Equipping Parents to Disciple Children

By Coby Dolloff '21
9/27/2018 10:41:01 PM

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Heidi Franz ’99 grew up in a family of educators and always knew she wanted to be a teacher, not because of pressure from her family, but because she knew it was God’s calling.

“I was being called to be a missionary to kids,” Franz said.

After graduating from JBU in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in music education, Franz taught at a private and a public school for five years. However, when she and her husband found out they were expecting their first child, she knew God was calling her to shift her focus to raising her own children.

Little did she know, her new focus would eventually lead her to develop a Christ-centered curriculum and a website, ABCJesusLovesMe.com, that would influence families and children in over 70 countries.

It started when she began looking into preschool curricula for her own children. Franz quickly realized that there were few options online that were user-friendly, and those that were available were significantly overpriced.

“As an educator, I knew the ‘requirements’ for kindergarten – the items they want all 5-year-olds to know at kindergarten screening time,” Franz said. “And because we chose not to send our children to a formal preschool, I knew the responsibility for readiness fell into my hands.”

She knew she couldn’t be the only mom looking for a simple curriculum that allowed a child to still be a child.

“With my husband’s nudging, I felt led to create a curriculum that would give our children a solid foundation,” Franz said. “So, I began developing my own using my education background, classroom experience and life with our children.”

Franz’s Bible-based curricula considers preparation time, children’s age and their attention spans to help parents implement learning methods that can be incorporated into their children’s daily routine.

Since the launch of ABCJesusLovesMe in April 2008 with two basic curricula, Franz has expanded the offerings to include five comprehensive curricula (for children ages 1-5), each with supplemental workbooks, printable sheets and free options for families, as well as licenses available for churches, preschools and businesses.

In addition, Franz provides content through her blog, Our Out-of-Sync Life, the ABCJesusLovesMe newsletter, live broadcasts, a YouTube channel and a 9,000-member Facebook group.

This May, Franz released the first of several 52-week Bible curricula specifically written for churches and preschools, and focused on the Old Testament.

Even with her educational background, it was Franz’s experience parenting her four children that had the biggest impact on ABCJesusLovesMe.

Franz’s first son was born with multiple heart defects and underwent open-heart surgery at 6 days old. While his heart has recovered greatly, his traumatic start resulted in unexpected difficulties and delays in his development. Her son has attended therapy for 10 years to help with his sensory, language and processing difficulties. Additionally, Franz’s middle son was diagnosed with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Living through these challenges enabled me to come alongside parents in similar situations and provide resources to help,” Franz said.

“The mission of ABCJesusLovesMe is to help adults be intentional with the children in their lives,” Franz said. “This intentionality comes from Deuteronomy 6:7 where we are commanded to impress on children who God is and what God has done. In order to do this, I continually encourage and provide resources for adults to have a growing personal relationship with God. You have to know God before you can fully impress him upon children.”

Franz said her faith has been the anchor as the ministry of ABCJesusLovesMe has grown the past 10 years.

“My daily walk with God drives the entire ABCJesusLovesMe ministry,” Franz said. “Without plugging into God through my daily quiet time, I would not be able to do the things that I am untrained to do like website coding, encouraging and directing parents who ask for guidance and writing curriculum and articles.”

While it might have seemed that stepping out of the classroom would limit Franz’s influence, her obedience to God’s call on her life led to something much richer and even more influential, impacting thousands of families and children worldwide.