National Lutheran News

The Little Lutheran brings the faith of children into the community’s life

A quality magazine for children is no child’s play

When The Little Lutheran magazine first came across Cheryl Stearns’ desk, it
was love at first sight. “I was just so excited!” said Stearns, who is the
Director of Children’s Ministries at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in
Apple Valley. “The Little Lutheran is the best product for early childhood that
I have seen in years!”

The idea for a new children’s magazine began when Elizabeth Hunter, an
associate editor of The Lutheran magazine, sought ways to be a better
godparent. “I have godchildren all over the country,” said Hunter. “And I
wondered how I could keep those promises I made at their baptisms to
support their faith journeys.” Hunter envisioned a publication that could
teach very young children about the Christian faith from a Lutheran
viewpoint.

When Hunter proposed this concept to Sonia Solomonson, managing editor of
The Lutheran, Solomonson’s response was immediate: “I thought, ‘Bingo!’ I
had wanted The Lutheran to do ancillary products for years. Also, I have eight
grandchildren, and do I care about magazines for them? Oh yeah!”

After researching the market, Solomonson and Hunter discovered that most
Christian resources for this age group (0-6) are designed from the adult’s
point of view. “These resources must be adult-mediated — for example,
Sunday school material,” said Hunter. “We wanted something just for the
child.”

The Little Lutheran magazine launched with Hunter and Solomonson as editor
and executive editor respectively (this, in addition to their duties at The
Lutheran). It may look like child’s play, but it’s a tall order fashioning a
publication that’s theologically sound, develop- mentally appropriate,
beautiful, and interesting. “We’ve benefited from early childhood education, a
theological consultant, and sign language consultants,” said Hunter.

Each issue features prayers, songs, a sign language component, and a story
of a Lutheran saint. “Our ‘saints’ are regular people,” said Hunter. “One was a
16-year-old born with spina bifida whose 12-year-old brother wrote about
him.”

The Little Lutheran’s sturdy cardstock pages (bound, not stapled) and unique
square shape are perfect for little hands. “The inks and paper are safe,” said
Hunter. “Everything is designed for a child’s hands, eyes, and heart.”

Each issue features a letter from the editor to help parents and other
caregivers discuss that particular issue’s theme with children. However, a
child does not have to read to love the magazine! Images figure prominently
in The Little Lutheran. “It’s really an art-based magazine,” said Hunter.

The Little Lutheran’s art director Amber Leberman said, “We shape images
that are both engaging and consistent with the Christian Lutheran tradition —
we may be forming the images that children take with them for a lifetime. It
helps that we work with great illustrators and photographers — many of
whom are award-winning! We want a balanced representation of boys and
girls of varied ethnic backgrounds and abilities.”

“The Little Lutheran may also be a way to invite all people — not just
children — back to church or to introduce them to the faith,” said Hunter.
The Little Lutheran launched in 2007. Said Solomonson, “The only negative
was that some felt that $24.95 for a yearly subscription was too costly. But
compare that to paying 25 bucks for a toy. Now toys are great, but what the
magazine does is create relationships between a parent, a child, and their
Savior. And it can be used over and over.”

The goal though is to increase the subscription base to between 50,000 and
100,000 in order to decrease the subscription price and cover staff time.
Right now, it’s a labor of love for The Lutheran staff.

The Little Lutheran is already being used in some Twin Cities congregations.
As mentioned, Cheryl Stearns uses it extensively at Shepherd of the Valley
Lutheran Church. She said, “Being a very large church, we’ve put sample
copies in our worship bags for our little kids. We’ve also distributed the sales
sheets to members. The Little Lutheran is perfect for grandparents to send to
out-of-state grandchildren — an excellent way to pass on the faith!”

Champlain Park High School teacher Niki Muenchow teaches Sunday School at
Christ English Lutheran (ELCA), a small inner-city church in North
Minneapolis. Muenchow discovered The Little Lutheran when she was
babysitting for her pastor. She said, “This publication is darling, and it has
great craft ideas, songs, poems, and stories. Our Sunday School staff decided
that The Little Lutheran would work as Sunday School curriculum. The
[magazine] has pictures and stories for little kids yet enough ideas and
concepts for older kids to understand. Each week, we explore one theme
from the issues — sharing, giving thanks, and communion, for example. They
certainly have impressed our congregation!”

In 2009 The Little Lutheran staff will launch a sister publication, The Little
Christian. Said Hunter, “A lot of people would love to send The Little Lutheran
to their grandchildren, but their children are not Lutheran and the title might
make them feel as if we’re trying to convert them,” said Hunter. “It’s the
same magazine, but we’ll change a few things to make it more ecumenical.”
Hunter said, “The Little Lutheran is really a reminder to a child that God and
the family of God love him or her very much. We want the child to know that
God will always be present in their lives and Jesus is their savior and friend.”