Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Welcome Valerie Ackermann to Dreams Coming True to tell us about The God Puzzle. Tell us a little about yourself, Valerie.
Well, I’m a mom of two boys, 12 and 9, I’ve been a full time Children’s ministry director at my church for 10 years. I’m a Canadian now living in the USA—met my American husband at Bible college in Canada where I got my BA in Theology and my MRS. 🙂 I’m a bit of a small town girl, love my family, love my girlfriend time (don’t get me wrong, I love the men in my house, but I sure appreciate some good girl time :))
When did this creative dream begin?
It began one night as I was sitting on the floor of my room doing devotions with my kids. I was using Sunday school curriculum workbooks and thought how unfair that was to the average parent. I had access to this wonderful material, but it assumed the teacher knew a lot, and it was expensive. I was frustrated that deep, yet user-friendly and affordable resources weren’t out there. I can’t stand watered down, entertaining devotionals for kids. They are at a crucial point in their spiritual development and they need quality information about the Bible and the Christian faith. Even if their parents know nothing, they should be given the tools to guide their children through the faith. This was the beginning of this book.
How did the The God Puzzle get started?
I started by writing it. Then I submitted a proposal to a publisher with some samples and got rejected. It happens a lot in publishing, and I was discouraged for several months and put it on hold. Then, I knew I had to write it. So I kept on. Then I was at the Children’s Pastors Conference in San Diego and was running late from one breakout session to another. So I chose one that was starting in the same building I was already in. That session, I met the President of the company that published my book. A year later, they invited me to publish with them and the rest is history.
What makes your project stand out from the crowd?
It is what any parent wants to teach their child about God and the Christian faith, all in one book. It is for ANY parent to use with ANY kid. No prep required. Yet it is deeply Biblical-laid out like a theology textbook, but for kids. So it is interactive, in their language, yet the Biblical concepts remain the same. It keeps their attention because they are filling in blanks, answering questions, doing crosswords to help them think through these concepts for themselves. It’s not the parent talking to the child, they participate together. In fact, the parents who have done it say they are learning right along with their child.
What are the goals and intentions of this project?
To equip every parent with a tool to teach their child at home where most of the faith learning takes place. As a children’s ministry director, I can tell you, and statistics can tell you that this can’t all happen in Sunday school. Sunday school isn’t designed to. It’s meant to support the parents. However, programs and books and resources continue to pour into church programs instead of into parents hands. They need the most help. And they need something they can actually use in the busyness of family life. The answer is not in a watered down devotional. The answer is putting all the pieces they learn from various places into a framework so they can see how their faith fits together. How everything points to Jesus and a relationship to Him. Otherwise, they don’t get how some parts are important and can disregard significant parts of their faith, or the whole thing.
How does your project create community?
Well, it invites every parent or grandparent or adult who is willing to do the book with the kids. Not just homeschooling parents, or parents who know a lot about the Bible, but every one who desires to teach their kids about God and the Christian faith. I think Christian parents can feel inferior if they don’t know what to teach about the Bible, or how to have the conversations about their faith with their kids. So they end up doing very little at home. This book puts a tool in every parents hand so kids can hear about the Bible and Jesus no matter how much their parent knows.
Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly . . . but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
You have to find your enthusiasm in the fact that God called you to do something and you are doing it for Him. It’s for no one else, but Him. It becomes an act of obedience and love to Him. That’s the best motivation.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from? How many are involved in the process? Does each contributer have a specific role?
I researched a lot of theology textbooks written for adults, many I had studied myself in college. Mixed with that was my kids. Knowing them helped me know how to speak to other kids in a way they could understand. I know kids from working with them at church but being a parent has been the greatest education to teach me how kids think, more than anything else.
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
The marketing post release of the book. There are so many books out there.
What have you learned?
To do what God asks you to do, whatever your project is. The results are His.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting your project?
I think the biggest misconception people have about writing a book is that it just happens easily. That you just sit down at your computer and out comes a manuscript that a publisher just loves. It is a lot of research, then writing, then rewriting, then editing, and reviewing and correcting. You don’t have a cheerleader, you have to do it for yourself. If you don’t finish your manuscript, no one will care. You need to find it within yourself to do the work, and somedays that is really hard.
What are some ways you promote your project?
To churches, to blogs, on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. I hired a publicist on top of what my publisher was doing because I wanted to hit as many angles as possible.
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
I’m shocked by how much work it is. No one really cares about you and people are so bombarded with ads and information, you have to offer something that stands out. I hired a publicist to do a lot of footwork and have loved them. My publisher handles marketing to retail stores, so I don’t have to worry about that.
Think really carefully at what you need. There are so many places to spend money, but not all are needed.
What social network has worked best for you?
Facebook for sure.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Do it, if God is calling you to do it.
Where do you see this project in five years?
I see it in churches, in the hands of parents, and all over Christian schools. It is already on it’s way to Rwanda to 5,000 kids with a mission organization. I would love that to keep happening, bringing the word of God to kids who don’t have many resources to teach them.
How can we find your creative dream come true? www.leadmetoGod.com
Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of The God Puzzle. Winner will be announced on the next Dreams Coming True post!
Valerie Ackermann has a desire to see parents equipped to teach their children about God at home because there is simply not enough time in Sunday school alone. Seeing the need for a resource that was both theologically deep, yet written in language that speaks to a child and explains the Bible and God in a step-by-step process, she wrote The God Puzzle.
Ackermann is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Parkway Community Church where she is involved with overseeing volunteers, planning and developing programs, and facilitating the classes for Sunday school. She also teaches her own class every Sunday and loves staying in the classroom and on the front line with the kids.
Good news! The following books are on sale during the month of December:
The Lesson is $3.99 for Kindle until December 22.