This Sunday we will have to decide whether or not we should hand out saltine crackers.
And we'll be busy matching diaper bags with nametags and who is supposed to take a nap and whose hairclip got pulled out and which baby is the odor culprit and what toys were slobbered and need to be washed.
And there's potential in there for us to be outnumbered. And out maneuvered. And there have definitely been Sundays when all I've wanted was-- out.
But I never want to outgrow the nursery.
Because for me it's bigger than just an hour or so of childcare that provides a way for moms and dads to worship God in church without interruptions (too many, that is, at least...).
The nursery is a place where lives and stages intermingle and it helps me remember what it was like to be a new mama with little ones. I'm so quick to forget the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion of that stage. It also provides an opportunity for me to grow friendships with women from other stages of life. As we sit there in those rocking chairs, lulling little ones to sleep we swap windows. I get to see what it's like to be a grandma, caring for grandchildren whose parents don't know the Lord. Through someone else's window I hear the heartache of a widow whose husband has only been gone a year and what it is like to live through that first Christmas season. A new mama shares the struggles of too-many-sleepless nights and an infant who won't regain her birth weight. The view is expansive as I listen to a college-aged friend talking about the possibilities for her future and marriage dreams. And there is special kinship with the mom whose little five year old has just prayed to receive Christ.
Now, I'm not saying we all need to work in our church's nursery.
In fact, that's not the point at all.
But too often we miss out on the benefits of blended stages if we stick to our own specific age or stage group. In a society that tends to be transitional and scattered, where extended family is often distant (literally and relationally), there is an even greater need for those gaps to be filled within the church family. And God commands it--
"Older women...are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children." ~Titus 2:3 & 4
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." ~ 1 Thess. 5:11
And how can that happen if women from different ages and stages don't pursue opportunities for our lives to intersect?
So how can we do this? How can we encourage those Titus 2 connections?
1) We can pray and ask God to create and help us notice opportunities to connect with older and younger women.
2) We can purposefully choose to serve in ministries (like the nursery) that are outside of our current age/stage.
3) We can initiate-- Invite a younger woman over for a walk or coffee. Ask an older couple to join our small group study.
4) We can take risks. Instead of sitting by the same familiar faces in social settings, we can push ourselves to walk up and meet someone new.
5) We (as younger women) can cultivate humility and share vulnerably when we are struggling, seeking wisdom from an older woman we respect.
6) We (as older women) can build connections and trust by reaching out and offering help with watching children or time spent side-by-side.
7) We can incorporate one another as God presents opportunities. If an outing for younger women is planned, we can invite several older women to join in or if a social gathering is planned with an older crowd, we can include a handful of younger women.
“Embedded in the larger story of redemption is a principle we must not miss: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others.”
~Paul David Tripp Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
We live in an era where even within the church, much is unfortunately segregated by age. A consequence of this is that we often miss out on the joy that can come through mentoring that develops naturally--where lives intermesh and genuine care and wisdom is shared in side-by-side interaction. So as older women, we must make it a conscious choice to never outgrow the nursery. And as younger women, we must value the wisdom that comes from beyond the nursery years.
Maybe I'll see you in the nursery next Sunday?