WARRENTON, Mo., Oct. 3, 2012 /Christian Newswire
/ -- Child Evangelism Fellowship
, the largest Christian ministry to children in the world, continued its remarkable outreach again this year through its week-long Good News Across America campaign in July. Held in the Twin Cities of Minnesota this year, GNAA reached over 2100 children. Good News Across America began in 2008 targeting a strategic city in the United States each year with evangelistic clubs, called 5-Day Clubs, and has consistently reached over 2000 children each year.Photo: 5-Day Meeting in the Twin Cities
To reach so many children in such a short period of time requires considerable manpower and resources. This year in the Twin Cities, 155 CEF volunteers from 28 states, partnered with 29 Twin Cities churches to provide 87 5-Day Clubs for children in the churches' communities. The cost of the program is born entirely by CEF and its volunteers. Of the 150,000 dollars needed for the campaign, CEF Headquarters, in Warrenton, Missouri, provides half, while the other half is funded by the volunteers who pay for their transportation costs and raise 650 dollars each in donations for the campaign. "We want to help churches with something they often find challenging: evangelizing children, especially non-churched children. And we want churches to bear as little cost as possible because some churches lack the financial resources for such a program," said Mr. Moises Esteves, vice president of USA Ministries for CEF. Indeed, the only expense the churches incur is the cost of one meal for the participating children and their families at a rally the final evening of the clubs.
The Good News Across America campaign has its roots in Brazil, where CEF workers pioneered the program, targeting areas where the ministry was not yet established. The first campaign held in the United States was in Chicago, in 2008, followed by Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, Boston, in 2010, and Salt Lake City, in 2011. With over 2000 children attending each year, Ms. Rachel Hamel, recruitment specialist for CEF, was asked to what she attributes this impressive outreach. She said without hesitation, "Its prayer. God answered our prayers." Indeed, many prayers were lifted up. Prayer booklets were mailed to the 29 Twin Cities churches as well as all 400 CEF offices in the United States challenging them to pray for the success of their efforts during the 35 days prior to the campaign's start.
And those efforts were considerable. Two weeks prior to the start of the 5-Day Clubs the 29 churches handed out a minimum of 250 invitations to children and families around each of the 87 locations where the clubs would be held. A week prior, they handed out another 250 invitations at each location for a total of 45,000 invitations in all. Also, during that week, the CEF workers and member of the participating churches were given training on the curriculum of the 5-Day Club, as well as the cultural background of the local communities. They were also taught how to determine if a child had truly accepted Christ as savior. "We do not want to use leading questions to manipulate a child into saying yes for the sake of bragging about numbers. God calls us to share the gospel. He does not require us to make people believe. Our goal is an accurate assessment of a child's spiritual condition. If the child has come to faith in Christ on his own, then and only then do we rejoice," explained Ms. Hamel. "Not all the children we shared the gospel with became Christians. Usually, it is some fraction. That week, 309 children committed their lives to Christ."
The genius of the 5-Day Clubs is that they are held where the children are rather than inside a local church. Depending on the community, clubs might be held in parks, community centers, private backyards, on playgrounds or in apartment complexes. "Many churches need this program because their traditional method for evangelizing unchurched children, the Vacation Bible School, has been in decline," said Mr. John Luck, project manager for Good News Across America. "Instead of reaching children who do not know the gospel, VBS attendees are primarily children who already attend the host church or another church. Sometimes these children's parents are simply using VBS as childcare. We want to help churches find those children and their families who have not heard the gospel."
The clubs themselves are a wonderful mix of learning and fun. Engaging Bible lessons, songs, and games have been designed to encourage relationship building among the children, with church members, and especially with God. The clubs culminate on Friday evening with rallies at the sponsoring churches for the children and their families, when the churches invite the children, with their parent's permission, to attend Good News Clubs which meet once a week after school, in local public schools. Like the 5-Day Clubs, these clubs offer a good mix of fun with thoughtful Bible lessons and are led by church members who have been trained by CEF. In this way, churches are able to maintain their relationships and spiritual care of these children. All 29 Twin Cities churches who participated in GNAA plan to start Good News Clubs this fall.
The effectiveness of Good News Across America in the Twin Cities is summed up in the testimonies of church members and pastors whose churches partnered with CEF. Russ Grigsby, pastor of Lebanon Lutheran Church, remarked, "I have never seen anything like this in terms of the children's receptivity to the Gospel and just how seriously they took it." Said Mike Lee, member of Crossroads Church, "We had over 100 kids in the Farmington School District come to our clubs. We had 12 kids give their lives to Jesus. That is amazing...90 percent [of the children] in our Farmington club were not from our church and most of those were looking for a church." Jusdson Weniger, assistant pastor of Bible Baptist Church, is looking forward to further outreach: "Now with the help of CEF, we had five different clubs meeting in our community and we'll be able to, hopefully and prayfully, get into five different elementary schools in our community."
Next year, the Good News Across America Campaign will be in Denver, Colorado.