Meet Sophie, aged 2 ½.
Sophie worships at Church of the Servant; took on the role of Mary while visiting her grandparent’s church in New Jersey; recently built her first snowman; and fancies the color pink. If you ask Sophie, “Who are stories of God’s book, the Bible for?” she will tell you, “For Mommy and Daddy and Sophie and Oscar too!” And then you may want to pull up a chair and sit for a while, because Sophie will add to the list the names and descriptions of anyone she has seen that day.
That’s because, in addition to including Sophie in worship, taking her outdoors to play, and teaching her all about colors, Sophie’s parents spend time nurturing her faith where it needs to happen the most—at home. They do so in age appropriate ways: offering mealtime, bedtime and anytime prayers; providing her with a manger scene to touch and play with at Christmas; cradling her—and now her new brother Oscar—in their arms as they sing songs of praise; and regularly reading one of the 52 Bible stories from the God Loves Me storybook series.
It’s no co-incidence that Sophie is able to tell you for whom God’s stories belong—each book in the God Loves Me series begins with this poem: “This is a story from God’s book, the Bible. It’s for [say name(s) of your child(ren). It’s for me too!” Hearing those words each day since she was old enough to cuddle on her mama or daddy’s lap has planted them in Sophie's heart. And, although she's only 2 1/2 and has just become the proud wearer of 'big girl underpants' and the excited owner of a 'big girl bed,' Sophie is already beginning to understand that God has job for her to do here on earth. After reading the story of how Jesus picked his helpers, the disciples, Sophie’s mom wondered aloud, “Who else is God’s helper?” Sophie’s eager and instant response: “Me!”
Equally exciting for her parents is seeing Sophie apply what she is learning from the stories about God to what she knows about the world around her. Each book contains follow-up ideas for both at home and at church. Those ideas include singing songs with simple verses such as 'Go Now in Peace' or 'God is So Good.' Recently, after reading the story of creation ,her family ended by singing the song suggested in the book and adding the verse, “I love God’s world” as they sang. A few days later, as the family was driving in their car and admiring the pink sunset, Sophie’s mom asked who made the sky so beautiful. Sophie responded as expected: “God!” But then she did something her family didn’t expect—she began to sing “I love God’s world, I love God’s world, I love God’s world, thank you, dear God. Amen.”
When babies are baptized in Reformed congregations they hear their church families promise to support and encourage their families as they nurture the faith of their children. This week, in an effort to update God Loves Me, the beloved series of storybooks designed for children aged 2-3, the Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministry of the CRCNA (of which I am a part) began a crowd funding campaign. The dream? To get the books into the home of every family with young children. To help accomplish that goal, the books are being offered at a pre-order price of over half off the regular price (now only $60 for all 52 books) and all those who care about supporting families as they nurture the faith of their young children are invited to make a donation.
I could give more details about what we are doing—and I do so in the video to which this page is linked—but I think Sophie’s story illustrates why we’re doing it, don’t you?