The shoes come off as they enter the sacred space. Greetings are exchanged and they begin with prayer. The focus is fully on Jesus, with the story of the day on Noah. Welcome to Splash!, Marco Lutheran Church’s (MLC) program for parents and children.
The program was brainchild of Faith Rattei, MLC’s associate director of Christian outreach/youth.
“We just want to love God and love others,” said Rattei of the Splash! mission, “and we have fun.”
When Rattei was first called to MLC, she noticed that the majority of the congregation’s families had children under 5. So she created Splash! as a way to connect with those youngsters and their parents.
The program is similar to the one Rattei headed at her former church in Hugo, Minn. “The word “Splash!” is supposed to denote what happens after baptism,” explained Rattei. “This is the beginning of our new life in Christ.”
She noted that more churches are intentionally involving parents in the spiritual development of their children.
“The best part of Splash! is to watch these little people get excited when I pull out the Bible, to see them point out Jesus, Adam, Eve, Noah, etc.,” said Rattei. “To see them learn to fold their hands. I love watching the camaraderie grow between not only the kids but also the parents as we become more like a family than a class.”
Encouragement is something that Rattei strives to provide to parents, especially those who struggle to explain the role of God in everyday life.
“… Parents are the ones who really teach the faith,” said Rattei. “If a child were to regularly be brought to traditional church and Sunday school and we had their full attention the entire time. We would have an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus for only two hours a week. If we are trying to introduce them to the reality that you can have a daily walk with Jesus, this would not be the way to do it.”
Parents are with that child for a minimum of 56 hours a week. It makes more sense to equip the parents with tools to introduce their children to Jesus at home daily. Rattei sends home simple reminders to reinforce the lessons they learn together at Splash!
For example, one theme is God provides protection. A suggested activity is for the parent to say to their child as they put them in the car seat, “ ‘This protects you,’ ” said Rattei. “ ‘God provides protection too.’ It’s simple things like that, repeatedly through the week, that really can help a very young child make the connections of the reality of a loving God who cares for them.”
David Helm’s “Big Picture Story Bible” is fundamental to the class. The book highlights the bigger stories in the Bible and clearly illustrates how each one points to Jesus, the promised Messiah, and how he came to save us from our sins. Rattei created a curriculum plan that will take the children through the entire Bible in two years.
They spend four weeks on one story, allowing ample time to grasp the main point from that lesson.
It also allows a child to be sick a week, on vacation another week or visiting his or her other parent and still have an opportunity to be introduced to each Bible story and its underlying message.
Rattei is a commissioned minister with the Missouri Lutheran Synod. She has a bachelor’s degree in outreach and a minor in Lutheran Confessionalism, as well as has Director of Christian Outreach certification from Concordia University in St. Paul, (CSP), Minn.
“Going through this program at CSP helps me to approach things that seem very internal, like a Sunday school program, with a very external attitude,” she said. “It’s for parents who want to introduce their child to Jesus, Bible stories and moral teachings, but may not necessarily feel equipped to do that on their own.”
The program is very flexible and Rattei takes her cues from the parents. At her last church, at the end of class, the parents would discuss a parenting book. The parents at MLC wanted that time just to talk with each other and encourage each other as parents.
Eighteen-month-old Riley loves to come to Splash! Her favorite story is the one about Noah. Her mother, Christine High, hangs the story reminder on the wall in Riley’s room and they refer to it all week.
“There have been many rainbows since we have been doing the Noah’s Ark story,” said Missi Williams, mother of 17-month-old Joey. “When we see one we talk about God’s love for us, His covenant.” She hangs the story reminder over the changing table. “We sing the songs and read a verse every night.”
“I like that we can learn together and reinforce what we learn during the week,” said Taylor Gordon, mother of 3-year-old Riley.
“Marco Lutheran Church has a history of reaching out in creative ways with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who has commissioned us as His ambassadors to carry His message,” wrote the Rev. Kevin Koenig, pastor MLC in an Email. “Splash! seeks to assist parents with ways to begin cultivating a spiritual heart in their children by offering practical suggestions of what such a family might begin to do together. Unlike a more traditional approach, Splash! engages parents and children together in a musical, hands-on and story-telling time to accomplish its objective: building strong foundations for solid relationships with Jesus.”
Splash! meets every Sunday from 11 a.m. to noon in the church’s family room. The program is free; donations to the church are welcome. For information call the church office and ask for Faith.
Kathleen Tuttle, a Marco Island resident since 1987, has written articles for various non-profits for more than 25 years. She is a community volunteer, former science teacher and microbiologist. Kathleen can be contacted at email@example.com.
Marco Lutheran Church: Splash!, 11 a.m. to noon, Sundays in the Family Room. Parents and children from birth to 5 years old gather together to learn about Jesus and meet new people as they are equipped to be their child’s spiritual leader. Parents will receive take-home tools to provide practical ways to reinforce what was learned during the session as well as a free “The Big Picture Story Bible.”
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church: Open house for St. Mark’s Christian Formation will be held after the 9:15 a.m. service on Sept. 11. Parents are invited to visit the classrooms spaces and learn about the programs. Classes begin on Sept. 18. Godly Play for children age 3 to kindergarten, first through third grade, and fourth and fifth grades will begin at 9 a.m. and Rite 13 and Journey to Adult for grades sixth through 12th grades will begin at 10:15 a.m.
Wesley United Methodist Church: A Service for Peace and Healing, 10 a.m., Sept. 11. A special prayer session will follow the service. All are welcome.
Jewish Congregation of Marco Island: Open House 1 to 4 p.m., Sept. 18. Meet with Rabbi Edward Maline, D.D., Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen and other members who are involved in the leadership at the temple. The open house is free, reservations are requested. Refreshments will be served. Information: JCMI office or Harvey Brenner at 304-0737.
New Life Community Church: Believercize for women, 10 a.m., every Friday. Free. Information call Bobbie at 250-5147.
Alcoholics for Christ, a ministry for victory over addictive lifestyles, meets 6:30 p.m., Fridays in the fellowship hall. For information call Mike at (313) 530-3395.