Daniel Erlander’s retelling of the Bible, Manna and Mercy, has been popular with Lutherans for decades. Now, Augsburg Fortress has made a curriculum based on Manna and Mercy that is appropriate for many age levels and situations. One component of this curriculum is the Interactive Edition, designed for kids in elementary school. Rebecca Ninke abridged and adapted Daniel Erlander’s original work to make it more accessible to kids. What follows is an interview with Rebecca about the process of creating the Interactive Edition as well as what she hopes people will gain from using the Interactive Edition.
In what ways do you see Dan’s work connecting with elementary-age kids?
The content in here is the stuff you wish every kid inherently knew: that people mess up and God loves them unconditionally. All the stuff in the Bible from kosher rules to Jesus’ teachings are given to help us live as the freed, forgiven, and loved people we were created to be.
I was recently talking to a person in his twenties who had gone to church his entire childhood; the message he came away with was of judgement and condemnation. Isn’t that sad? If kids only get one thing out of Manna and Mercy, it is that they are loved by God and part of God’s healing of the world.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process. How did the illustrations and big ideas in Manna and Mercy inspire you to create the spreads in the Interactive Edition?
It wasn’t easy! Dan was able to pack in a lot of big ideas into anywhere from two- to eleven-page chapters. Condensing them into two-page spreads for kids was really challenging because what of Dan’s beautiful work could I possibly cut? I thought a lot about my own kids and my church kids, past and present, the challenges they have had, and how faith has to feel relevant to their everyday lives. To that end, there’s nods to childhood power struggles and popularity, identifying anxiety, family histories of where we came from and what it’s like to feel like an outsider, etc.
What do you think elementary-age kids will love about the Interactive Edition?
Everything! A lot anyway—it’s truly written with them in mind, asking again and again how different types of learners can find something they relate to that puts them into God’s unfolding story.
Any favorite activities in the Interactive Edition you’d like to highlight?
My twelve-year old often sat on my desk and helped me come up with activities. We both have a low tolerance for cheesy activities, so it was fun coming up with new ways to have fun while framing a point in an active or artistic way.
What is a favorite illustration of yours in Manna and Mercy?
Dan’s sketches are so effortlessly inclusive and welcoming all around. But I love the prairie dogs! I feel like they are the voices in my head—a little edgy and asking good questions.
Anything else you want congregational leaders to know about the Interactive Edition?
It’s amazing to me that Dan was able to cover the scope of the major events of scripture in one easy-to-digest booklet. It’s a riveting story filled with love and hope for humanity. It reminded me of what is possible.
I hope leaders will appreciate the Leader tips on how to address different situations, how to help kids feel welcome, notes about how to adapt to really small and really big churches. Like God’s love, these resources are for everyone.