We're Catholic, and I've never been in a church that has a staffed nursery. It seems like it's almost taboo to mention it, given the emphasis on families attending church together. Still, like Aimee, I would love to have this option. My toddler is big, strong, loud, and very active. There's no way I could bring him to Mass, especially while I'm pregnant. Even DH has a hard time managing him. And I know he'd have a blast in a nursery, playing and running around.
Most churches we've been to do have crying rooms, but, in the majority of cases, we don't find them to be places where we'd want to take our children, who learn so much by example and observation. Since I'm feeling curmudgeonly tonight, I think it would be simplest to list the negatives we've encountered, before attempting to turn them into positive suggestions.
Things we don't like about most crying rooms we've seen:
* Parents who act as if it's a playgroup, and sit around chatting about their children's outfits, potty training, etc. while Mass is going on.
* Decorations that are reminiscent of someone's living room, e.g. knick-knacks and still-life paintings.
* Huge toy boxes overflowing with trashy, noisy toys and torn books.
* 2-year-olds rampaging unsupervised around crawling infants.
* Goldfish cracker crumbs ground into the rug.
* Parents who bring grade-school-aged children into the crying room because they're squabbling/"bored," and let them chat, play board games, etc.
* Adults who sit in the crying room when they have a cold, so their coughing and sneezing doesn't disrupt the Mass.
Things we'd hope/expect to find in a crying room (and have actually found, on rare occasions):
* Parents who try to model appropriate church-going behavior for their children, and participate in the prayers, singing, etc. as much as possible.
* A room that's decorated like the main part of the church (even with pews, if possible).
* A small box of quiet toys and shelf of books, preferably with religious significance.
* Toddlers are well supervised, or there's a gated area for the tiny ones.
* "No snacks; bottles & sippy cups only" rule.
* "Infants/toddlers & immediate family only" rule, with bouncers if necessary. Catholic parishes could call in the Knights of Columbus, with their ceremonial swords.
Sorry to sound like such a grump... and maybe these issues don't even come up in the OP's church... but, if they do, I think they need to be considered from the beginning. Any extra features (nice though they may be!
) are going to be secondary to the overall atmosphere.