Becoming a baby friendly church
You can help families with babies and toddlers - whether regulars, visitors or those coming for infant baptism or dedication - feel welcome, safe and included by equipping them with all the information they need. It’s so much less daunting coming to church with a baby if you know what to expect and that the people there are for you and keen to help.
We’d really recommend creating a little guide that answers some common questions and distributing it widely. As you create your guide you may find it prompts you to think about some little tweaks and changes you could make so that your church is even more welcoming and accessible for families with babies. This will look very different in every church but here are some ideas to get you started:
Information to include
If you have had a baby, think back to what you needed and wanted to know or ask a parent from your church to brainstorm with you. Some ideas include:
- Can I bring my baby or toddler to church? Don’t assume people know that littles ones are welcome. Share that you would love their family to come and that includes their baby or toddler. Don’t worry if they cry - here are some options (you might mention creche, a children’s corner, place they can get toys and books, places to walk around etc). If you have more than one service, which would be the best one for them to go to?
- Where can I breastfeed my baby? If possible, give options. Do you have a room with an audio or visual feed of the service where they can have more privacy? Could you offer feeding cushions, bouncers and nappy changing facilities in the same place? If they are welcome to feed in church make that clear too.
- Where can I heat up my baby’s bottle? Is there somewhere they can get hot water, even if it’s not coffee time? Is there a microwave for warming baby food?
- Where can I give my baby or toddler food? Do you have any high chairs? Is there an area you would be happy for people to give little one’s lunch (either pick a room with a hard floor or maybe arrange to have a tablecloth cover it). Are they welcome to have snacks in the service?
- What age does my baby go to creche (or whatever you call it)? Do they have to go or can I keep them with me? If you offer a creche be clear where that is, when it starts, if parents are expected to stay with their baby, and how you will respond if baby is upset.
- Where can I change my baby’s nappy? Make sure that this is accessible by mums and dads and let people know what you’d like them do with the dirty nappies too.
- Can I bring my buggy/pushchair? Are you happy for people to take it into the service with them, if not where would you like them to leave it? Think through health and safety but also how to help parents engage with the service if they have a sleeping baby.
Accessing support (practical, pastoral and prayer)
- Which groups can I go to to meet other parents or parents-to-be? Do you have any toddler or baby groups that you run or support? If you have any midweek Bible studies or small groups that a baby would be welcome to, mention these as well.
- Can I get my child christened/baptised/dedicated here? Explain how your church welcomes new babies, what it will involve and how to find out more about that.
- Who can I ask to chat with me if I'm struggling or pray for or with me? Give some names, photos and contact details of people they can contact. These could be church staff or volunteers. If you have a particular time or place that you do this, mention that too.
- If you offer meal support, make sure they know how to access this. There are lots of free websites that can sort the organisation of this for you like Food Tidings and Take them a meal. Make sure to check any dietary requirements, the dates it would be most helpful to be brought meals and how they want to be contacted to deliver the meals.
- If you offer clothes or equipment support, make sure they know how to access this too. Does your church run Baby Basics, a baby clothing library or similar? Do you have a Facebook group where parents pass on used clothes and equipment?
- Where can I get support and encouragement on helping my baby to meet and know God? Remember church is there to be supportive community around the parents and carers who are the ones who have the time and opportunity to coach their children spiritually. Mention any groups that you run, a newsletter or email list if you have one and direct them to parentingforfaith.org (particularly the under fives section of the website). The Parenting for Faith podcast could be a great encouragement to them in the early days.
- Offer some encouragement. This is a season of huge transition and challenge for many people. You might like to add some encouragement about bringing their little one to church (like this) or this post about ways they can connect with God in this new season.
People to give it to
Don’t limit it just to people you know are already planning to come to church. You might be surprised how many people would like to come if they knew their baby is welcome and how to handle their needs throughout the service. Key groups to think about might be:
- Parents at your toddler group
- Anyone you spot with a bump or a baby at community events that your church runs
- Anyone thinking of having their baby baptised or dedicated at your church
- Expectant parents (pregnant or waiting to adopt)
- Anyone who visits your church with a baby
Places to put it
- On your website (this is the first place most people will search for information)
- On social media
- Have physical paper copies for your welcomers/stewards, kids’ team and somewhere visible where people can pick one up if they are interested.