Church #39. Meet Michelle Ketepa. She is the Director of Faith Formation at Beautiful Savior Luther Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. With an average worshiping attendance of 200 people on a given Sunday, Ketepa strives to reach all ages with the love of God.
Ketepa asked, “Have you ever tried to stake a tomato plant once it is fully grown?” While she goes own to admit that staking a fully grown tomato is not impossible, it is much easier when the young plant is small and malleable. Same is true for helping families establish faith practices in the home. Start early.
Five years ago when Ketepa started at Beautiful Savior’s, there was an influx of little littles. So many little feet created momentum not only in Sunday School but in worship as well. The congregation seized the opportunity to build off this momentum with one goal in mind: How to help the families and the congregation live out their baptismal promises at an early age?
(FYI: In Lutheran theology, parents, caregivers, and sponsors make a promise to the newly baptized to live among God’s faithful people, hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serve all people following the example of Jesus, and strive justice and peace in all the earth. The congregation in these promises to walk beside and help families live them out.)
Here is what Ketepa did:
Conversation. New pitter-patters of feet make noise in the sanctuary and in worship. Some people loved the new energy; for others the noise made it harder to hear. Ketepa encouraged family worship while having conversation with the older generations. Ephesians 4 is her fall back story to remind people that everyone has a place in the body of Christ. Little feet included.
Modeling. Sunday mornings has a special class for kids age 2-4 and their caregivers. It’s led by 6 people who are not parents of toddlers but love this age group. This allows parents or caregivers to interact with their kids without the stress of teaching. The most important thing they do in the class is model what parents and caregivers can do at home. They read together, practice prayers together, and what it means to bless each other. Teach first an idea.
Practice. Caregivers or parents are then given a new faith practice to try at home. Sometimes it is a prayer to say before dinner or bedtime; service opportunities such as make a card or bake cookies for someone who is sick; reading a particular Bible story together for the week; or playing “baptism” at bath time (the caregiver splashes water on the forehead of the toddler and says “God loves you!”) The idea is to give families one thing new to try at home every couple of weeks. Too many things in a row can overwhelm families. Only one thing.
Blessing. Families with toddlers are lifted up in worship at the beginning of the school year with a special blessing and a Bible. It’s the same Bible they use in the Sunday School that can be read at home. This blessing is a concrete reminder for the families and the congregation of the promises made at baptism. Because toddlers move so much, the blessing is done right at the beginning of the service. (If you want a copy of this blessing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Why is this ministry important? It is important because of what it says in Proverbs 22:6. “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” In other words, start early with the faith formation of children. In doing so, it equips parents or caregivers to see faith as an everyday activity and gets them ready for the next building block. But the most important part is be public about lifting kids up in worship. This reminds the church of who we are and what we are to do: followers of Jesus and building new disciples.
For more information about this ministry, please contact Michelle Ketepa at MKetepa@bslcmi.org.