If you walk into a room where there is crying, diapers that need to be changed, and the words, “Don’t put that in your mouth…” being said, chances are you may have stepped into a church nursery. It’s a messy world of little people who need various needs met, and although their physical ones are a priority, it’s important not to forget about their spiritual needs. These little ones are sponges ready to soak up what you have to give them. Don’t underestimate their need for an introduction to the Gospel and their ability to learn the truth from God’s Word. To help you stay on track, here are nine simple gospel-centered ideas to use in your church nursery.
- God Loves You
It all comes down to those three simple words. God loves you. That’s why He created the earth and people. He loves us so deeply that He gave us a plan for salvation so we can live with Him forever. Simply telling toddlers that God loves them is so very important. They need to hear those true words over and over. Some easy ways to do this are to sit with them at snack time and go around the table, pointing to each one, calling them by name. Say, “God loves (insert child’s name)” to every single one. If they aren’t old enough for snack time, they probably need to be held and rocked. Say these sweet words to them as you cradle them in your arms or change their diaper.
- God Made You
Knowing that God made them is an idea that can connect early with a child. Explaining that God made them plus mommy and daddy and brother or sister can help them understand that God made their whole family. God made everyone. As they begin to learn their body parts, you can incorporate that into this topic. God made their eyes and nose. He made their mouth and ears. Babies enjoy looking at themselves. Place a mirror in front of each child so they can see that they are wonderfully made and speak those words of truth over them.
- Jesus Wants to Be Your Friend
Help kids know that Jesus is God’s Son. He sent Him as a real person on earth to help others and eventually die for our sins. Why did He do this? Because He loves us so much. Jesus is our way to God. Toddlers can understand friendships. We refer to certain people being their friends from a very young age. Why not introduce them to the One who can be their best friend forever? Ask kids, “Who is your friend?” And help them to respond with, “Jesus!” Sing the classic “Jesus Loves Me” for another reminder of this most important truth.
- Jesus Loves Everyone
A one-year old’s world is small. But they can still be taught that there’s a much bigger world out there. Just as the Gospel says, Jesus came for everyone. Reassure children that Jesus loves them, and He loves their family and friends. But He also loves the people they don’t even know, the people who live far away, and the people who don’t even know Him yet. To elaborate, play a game. Have kids pass a ball around in a circle and tell them that Jesus loves them. Then switch out the ball for an inflatable globe. Say, “Jesus loves everyone, everywhere, all over the world!”
- I Can Tell Others About Jesus
The good news about Jesus is exciting. Teaching kids from an early age that it’s something to share can create a great start to their world of evangelism. They need to know that they can be a part of sharing the good news with others. Have them practice on each other. If they are capable of talking and/or repeating your words, have them tell a friend, “Jesus loves you.”
- Jesus Helps Me
With toddlers, most things in life are about them. Even though Jesus was about helping everyone, they can start with understanding that He specifically helps them, but also helps others. Little ones experience sickness. Tell them Jesus can help them when they are sick. They experience sadness. Jesus can help them when they are sad. They feel fear. Jesus helps them when they are scared. Teach Bible stories about Jesus calling His disciples and His miracles and healing. This can help toddlers see that Jesus is our helper.
- I Can Help Others
When they see that Jesus is our example in being a helper, they can know that being a helper is an important job. The Bible says that Jesus came to serve. Youth shouldn’t stop anyone from serving. Toddlers can help others by picking up toys and sharing with their friends. They can be kind and use good manners by learning to say “please” and “thank you.” Have them practice serving in your classroom by picking up toys, and giving them opportunities to share, praising them when they complete the tasks.
- God’s Word is True
The basis of what you teach must come from the Bible. It is, after all, where the Gospel message is found. Showing kids a Bible and telling them that it is God’s true words should be incorporated every single week in your nursery setting. Don’t just show; make it hands-on by having kids touch or pat the Bible, letting them know it’s the most special book that we have. From it, we learn about God’s goodness and how to have a relationship with Jesus.
- I Can Talk to God
Praying is something kids will learn from modeling even before they can do it themselves. Jesus taught others how to pray, and God expects communication from us. Kids can learn to do this simply by watching. When it’s part of your routine, they will come to expect it and join in when they are capable. Be sure to include prayer time in your nursery every week. This could be before snack or after your lesson. Talk to God simply. Show kids the posture of closed eyes and folded hands so they can learn to be serious and undistracted. Have them repeat simple words as you model talking to God. Soon enough, they will be saying their own prayers without prompting.
The size and ages found in church nurseries across the world may vary drastically, but the message taught should remain the same. The Gospel is the center of a Christ follower’s life. Start them early by incorporating straightforward strategies as you play. As you meet their physical needs, integrate words and actions that will plant seeds in your little ones to understand the simplicity of the Gospel – God made us and loves us. Jesus is our friend who came to help us. Therefore, we can help and love others.