Good News Clubs and their critics: Introduction

If you ask me who, in my adult life, was my biggest role model, I will struggle to boil it down to one person. But I can boil it down to two in a heartbeat: Tania and Werner Schultz.

You won’t know them, but I will always remember this couple fondly. They showed me how to have a purpose, a mission. I discovered, with their help, that I have a gift for teaching and caring about children.

Tania and Werner were missionaries in inner city Pretoria (a South African city, in case my reader do not know). They organized Bible Clubs, based on CEF Good News Clubs. They motivated one of my team mates (he stayed there while I moved on) to start a hobby project to introduce boys in the bad neighbourhood to positive male role models, and to teach them to find their identity in building, not breaking. They started preschools and after-school day care centres. (Schools in South Africa have classes only until about 12h00 or 14h00, depending on the age group; while a working parent tend to work to about 17h00 or even later.) The goal was to give high quality care options to parents who are mostly rather poor. They even raised money to help poor parents afford day care for their children. They spent so much time listening to children and caring about them that on several occasions, the people from PEN (Pretoria Evangelisation and Nurture) was able to intervene in situations of child molestation, and even raise money to get psychological help for molested children.

Tania also taught the CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) TCE (Teaching Children Effectively) course. Their ministry had  a lot of CEF material for use at the weekly Bible Clubs.

I hear CEF is criticized wildly these days for allegedly not having the welfare of children at heart, for allegedly teaching “a dark message of shame and fear indoctrination“, for being full of “authoritarian themes“, for telling children they “deserve to … go to hell“, for the absence of  “salutary themes such as the Golden Rule“, for promoting “a negative self image“, etc. (The quoted words in this paragraph comes verbatim from the writings of such critics.)

If you take the word of the critics …ahem …uncritically, you will believe Good News Clubs are downright evil and bad for the welfare of children. But nobody I met ever cared more about the welfare of children than Tania and Werner Schultz, and they were trained at CEF and used Good News Club material among others.

However, when I read the Good News Club critics, I could not judge their words on the merits of Mrs. and Mr. Schultz. The complaints had to be taken on its own merit. As someone who used CEF material since 1994 and taught Good News Clubs for about 5 years in the first decade of this century, I have the knowledge to investigate the truth of the claims. I even still have some CEF lesson material.

The rest of this series of posts are based on what I concluded from looking at both the critics of Good News Clubs on one side, and my actual experiences and the lesson material on the other side. Stay tuned for an approach that looked at both sides, and finds something to defend in both CEF and their detractors. Expect my first post no earlier than Saturday.

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Next part:
>> Good news Clubs and their critics: Part 1

Religious trama syndrome? What?

A new idea is doing the rounds among atheists: They claim there is something called “religious trauma syndrome.” (From here on, I will call it RTS for short.) Well, that proves “religion” is bad, does it not?

But it is wise to question what you hear, so I will ask what evidence exists for these claims.

1) Is there actually a condition named “religious trauma syndrome”?

RTS is not an accepted psychological definition. It certainly does not appear in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals). By my understanding, psychology tends to not need syndrome names like “religious trauma syndrome” or “rape trauma syndrome”, because they learn to recognize and deal with trauma, whatever the source. Continue reading

Good News Clubs and their critics, part 2: A summing up of the Good News club message

Previous part:
<<Good News Clubs and their critics, part 1: Where I and the critics strongly agree.

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Suppose you had a Ferrari that was currently not in roadworthy condition, but that could be like new if you spend $2 000 to repair it. This car would be un-roadworthy right now, but not worthless – it will really be worth spending the money to repair your Ferrari.
The CEF message is sort of like that, except that it regards each person as the un-roadworthy or ex-un-roadworthy Ferrari, originally made very good (in God’s image!), that could be, or was, repaired by the price Jesus paid.
This article will explain the main Child Evangelism Fellowship message. Fans and critics of CEF alike has to agree that what is reported here is more or less what Good News Clubs teaches. The degree to which the message is good or bad could be disputed, that this is taught cannot. If you are familiar with CEF, you could skip or skim this post.
There is a message that is part of CEF teacher training and in some form part of almost every CEF lesson. CEF sums it up into a Wordless Book of 5 colors, sometimes:

Wordless-Book

The Wordless Book

Gold: God made everything, God made you. God loves you and wants you in heaven with him. God is holy. (Gold stands for a crown – God is King – or for the streets of heaven.)

Dark: But you sinned and God cannot allow sin in heaven.(Dark stands for darkness in the heart)
Red: Jesus was punished for your sin on the cross. (Red is the color of blood.) He rose again from the death.
White: If you choose Jesus, your sins are forgiven, and you can be with God in heaven one day. (White is the opposite of dark)
Green: Grow as a Christian by knowing the Bible, praying, witnessing, asking God’s forgiveness when you sin again, and meeting with other believers. (Green is the color of growing grass and plants.)

Continue reading

Good News Clubs and their critics, part 1: Where I and the critics strongly agree.

106456110Previous part:
<<Good News Clubs and their critics: Introduction

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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. Continue reading