Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

Thinking about fall in your congregation?

July 26th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

As a church leader, July may be a relatively slow time (once VBS is completed, of course!)  It’s a great time, however, to pour a tall cold glass of iced tea


and sit at your computer for 45 to 60 minutes and learn something that will help your ministry this fall!

Whether you are a Christian Education director thinking about how to energize your Sunday School students and teachers or a pastor trying to imagine a new way to engage youth or a music director looking for a way to organize your music and find new selections through the year, we can help!

At Augsburg Fortress and sparkhouse, we have invested in a four-person team of content experts we call our Customer Education Team.  They listen to the needs of our partners in ministry from across the Church, then develop practical, brief webinars to provide helpful learning experiences for congregational leaders.  They offer 5 to 15 webinars each week.  Some are during the daytime and others are in the evening because we know that people have different scheduling needs.  Sometimes they are specific to a particular AF or sparkhouse resource, such as one of our Sunday School curricula or a worship and music resource we publish.  Other times, they are more general, and related to a topic such as stewardship.  Best of all, they are free!

I would encourage you to bookmark our webinars page:  Make a point of looking at it every couple of weeks to see what new offerings would be of interest for your ministry.  Share the link with your colleagues within your own congregation or a neighboring congregation!  Think about using one of our free webinars as a “snack and learn” opportunity for a group of colleagues!

I hope you’ll try out this relatively new, efficient way of learning something new to assist you in your ministry leadership!





Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

What does it take….

July 1st, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

What does it take to bring a sophisticated, easy to use, robust web-based subscription Sunday School resource to life?  Well, let me tell you!

What is it?  A web-based subscription resource for children’s Sunday School leaders for any one or more of our four sparkhouse Sunday School curriculaSpark: Activate Faith, Holy Moly, Connect, and Whirl!


What will it do?  It will…

  • Help you choose the resources to suit each age group and access them all in one place
  • Help you schedule lessons, classrooms, teachers, manage registration of the children and more
  • Allow you to try out free content from sparkhouse resources to which you haven’t yet subscribed
  • Use leader guides, lesson videos, and more online; anytime, anywhere from your computer
  • Streamline communication with parents and teachers
  • And, much more!

How can you find out more?




What does it take to make something this sophisticated, helpful and easy to navigate work?  The “behind the scenes” work for the past year by many people.  At last count, the participants included the following:

  • 5 from our sparkhouse editorial team
  • 5 from our information technology team
  • 3 from our marketing team
  • 3 from our customer education team
  • 4 or more from our sales and service team
  • 2 from our design team
  • 1 from our project management team
  • 6 from our web technology and publishing systems team

(are you counting?  We’re up to 29 sparkhouse and Augsburg Fortress staff people with direct involvement not to mention the people with indirect involvement as managers, executives, etc.)

  • Plus, outside contractors from two different expert firms who assisted with UX design and the coding of this terrific new web-based resource.
  • Plus, several Christian Educators who helped test sparkhouse online Sunday School as it was being developed.

So, a reasonable estimate is that approximately 40-45 people worked on bringing this resource to congregations to help you with your Sunday School classes!

Try it!  You’ll love it thanks to my many colleagues and other partners who helped make it possible!




Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

American Academy of Pediatrics encourages reading aloud to small children

June 25th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice. 

This statement encourages parents and other caregivers to read out loud to their children every day, beginning in infancy.  The statement’s lead author, Dr. Pamela High, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, RI and a professor at Brown University, said that the goal is to help parents “immunize their children against illiteracy.”

As someone who has spent many hours sitting on the floor reading aloud to groups of children and snuggled up on the coach reading to our grandchildren, I am delighted by this official pronouncement of the importance of this practice!

The opening statement in the abstract of this policy statement says,Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”

That last phrase, “builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime(emphasis mine) struck a particular chord with me.  If this is true for general language and literacy skill building, isn’t it also true for building the language and literacy of faith?

Isn’t this call for parents, grandparents and other caregivers to not just read aloud, but read age appropriate Bible stories and other faith-building stories aloud to the youngest children?

At Augsburg Fortress and sparkhouse, we pay a lot of attention to research regarding human development ages and stages as we create faith formation resources for the Church to make certain that they are appropriate for the children or youth for whom they are intended.

A couple of suggestions for families to use to help children begin to understand that they are baptized children of God include Welcome, Child of God  baptismal board book or Walt Wangerin’s classic Water Come Down: The Day Your Were BaptizedHere is a link to a charming brief blog post from Pastor Annie Edison-Albright as she describes her son’s daily engagement with Water Come Down.

There are many children’s bibles available for storytelling time, too.  My husband and I have given our Spark Story Bible to each of our three young grandchildren and they love being read to out of it and as they have grown older reading from it themselves to the younger ones. With 150 stories, gorgeous illustrations and Squiggles to find in each story for the youngest children’s entertainment, it is a rich resource.








Squiggles is this little green worm at the bottom center of this two page spread.  Invite a 2 year old to find Squiggles in each story and you’ll be delighted by the giggles that will ensue!

Our newest story bible for children is the Whirl Story Bible. Each of the 120 beautifully illustrated Bible stories ties to the Revised Common Lectionary.


The ideal, of course, is for parents to take the time each day to read to their infants and small children.  When a Bible story is read, the benefits compound by affirming the importance of our Christian faith in our daily lives.  In addition, one of the spiritual practices of Christian life, daily Scripture reading, is a habit started young!




But, we also know that parents with young children lead particularly busy lives and may not make the time for this type of intentional faith formation as often as they’d like.  This is where other family members and caregivers can assist.  Recently, I came across research from Pew Social Trends stating that “In 2011, 7.7 children in the U.S.—one-in-ten—were living with a grandparent, and approximately 3 million of these children were also being cared for primarily by that grandparent.”   












So, whether small children are living with a grandparent or are across the country, connected via Skype or Google Hangouts, daily Bible story reading can be made a priority by those grandparents for their grandchildren.  The benefits for language development, literacy and relationship development have been affirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The benefits of faith formation will be an added life-long benefit.






Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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