving a little one so some else can console…I so agree…young mom’s should not be the nursery workers…this should be done in love and service by us older woman…we should never forget those sweet but hard years…
    Blessings to you…

  16. Oh, I LOVE this!! What a blessing that unsung hero was to you. And now because you’ve shared this story, I will forever have this need on my heart. May I bless others who have blessed me by putting up with my loud-mouth kids through the years. Thank you for your words! ❤

  17. It’s been awhile since I’ve served in our church nursery, but I do love holding the babies in our small group. You’re right–it is a service to those moms who are aching for a little bit of adult time. I remember those days. You’re reminding me to not stop.

  18. Oh, Denise, I can totally relate. I have one daughter and she cried the first 5 weeks of her life (starting her on a soy formula was a Godsend!) I was 24/7 child care until I went back to work part time. The guilt I felt for leaving my baby with another caring mother was equal to the guilt I felt for feeling like I had freedom for those few hours I was at work. I wish I’d been better at accepting help from others!

    This is a great series you’re writing. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    In Christ,

  19. I so remember those days… so many years ago. There are indeed quiet workers who attempt to make life easier for young mom and dad’s. In the long run of it making the effort does pay off.

  20. Jumped over from Michelle’s and I agree the nursery workers are sometimes hidden …. I have rasied my 5 children and as I read your post I remember the day my 1 son and my youngest would cry and cry … seems like yesterday.

    Now my one son after going through treatment at Teen Challenge is on staff with MNTC speaking on prevention and my youngest daughter will go on deployment soon. They are my heroes!

  21. Denise,
    I couldn’t agree more about hidden heroes and I can’t wait for your series. I’m sure I will continue to hang on every word.
    Have a blessed day,

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