The church is a body—so the metaphor goes—that works best when all parts are present and accounted for. This means that in every church community, each member has an important role to play. So when my wife and I started attending a new church last year, we dutifully asked the pastor how we could get involved and contribute to the life of our newfound congregation.

I assumed once he discovered that my spiritual cup overfloweth with wisdom, maturity, and humility, he would fast-track my elder nomination and ask me to pinch-hit in the pulpit from time to time. But he had different plans for me: the nursery.

I suppressed an instinctive “thanks, but I’d rather die” and listened as he recalled a lesson his father taught him after he had announced that he had no intention of changing his newborn’s diaper. “You will never truly love this baby unless you serve her,” his father told him. “Indeed, you will never learn to love anyone, including the Lord, if you refuse to serve.”

So, my options were: a) give up on my dreams of lay ministerial superstardom and take my talents to the playroom or b) break up with Jesus. After carefully contemplating the pros and cons of each, I volunteered as tribute.

Things started out rough, but I’ve grown to love it. In an effort to help others going through similar trials and tribulations, then, I offer up the following model, which charts the stages of transitioning to nursery work—a bona fide Gatliff original that totally has nothing to do with anybody named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Stage 1: Denial. Okay, so maybe spending a Sunday morning disinfecting toy trucks covered in spit-up won’t be so bad. It’s not like these ...

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