LIMA — In 2014, Child Evangelism Fellowship reached over 15 million children with the Gospel, according to their own statistics.
Emilee Carpenter will be bringing Child Evangelism Fellowship back to the Allen County area. Carpenter has been with the organization for 10 years, starting at 16 as a volunteer. In 2009, she began working as paid staff, first as an administrative assistant and then as the youth/summer ministry coordinator. She was made the local coordinator for Northwest Ohio in September and is working on rebuilding a foundation for the ministry in nine counties in Northwest Ohio, including Allen County.
“There hasn’t been anyone over this area for the past five to six years,” said Carpenter. “We had some volunteers that kept a couple clubs going in Spencerville and Lima, but besides those few volunteers that have been faithful over the last several years, people don’t really know about us.”
Child Evangelism Fellowship was started in 1937 by J. Irvin Overholtzer and has grown into a worldwide ministry. They are currently in 190 countries with a goal to be in every country by 2017. Their main goals are to bring the Gospel to children, to disciple children who already have a relationship with Christ and to get children involved in their local churches.
The primary way that Child Evangelism Fellowship does this is through their after school Good News Clubs.
“We work through local churches,” explained Carpenter. “It’s kind of like a partnership. We get at least six people to form a team from a church and then we equip that church to go out and have a Good News Club in their local public school.”
Child Evangelism Fellowship provides training for the volunteers as well as all the materials used in the Good News Clubs. They also take care of contacting the school, providing liability insurance and doing background checks of all the workers.
While many people may wonder about sharing the Gospel in a public school, a 2001 court case, Good News Clubs vs. Milford Central School, ruled that Child Evangelism Fellowship had the right to have Good News Clubs after school hours, just like any other community group.
“We send out permission slips, and those parents interested sign up their children,” said Carpenter. “The school gets a list of those children and then they can come.”
Good News Clubs are held weekly. During that time, the children hear a Bible story, play games, sing songs, have a memory verse and sometimes hear stories about missionaries, depending on the lesson that day.
The clubs are usually held throughout the school year and are targeted to elementary aged children. “We do have some middle school material,” said Carpenter, “but we primarily do elementary schools.”
Carpenter said her main goal this year is to get the word out about Child Evangelism Fellowship and get five clubs started by the next school year. “I’m still in the process, and I’m calling a lot of churches,” she said. “I have five meetings with churches this week, and I also met with three previous to this. I know five sounds like a small number, but it’s a good number to start with.”
In addition to Good News Clubs, Child Evangelism Fellowship also does 5 Day Clubs. “This is a summer program that is like a mini VBS,” explained Carpenter.
Child Evangelism Fellowship gets teenagers involved in these clubs. They receive training through the Christian Youth in Action program, which is a week-long intensive training program that teaches the teenagers how to share the Gospel at a child’s level, counsel a child about salvation and lead a dynamic kid’s program.
“They go to train for a week,” said Carpenter, “and then go to wherever we have made contact and there is a need for a 5 Day Club in their area.”
This year’s training will take place June 14 to 20 at Cedarville University, near Xenia.
In addition to these main ministries, Child Evangelism Fellowship also does day and overnight camps called Camp Good News, has ministries to military children and children of prisoners, as well as, an interactive website called Wonderzone.com.
Despite Child Evangelism Fellowship’s long history, Carpenter said that her biggest challenge is just getting the word out. “I’ve had to make a lot of cold calls to churches,” she said. “That’s been hard for me when nobody really knows about our ministry.”
However, Carpenter is a firm believer in the mission of Child Evangelism Fellowship. “For me, I love to see children’s lives changed,” she said. “I love to watch them overcome their struggles, become a stronger person and build character, and it changes their families, too. I had one girl when I was in Arizona who came for years, and her whole family started going to church. That’s why we focus on kids — their lives really can change because they are so open and receptive.”