Child Evangelism Fellowship
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|Founder||Jesse Irvin Overholtzer|
|Type||501(c)3 non-profit religious|
|US, 176 countries|
|Reese Kauffman, President|
|40,000 (US & Canada)|
Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is an international interdenominational Christian nonprofit organization founded by Jesse Irvin Overholtzer (1877-1955) in 1937, headquartered in Warrenton, Missouri, United States. The organization lists its purpose as teaching the Christian Gospel to children and encouraging children's involvement in local Christian churches. It has programs established in all US states and 192 countries, with 733 full-time workers in the US, an estimated 40,000 volunteers in the US and Canada, and over 1,200 missionaries overseas, approximately 1,000 of them nationals[vague]. During the reporting year ending December 2014, they reported teaching more than 19.9 million children, mostly through face-to-face ministry. CEF is a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
The primary ministries of CEF are the 'Good News Club' and the '5-Day Club'. Both of these programs involve training members from various evangelical churches to effectively teach children in homes, neighborhood centers and schools. On June 11, 2001 the USA Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing Good News Clubs to meet in public elementary schools after school hours, based on equal access and protection from viewpoint discrimination. Since that time CEF has been working to establish Good News Clubs in public schools around the USA. Currently, there are Good News Clubs in over 3000 public elementary schools.
5-Day Clubs are taught by youths who are trained through 'Christian Youth in Action' (CYIA). CYIA is a program operating all around America that trains teenagers to organize games and to interact with children, as well as to effectively teach children Bible stories, missionary stories, Bible verses, and the Wordless Book. CYIA is typically taught during the summer months at a camp or retreat where the teens are instructed and spend time practicing before teaching to younger children at 5-Day Clubs during the remainder of the Summer.
The 'Children's Ministries Institute' is CEF's official training institute, and it holds 12-week training sessions in at least 15 countries every year including two on the CEF campus just west of St. Louis, Missouri. The organization has various outreach programs for children, and it provides classes to train its workers and other Christians who are tasked with evangelizing children. Additionally, CEF Press produces and distributes Bible and missionary lessons and related teaching materials, and it promotes evangelistic tools such as the Wordless Book.
Since 1999 CEF has had a high volume correspondence program called the 'CEF Mailbox Club'. It was renamed the Truth Chasers Club in 2011. Lessons are available for every age group of children and for adults as well. The program is staffed primarily by volunteers who come from all over the country to help with the work. Hundreds of thousands of students have enrolled in the program and more than 10,000 lessons are graded and mailed on a normal week. The program is used by several other organizations as a discipleship program for the children whom they reach. These partnering agencies include the Jesus Film Project, Prison Fellowship International and Samaritan's Purse with the Operation Christmas Child program. Children are enrolled from around the world.
Elk River case
In 2007-2008, Elk River, Minnesota's board of education prohibited Child Evangelism Fellowship from distributing materials during open houses in that district's schools. CEF took the matter to the U.S. District Court, where in February, 2009, Judge Ann Montgomery ruled that the school district's order deprived CEF of its freedom of speech rights. She went on to say that the school district could still prevent the group from distributing materials if it adopted a policy of closing the schools to all such groups, which the school district did in March, 2009.
In her 2012 book The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, journalist Katherine Stewart criticizes various practices of the Good News Club after-school Bible study program, including young participants being rewarded for recruiting friends of other faiths and denominations whose parents have not enrolled them in the program. She also claimed in an article in The Guardian that the lesson plan for the Old Testament narrative in 1 Samuel 15, describing the divinely-ordered slaughter of the Amalekites, is used to justify genocide. However, CEF President Reese Kaufmann responded to her accusations in a letter, stating:
The story of Saul and the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3) is found in any version or edition of the Bibles of the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faiths since the first manuscripts were inscribed. Only a misinterpretation of the cited passage could be used to buttress genocide. The goal of Child Evangelism Fellowship is the proper teaching of this passage, which is not an instruction in genocide. Though truly many brutal acts appear in both the Old and New Testaments, including the torture and crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans, nothing could be more un-Christian than the promotion of genocide of any group of human beings under the New Covenant introduced to the world by Jesus Christ. CEF and the Good News Clubs would never teach children that God would instruct them, or anyone today, to commit genocide.
- Rusten, E. Michael & Sharon O. (2005). The Complete Book of When and Where. Tyndale House. p. 434. ISBN 0-8423-5508-1.
- Anthony, Michael J.; et al. (2007). Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation. B&H Publishing Group. pp. 136–158. ISBN 0-8054-4186-7.
- Balmer, Randall Herbert (2004). Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism. Baylor University Press. p. 153. ISBN 1-932792-04-X.
- Wrenn, Bruce, Philip Kotler, Norman Shawchuck (2009). Building Strong Congregations: Attracting, Serving, and Developing Your Membership. Autumn House Publishing. pp. 102–104. ISBN 0-8127-0490-8.
- The Journey Continues by Helen Edds Frazier, 2004, page 45
- Christian Writers' Market Guide 2008 by Sally Stuart, Random House Digital, Inc., Feb 25, 2009, page 443
- Draper, Norman. "Backpack mail getting curtailed in Elk River". Minneapolis, Minnesota: Star Tribune.
- Pongracz, Linda (2011). David: A Man After God's Heart. CEF Press. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Stewart, Katherine (2012-05-30). "How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren". London: The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- Kauffman, Reese (2012-06-11). "The proper teaching of the story of Saul and the Amalekites". London: The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- CEF official website
- http://www.cefireland.com - CEF Ireland's Website
- http://www.cefresources.com - Online Store for CEF Literature
- Wonderzone.com - CEF Children's Website
- CEFPress.com - Online Store for CEF Literature
- CEFCMI.com - Children's Ministries Institute
- CEF Specialized Book Ministry
- CEF (European Region)
- Kilchzimmer European Regional Office
- Youth Challenge (Europe)
- Bible Visuals International