<<Good News Clubs and their critics: Introduction
I was doing something called Service Year for Christ when I first heard of CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship). The very first thing lecturers from CEF’s 3 months Training Institute told us was to learn Matthew 18:1-14 by heart, and to meditate upon it:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea…
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven…
14…your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
CEF people taught me children matters.
When training finished, me and my team mates went to the inner city of Pretoria (South Africa, I am South African). There, we worked with Werner and Tania Schultz, both trained by CEF. These people did not just teach children about God. They helped their workers to start (non-profit) preschools and after-school day care centers (schools in South Africa usually come out between 12h00 and 14h00, but parents often work until after 17h00, so there is a market for after-school care and homework help for school children) and hobby projects where children could get in contact with positive role models and keep busy with something meaningful. They did things like (and inspired their workers to do things like) listening to children, to the degree needed to be aware of a pedophile and warn other children against him, organizing trauma counseling for children who needed it, helping a child who was ill for a long time to catch up with his school work…
Once more, CEF people taught me children matters. Even today, Werner and Tania take babies into foster care up until the time they find adoptive parents. The value and wellbeing of children is very important to them.
Last year, I became aware of some strong criticism towards CEF and their critics, most notably by two websites owned by someone/ some group who goes by the name “Intrinsic Dignity.” (From here on referred to as ID for brevity’s sake.) Intrinsic Dignity is a four-article website (1 strongly worded anti-Good News Club article1, and 3 articles on policies that will keep “harmful groups” out of schools) with a donations page. It does not contain even one name of a person who is affiliated with the site or writes for it. It does not mention what donations will be used for, and doesn’t have a physical adress where they (he? she?) can be found. It speaks of “we are …” on the “about” page, but comments elsewhere make me think it is run by one person, not a group.2
ID also runs a site misleadingly called “Good News Club Info”, which contain even more misleading information, and also a donations page. Both sites claim that Good News Clubs are mainly about sin, about shaming children and breaking them down. I disagree, and this series of articles will be about answering the biggest claims of ID and other critics of Good News Clubs.
But I will start with one thing on that website that we – me who taught GNCs but won’t do so again3, CEF workers, and the website critical of GNCs – could agree on:
Children have a right to develop in conditions of empathy, and in respect of their inherent dignity and equality.4
Ab-so-lute-ly. Children matters. They have an inherent worth, and needs our empathy and even more – our active care. I learned to treat children as worthy humans – and not to pretty much ignore them as most adults do – from the CEF people I knew. I learned from CEF people to converse with children on their level, too. If dignity is, as per the dictionary, “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect“, CEF Good News Club teachers and CEF’s critics could probably agree on the intrinsic dignity of children.
From that viewpoint – children matters – I am very thankful for encountering CEF.
1That article will be discussed later in this series
2 I will motivate that opinion later in this series
3Why I won’t do it again will be discussed later in this series
4Intrinsic Dignity also includes “a right to develop in conditions of freedom and open enquiry” but those are words that can be twisted to mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean. I am sure none of us wants little children free from fencing and capable of running into busy streets, or to have the right to openly inquire into cruel pornography.