Jesus said, “Let the little ones come to me.” City Harvest’s Nursery Ministry does that and much more.
City Harvest Church’s Nursery Ministry started 21 years ago, in the back room of the church’s former premise at Hollywood Theatre along Tanjong Katong Road. With fewer than 20 workers, many of whom were in their 70s, they helped new mothers look after their babies during the worship services. Today, the ministry sees 107 nursery workers serving every week.
These volunteers had a special treat last Sunday, Jan 17, at the Nursery Ministry’s Thanksgiving Gathering. It was a time of feasting and fellowship. Volunteers spent the afternoon catching up with one another, and got to know each other better through games like “Human Bingo”.
Each Nursery Ministry volunteer serve every fortnight, catering to the needs of parents and babies in one of the five nursery rooms. Each room is set up for a different age group, with a room just for Chinese Church. Shirley Yeo—affectionately known to all as “Aunty Shirley”—and Christina Low, both full-time church workers, lead this group of volunteers, all ladies.
“I have a passion for kids,” said Aunty Shirley, 74. “When I retired as a teacher, I still wanted to do something for the children. I went to Bible school for a year. At the time, I prayed to God, saying, ‘If it is Your will, ‘I want to live for 100 years to serve Your kingdom, especially the babies.’ When the church wanted to start the Nursery Ministry, Pastor Kong (Hee, senior pastor of CHC) approached me.”
Besides looking after little babies during service, the ministry also aims to help new mothers adapt to having their babies with them in church, and to help them stay connected to the church. Yeo and Low pioneered a few new initiatives in the past year, mostly in response to the increasing number of babies in the church. The five nursery rooms have started to “feel cramped”, as Yeo puts it, so the Nursery Ministry decided to expand into the main church hall. Now, parents of children under the age of two can attend service with their young ones at the Parents’ Corner at the right side of the stage in the main church hall.
“This way, parents can be more involved with the service, and they can directly hear Pastor preaching ,” explained Yeo. The only difficulty is that “there you can’t breastfeed or change nappies. We ask the parents to come back to the nursery rooms for that.”
In addition, the indefatigable duo started visiting new mothers in 2015, completing 120 visits by December.
“Some of these new mothers have very little support at home,” Yeo explained. “It really helps when they have someone to talk to, especially about baby blues. We also teach them practical things like how to feed the baby, express milk and so on. This way, they know that there’s someone they can talk to and depend on, and they feel that the church and God are with them.
“This is important, especially for the single mothers in the church. They are often quite shy and inhibited. The visits give us a chance to have one-to-one talks with them, to hear their woes. Some of them are very interested in knowing God better, so we get the pastoral team to give them Bible Study.”
In 2016, Yeo plans to engage the help of nursery volunteers to visit these new mothers. She is also exploring other initiatives like babysitting and baby drop-off schemes to give new mothers some time to themselves.
The Nursery Ministry’s impact is not just on the lives of the people they serve, but also on those who serve. “We joined the ministry thinking that we can give; in actual fact, we have received a lot more,” said Thin Seow Ping, 49, a former nurse who has been in the ministry for 13 years. For many of the volunteers, it is the camaraderie and sisterhood that they are thankful for.
Adeline Wong, 31, who works at Changi General Hospital, agreed. “Nursery has helped me a lot, especially during the trial season. It is what kept me grounded and coming to church, week in, week out, even when my cell group was disbanded.”
The Thanksgiving Gathering was Yeo’s way of expressing her appreciation to every nursery member. Her personal message to them is, “Without you, we wouldn’t even have a nursery ministry. I really love you and appreciate each one of you.”