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Child Evangelism Fellowship Ontario: Sharing the Love of Jesus with Children
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By Haydn Jensen


Did you know it's estimated that less than 5% of Ontario children attend church? With over 2 million elementary school aged children in the province, that means only about 100,000 are getting regular Christian teaching. So, what about the other 1.9 million kids? How will they learn about Jesus? Public school curriculum? Their non-churchgoer parents? Movies and popular music? Friends and social media? The internet?

These are things that concern Rob Lukings. He's the Provincial Director for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Ontario. CEFOntario publications say, "Most of Ontario's children don’t know Jesus loves them. They should know." So, the ministry's goal is to evangelize boys and girls with the Christian gospel and help establish them in the Bible and the local church. The organization is affiliated with CEF international, which operates in over 180 countries today, and aims to be active in all 207 countries in the world by 2017. They have been ministering in Ontario for over 70 years. Although historically best known among Baptist circles, Rob says they really are an interdenominational ministry and have been intentionally broadening their partnerships and connections with the full evangelical church spectrum. Londoners may not be very familiar with CEF because in recent years their work in Ontario has been focussed mostly on the GTA, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Thunder Bay, Gravenhurst, Welland, and Brantford. However, a new project for London is on the horizon for CEF However, a new project for London is on the horizon for CEF--I'll tell you more about what's planned for London after we look at CEF’s ministry activities for children.

With a clear goal of reaching the huge numbers of kids who are not church attenders, Rob says CEF wants to especially focus on kids and neighbourhoods facing some particularly difficult challenges. To do this, Rob explains that there are basically three main aspects to CEF's work: school year ministry, summer club ministry, and camping ministry. During the school year, CEF offers weekly after-school “Good News Clubs”, and a monthly Saturday program called "Slingshot Saturdays". During the summers, CEF trains about 50 teens and young adults to be sent out in pairs to partner with local churches in running summer clubs, meeting Monday to Friday for two hours a day. For their camping ministry, CEFOntario typically offers a full summer of "Camp Good News" at their Apps Ridge Camp & Training Centre near Brantford, in addition to extra weeks of camp at rented facilities in both northern and southern Ontario. For CEF, camp is not a standalone ministry, but rather, an extension of Slingshot and Good News clubs.

Rob tells me that across the province they have about 4,000 kids involved in the summer club program, and that only about half of those kids are “church kids”. Rob says that because of this mix, the CEF staff and volunteers are carefully trained to present Bible lessons so that both churched and unchurched kids will get something valuable from the lessons. CEF is not pushy with the gospel message, but they are also not shy about making sure it is communicated. As with any successful ministry, Rob says the key aspect of their ministry is to build trust. Because CEF works with so many “at risk” kids, they know that many of these kids have survived by learning not to trust. So, developing trust relationships is very important. To illustrate, here is one story as told by a CEF worker:

Jason started coming as soon as we launched our club. He was a tough kid, and had to have a leader with him at all times. Jason was kicked out of the community centre where we held the club and was only allowed in when he was at Good News Club. After a year we had not seen any change. It seemed like he was only there to cause problems. Then slowly we began to see a change. It took a long time for Jason to see that we really did care about him. He has been at our clubs now for three years. One day I was talking to a staff member at the community centre. They were telling me what a good kid Jason was. I mentioned about how far he had come, and the staff member said he was one of the best children at the centre now. It made a huge difference in Jason’s life to have people who were there week after week loving him, even when he was not very lovable.

One of the greatest signs that CEF is having an impact is when the kids they've worked with for years at clubs and camps grow up and come back as effective leaders working as staff or volunteers with CEF. Rob says he sees this happening over and over again. Most are volunteers, but they do have the opportunity to raise support.


Now let's get back to CEFOntario and their plans for London. August 2015 is shaping up to be an important time. CEFOntario is offering “Celebrate Kids London” as a no charge partnership opportunity for London churches. Normally they charge a (very nominal) fee of $275 to provide two workers and a week of half day program for a local congregation. However, thanks to an unexpected foundation grant to CEF, they decided to offer London churches a special week of children’s ministry activities at no charge. For the week of August 17-20, CEF Ontario will bring to London up to 15 teams of two highly trained, experienced and committed Christian young people. They will take the leadership in presenting a two-hour VBS-style program each day at up to 30 locations (15 morning and 15 afternoon) across London. Your church can arrange to host one of these clubs at your church, in a local park or community centre or at the home/backyard of one of your church members. There is no charge to the church or to the children attending. Rob tells me that so far he has 9 churches booked for the 30 available club times.

The teams will come equipped with all the resources required to present daily songs, skits, Bible lessons, and memory verses. They will present the Gospel clearly throughout the course of the week. On Friday evening (August 21), all of the children who have been attending the clubs will be invited, along with family and friends, to a Friday night celebration at Queen’s Park at the north end of the Western Fair Grounds. There will be inflatable games, carnival games, food, and a professional Christian entertainer. This is also free--part of CEF Ontario's gift to the families and churches of London. Please note that CEF is not trying to compete with or duplicate existing VBS or Bible clubs ministries. Key Bible Clubs and Bible Centered Ministries International are partnering with CEF Ontario, and CEF has no plans to start up after school clubs in London because these ministries are already in place. For churches, CEF aims to provide a helpful resource and this is particularly beneficial to smaller congregations who are limited in their ability to reach out into their neighbourhoods. The idea is to allow local churches to use CEF activities to foster ongoing relationships with local kids and their families.

If you or your church might want to know more about partnering together with Child Evangelism Fellowship Ontario, go to the following links:

Website: www.cefontario.org
Email: info@cefontario.org