You've Been Splashed!
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers a popular line of faith formation resources from Augsburg Fortress for children from birth to age 3. Splash! is a splashing success. Splash! Packs, the first products in this exciting series, are designed specifically for families with infants and toddlers.
The packs cover three age ranges: 1-12 months, 13-24 months and 25-36 months. Each Splash! Pack contains 12 issues of Parent Pages and a music CD.
The monthly Parent Pages offer ideas for faith-filled play, worship, meals and prayer together. By mailing Parent Pages each month, congregations stay connected to young children and their families.
The music CDs are a terrific part of the Splash! Packs, too! Babies will be lulled to sleep listening to Sleepy Time Tunes, the CD in the 1-12 Months Splash! Pack. Families will get moving to the Bible story songs on Totally Toddler Tunes, the 13-24 month CD. And kids will learn songs they’ll hear in Sunday school on the Singable Sunday Tunes CD, the 25-36 month CD.
More on Birth to Three Ministry
Congregations have so much to offer families of infants and toddlers! For a more in-depth look at the role your congregation can play in early faith formation of young children, read on for an interview with Dawn Rundman, lead development editor of the Splash! team and download a Power Point presentation on Birth to Three Ministry.
“Over the last decade, researchers in fields like neuroscience and developmental psychology have made astounding discoveries about the capabilities and potential of children from birth to 3,” reports Dawn Rundman. Rundman is the lead development editor for Splash! Birth to Three Faith Formation Resources at Augsburg Fortress. “These scientists report that until recently, they had no idea that infants and young children could learn as early, as much, and as quickly as they do.”
Babies Are Big Business
Rundman, who holds a doctoral degree in developmental psychology, describes the business world&rssquo;s reaction to these scientific results. “Thousands of products have been developed in response to this research. Just look at the array of brain-based toys, books, videos and other products now available. Toys used to be good enough if they were developmentally appropriate. Now toy makers tout that their toys actually enhance development, citing research findings in areas like learning, memory, music and social interactions.“
Brands for Babies
Marketing research suggests that companies treat young children as customers who are able to recognize brands. “These findings on children*rsquo;s capabilities can be misinterpreted, even abused. In some companies, the bottom line is more important than the well-being of children,” claims Rundman. “Additionally, advertising directed at parents may suggest that if they don’t purchase such-and-such a toy, they will somehow be jeopardizing their child’s development.”
Congregations: Good for Baby!
Rundman asserts that congregations are in a great position to respond to this research. “A church — and especially worship time in that church — provides experiences for infants and toddlers that can enhance and stimulate development in so many areas: physical, social, emotional, sensory and cognitive.” Rundman points to the social, multisensory nature of worship. “Where else can babies and toddlers interact with dozens of friendly people of many ages? Where else can they hear so many types of music? Where else do they see vivid colors, images and symbols that aren’t commercial brands or logos? The church is a unique place for development to happen.”
Rundman also emphasizes that church is one of the only settings in our society that is safe, intergenerational and not trying to sell anything to kids and their parents. “Instead of brand names, slogans and logos, the church’s message is rooted in one image — the cross, which reminds us of Jesus’ unending love for us. A church can be a sanctuary from the media-saturated world that a family must face. This community of people expands our understanding of family to include people of many ages and backgrounds who care deeply for a child.”
What’s the most important reason for congregations to respond to the birth to three research? “Baptism!” Rundman declares. &ldquoi;A congregation needs to support parents in fulfilling the promise they make at their child’s baptism. Those three splashes of water signify the beginning of a wondrous journey as a child of God.” But many parents aren’t certain about their role in this journey. They need reassurance that the spiritual development of their young child can happen during their everyday activities, not during some separate set-aside religion time. Rundman, a new parent herself, knows that parents of young children don’t have much time to spare. “New parents need ideas, they need affirmation from other parents and grandparents, they need prayers — and their faith community is just the place to give them what they need. This support can help parents fulfill their baptismal promise of raising their child in the faith. And remember, congregation members also make a promise during the child’s baptism.”
Faith Formation: What’s a Parent to Do?
Rundman emphasizes that many resources help people prepare for parenthood, including books, magazines and classes. But there isn’t much available in the way of describing how faith formation happens or how to nurture it. “Many parents can tell you all sorts of strategies for putting their babies to sleep, dealing with picky eaters and encouraging language development. What they haven’t read about is how to introduce Bible stories to their babies, talk about God with their toddlers or establish prayer rituals during meals.”
Splash! Parent Pages
The content of the monthly Parent Pages helps them do just that — incorporate faith formation into the events of their daily lives. None of the activities requires elaborate preparations or materials. Rundman explains that the areas covered in each month’s Parent Pages are topics like prayer, worship and mealtime. “Each issue of Parent Pages helps families use everyday events — reading, playing, eating — to introduce the stories of the faith, the comforting and parental love of God and the friendship of Jesus. And there’s lightness and humor too — the cartoons are very clever, and I hope parents will try out some words in other languages that are featured each month.”
Rundman sees the Splash! Pack music CDs playing an important role in faith formation as well. “We wanted to include music that matched up to each of the age groups. The CD for the first year is full of soothing lullabies. Getting that baby to sleep is a top priority!” On the CD for kids between 13 and 25 months, the songs connect kids to Bible stories in more active ways. “Toddlers are on the go, so what better way to introduce Bible stories than to have them hear, sing and move to the story?” The CD for the 25-36 month Splash! Pack contains songs of the faith that kids will probably hear when they begin Sunday school.
Splash! Packs: A Great Step
Rundman encourages churches to order Splash! Packs for every child between the ages of birth to three. “With Splash! birth to three resources, Augsburg Fortress has taken an exciting step in supporting congregations and their early childhood ministry. We’re helping congregations offer consistent, practical support for families to nurture faith development in their young children,” she says. Undoubtedly these resources will spark discussion in congregations about what it means to be a child-loving church.
Use these ideas to purchase Splash! resources for all the young children in your congregation.
Budget for Splash! Packs
Prioritize birth to three ministry in your congregation. Include funds for Splash! Packs and other early childhood ministry resources in the congregation’s annual budget.
Invite the child’s baptismal sponsors or godparents to purchase Splash! Packs for one, two or all three years. Let them know you’ll take care of the monthly mailings.
Grandparents may be interested in purchasing Splash! Packs for the first three years of their grandchildren’s lives. And speaking of grandparent connections, ask all grandparents in your congregation if they would like to sponsor one, two or three years of Splash! Packs for their grandchildren who attend other congregations (or no congregation at all).
Invite Support from Other Groups
Many youth groups are expert fundraisers because of their experience raising money for youth events. Women’s groups often support congregational ministries. Explore whether these and other groups in your church could cover Splash! Pack costs for each child in your congregation.
Plan a Baby Shower!
Let congregation members know what is needed for a safe, well-stocked nursery. In addition to gathering supplies like diapers, toys and furnishings, ask members to sponsor a Splash! Pack for a child. Here’s a colorful way to show what is needed. Write each item (Splash! Pack, baby wipes, toys) on a paper cutout of a rubber duckie, baby bottle or other item. Hang these cutouts in a visible place and encourage people to take one or more and purchase the supplies or make an offering for the needed amount.
And remember to ask all members for prayer support for birth to three ministry in your congregation!