Common sense tells us that when your child is vomiting, has a fever, or is blowing lots of thick green guk out his nose, you stay home with him until he is well. Your work would not be happy with you if you brought that child with you into the office and held him on your lap hacking stuff up during a meeting. And the schools all have “well-child” policies that would keep you from leaving your child in class that day puking in a bucket under his desk or passing out during gym. Doctor’s offices would make your child with a heavy cough wear a mask while there. So why do we treat church so differently?
I overheard a staff member whispering to another staff member once, “I would never ever leave my child in the nursery here. That place is a Petri dish of every bacteria known to man. No one leaves there healthy!” Several parents responded to our survey saying they wouldn’t use the nursery for fear of their child catching an illness. It was time to act. We researched well-child policies from surrounding schools and churches and came up with our own that matches our needs.
Some things we included in ours went something like this:
“If your child is displaying any of the symptoms below either now or in the past 24 hours, please keep your child with you, and have them sit out of children’s ministries until they are well.
Keep your child home if they have:
Fever over 99, vomiting or diarrhea,runny nose especially with any color of discharge, heavy wet coughs, unexplained rashes, skin infections, impetigo, boils, ringworm, eye infections, childhood diseases such chickenpox, mumps, measles, rubella, pertussis, scarlet fever etc.
If a child develops any of the above symptoms while in our care, we will contact the child’s parents as soon as possible so that they might tend to the child’s illness.
Our Children’s Ministry staff will not administer any type of medication to the children placed in our care.”
At first we caught a lot of backlash. I had the volunteers call me over to speak with parents who were not being able to leave a sick child. I got a lot of excuses like “Well, the school won’t take him either and I really need a break. Here you take him!” And “Oh yeah, that rash has been spreading all over his legs since this morning. He caught it at daycare, but it’s not contagious.” and “This is a church. You have to take anyone!” No wonder people didn’t want to use the nursery. Again, I didn’t understand this until I had kids of my own and found out that one nasty virus could waylay our whole family for a week. The bottom line is that you need to do your research, come up with a solid well-child policy, and have your pastor approve it. Then you need to post it somewhere visible so you can make it apparent you are not targeting any particular child; this is the policy across the board.
It is extremely important to make sure no parent feels singled out or embarrassed in front of others. Yes you do have to turn some children away if they are too ill, for the safety of all the other children and your workers, but remember to be kind and caring. That poor parent may have had a very rough week and thought “maybe we are well enough now to finally get out” when they just weren’t quite ready. Always use grace and kindness. But keep that kids’ area a “well-child area” as much as you possibly can.
From Trisha’s Book “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” available on Amazon