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

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

High value for congregations

June 24th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

One of the qualities on which we focus a great deal is the concept of providing good value for high quality faith formation, worship and music resources for congregations.  This attention to detail comes from our editors and resource developers who develop the concepts for our new products.  They are assisted by our purchasing team who assist them in sourcing the very best vendors to manufacture the resources focusing on quality, timeliness and finding ways to reduce costs.  The marketers step in with the actual pricing.  Of course, since we only exist through selling the resources we create, we need to make a fair profit in order to have the financial resources to pay our staff, our creative partners and all of the costs of running a business.  Plus, we need to have enough left over to invent the next round of resources for the Church!

I could point to many resources that we publish providing this high value proposition for congregations.  But, my colleague Eric Vollen did a great job of lifting up one of the significant benefits of this in his recent blog post about PreludeMusicPlannerour web-based subscription resource for church musicians. Because in addition to working at AF, he is a church musician, he has a deep, practical understanding of the value of this resource.  Here is an excerpt from Eric’s blog:

“…my church has been on the fence about subscribing to Prelude. So I drew up this comparison chart to show how much it would cost to buy the music we need for the coming months in print, versus the cost if we subscribed to Prelude.

In his post, Eric showed how he selected music that would have cost his congregation $445.  But, with their $79 per year annual subscription to PreludeMusicPlanner, the cost was only an additional $61.75.  So, even if they didn’t purchase any other music for the entire year, they have already saved $304.25!  And, chances are, they will continue to save even more money as they purchase music for other worship services in the coming months.


Intrigued?  Eric’s details in his blog post will help you see why PreludeMusicPlanner provides great value (not to mention saving musicians time and providing access to a wide range of pieces of music not only from Augsburg Fortress, but also from several other superb music publishers!)








Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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