Nearly 3,000 children in Salt Lake City heard the Gospel of Christ during a weeklong campaign held by the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), the largest Christian ministry to children in the world.
Though the campaign originally began in Brazil, since 2008, the ministry has launched “Good News Across America” every summer in the U.S., reaching children in major cities like Chicago and Boston through 5-Day evangelistic clubs.
“We want to help churches with something they often find challenging: evangelizing children, especially non-churched children,” Moises Esteves, vice president of U.S. ministries for CEF, said in a statement.
The program is designed to impact communities for Christ by sharing the Gospel with children and their families. With the help of hundreds of missionaries, local churches are able to touch unbelievers through God’s Word.
“Many churches need this program because their traditional method for evangelizing unchurched children, the Vacation Bible School, has been in decline,” John Luck, the project manager for Good News Across America, said.
“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.”
By bringing 5-Day Clubs outside the local church and into the community, whether in parks, community centers, private backyards, playgrounds or apartment complexes, the CEF aims to meet children where they regularly are.
Bible lessons, songs and games are taught throughout the course of the days and help build relationships not only amongst the children and church members, but with God as well.
The majority of the $150,000 cost of the campaign is borne by CEF and its volunteers. Volunteers raise half of the money through donations, while CEF Headquarters provides the other half. Local churches are only responsible for providing one meal for the children and their families participating at a rally on the last evening of the clubs.
“We want churches to bear as little cost as possible because some churches lack the financial resources for such a program,” Esteves stated.
This year, 137 CEF volunteers from 31 states and Canada partnered with 29 Salt Lake City churches to provide 87 Five-Day Clubs for children in the churches’ communities.
Since its inception in the U.S., the campaign has reached more and more children every year. CEF workers attribute to the continued success of the clubs to prayer.
“God answered our prayers,” Rachel Hamel, a CEF volunteer from Virginia shared in a statement. Twenty-nine Salt Lake City churches were sent prayer booklets, challenging them to pray for the success of the event 35 days prior to the start of the campaign. Four hundred CEF offices also joined in intercession.
Local churches passed out 50,000 invitations to the event, gathering more than 2,800 children at the locations where the clubs were held.
Of that number, 477 children committed their lives to Christ.
“Not all the children we shared the gospel with in Salt Lake became Christians. Usually, it is some fraction,” Hamel shared. “God calls us to share the gospel. He does not require us to make people believe.”
Testimonies from the event detail the impact CEF is making in the local communities.
Bethany Caminiti, a volunteer for the campaign, witnessed one Mormon teenage girl come to Christ. The girl told her, “You guys told me a whole lot of stuff that I never knew was in the Bible. Because of you guys, I changed from being a Mormon to a Christian.”
“Over the last five days, something has been accomplished in our neighborhood that we have been working for six years to accomplish ... In five days you can see so much happen so quickly,” Pastor Andy Smith of Mount Calvary Family Worship Center said. He and his church were able to invite 100 of their neighbors, who had never stepped foot inside their church, to the program.
The program does not end after only five days. Seeking to maintain an ongoing relationship with attendees, churches invite the children, with the parent’s permission, to attend Good News Clubs, which meet once a week after school in local schools.
There, children will be able to continue learning about God through Bible lessons, creative learning activities, inspiring missionary stories, song and Scripture memorization.
The clubs are approved by the Supreme Court, which allowed CEF to share Christ in public elementary schools in June 2001. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, which has helped change hundreds of lives. Just this year alone, 3,560 Good News Clubs were held in schools, reaching 133,647 children with the gospel message.
“The most positive thing to happen to public schools is the Good News Club,” Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel said on their website. “Many youngsters will never attend a church unless the church comes to them. These clubs provide an unprecedented opportunity to restore culture, one young person at a time.”
CEF currently ministers in more than170 countries, teaching biblical principles to 10 million children each year, according to the organization’s website. The CEF aims to one day create a Good News Club in every elementary school in America.
“The sooner you come to faith, the more time you have to enjoy God and glorify Him in your life,” a spokeswoman for CEF told The Christian Post. “There [are] more years to learn about God, more years of service that you can offer to others. Learning the gospel as soon as you can benefits you tremendously.”
Jesse Irvin Overholtzer first founded the CEF in 1937 after he read one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons that stated, “A child of 5, if properly instructed, can as truly believe and be regenerated as an adult.”
With that mission in mind, Overholtzer began his ministry, which is now the largest evangelistic outreach to children in the world.
Next year, CEF will host the Good News Across America campaign in Washington, D.C.
The organization targets major cities where there is a significant spiritual need, significant population, significant number of churches and significant opportunity to grow the CEF ministry.
For information about the 5-Day Clubs and CEF, click here.