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    Good News Clubs on School Campuses

     

    As you walk into a Good News Club on local elementary schools, you might hear the children singing the familiar tune of “This Old Man” with these words:

    “Good News Club, sure is fun, bring your friends in one by one; fill the place up, way up, fill it to the door, then we’ll go and get some more. You bring one, I’ll bring two, just like Jesus wants us to; fill the place up, way up, fill it to the door, then we’ll go and get some more.”

    Scott, from the club at Chase Avenue Elementary in East County, takes that song very seriously. His teacher said that each week he brings between three to five new friends with him to participate in the fun and games and hear the Gospel.

    After song time the children listen to an energetic flannel board Bible story and participate in memorizing a key verse reinforcing the lesson. Some of the children’s lack of Bible knowledge can be quite humorous. One week as the class reviewed the Ten Commandments, the teacher hinted, “the last commandment begins with a C, does anyone remember now?” A hand shot up, “thou shalt not eat candy?”

    Each week the children earn prizes for memorizing the verse — the first step in applying it to their lives. The teachers spend time explaining the importance of applying the truth to our lives. George received extra coaching as his teacher drove him home from club when it came to her attention that his behavior at school was not witnessing to the conversion that had taken place in his heart. She talked to him about living for Jesus so that others would be attracted to the Lord. George shook his head in agreement and has never gotten a referral since. It was the change in this one child’s life that drew a Christian neighbor to get involved teaching a club of her own as she experienced the mighty work of the Lord in his life so dramatically.

    Clubs always close with an invitation to receive Jesus. One week two boys went outside for counseling as they indicated a desire to invite Jesus into their hearts. As the counselor began explaining the way of salvation, their father walked up. He listened intently and as they bowed their heads to pray, he took off his hat and got down on his knees to receive the Savior for himself. With tears in her eyes, the counselor relayed her experience to the teacher, thanking God that she was privileged to witness first hand His awesome work.

    Another time, a fifth grade bully bowed to pray the salvation prayer. When he finished praying he said, “I’m in somewhat of a fix now.” “What do you mean?” the teacher probed. He explained, “You see, I’m the bully of the school and I have a rep[utation] to maintain. What will happen if I lose my rep?” The teacher instructed, “You can have a rep now, Jeff. You can live for Jesus and allow Him to rule your life. Why, he may even call you to be a pastor some day.” Jeff retorted scratching his head, “Do you think I could still wear my baggies?” “Of course you can,” the teacher replied. “God is concerned about what’s on the inside not on the outside.” Children understand Jesus wants to rule their lives when they accept Him and it’s exciting to see steps of obedience to His standard.

    Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) trains teachers weekly to weave the Gospel presentation into each lesson. CEF’s founder, J. Irvin Oberholtzer, burdened for children who carry the guilt of their sin, developed Good News Clubs. His intent was to make the Good News of Jesus Christ accessible to all children by holding club meetings in the neighborhoods where they live.

    Four years ago, Mari Rothman, started a club in her husband’s Hair Cut Store, but the growth and noise level caused her to look for an alternative meeting site. She asked the principle at nearby Chase Avenue Elementary if she could use space at the school. The changed behavior in the students contributed to his positive response and willingness to give the club a try on campus. Since then, nine clubs in El Cajon elementary and middle schools are successfully operating: Ballantyne, Cajon Valley, Chase, Cuyamaca (2), Emerald, Greenfield, Lexington, and W.D. Hall, plus Bancroft in Spring Valley. Four other El Cajon schools have requested clubs at their schools: Johnson, Naranca, Magnolia and Montgomery, but the Lord hasn’t provided the workers for those schools yet.  Elsewhere in the county, school clubs are operating or in start-up phases in Spring Valley, Bay Park, Pacific Beach and North Park.

    The school teams consist of Good News Club teachers and assistants attempting to meet the spiritual as well as the physical needs of these inner city children. The teachers seek to provide meaningful extracurricular activities for the 450 children they come into contact with weekly. To assist in this provision there has been an outpouring of support from businesses, churches, ministries and individuals who also recognize the need and enthusiastically respond.

    The scope of support is truly phenomenal. To begin with, principals and teachers willingly open their campuses and classrooms making school ministry a reality week in and week out. Indian Hills Christian Camp in Jamul generously scholarshipped 184 Good News Club members for a week of summer camp. Many Indian Hills Camp counselors have continued ongoing ministry by assisting in weekly school club meetings. Mission Air Service regularly provides food at Lexington Elementary. First Christian Church of El Cajon hosted a recent Make a Difference Day clothing drive.

    First Christian Church of El Cajon, Skyline Weslyan, El Cajon Nazarene, Foothills Christian Fellowship, and Lighthouse Baptist Church have provided bussing for special events. In addition, tickets for: Shadow Mountain’s Christmas program, Horizon Christian Fellowship’s Donutman presentation, a CYT presentation, Rollerskateland in Santee, and the Ice Capades from KSDO have been generously distributed to the Good News Club children.

    The Haircut Store has agreed to provide space for warehousing the ongoing expendable supplies and handouts needed for the school ministry. Monthly, the nine clubs spend over $700. Curriculum, snacks, drinks, prizes, candy, cookies, Bibles, paper, and paper products make up the bulk of the expenses. Mapleview Baptist along with a handful of other faithful bakers provide most of the homemade cookies handed out at the end of each club. Most of the other supplies are financed by a handful of Good News Club teachers.

    Besides evangelizing and discipling the children in Biblical truths, the Good News club teachers strive to build a bridge to the local church so the spiritual needs of the children and their families can most effectively be met. The biggest obstacle in this effort is the issue of transportation and the impact 200-400 children will have on the current children’s ministry program of a given church. Presently, three large vans from Skyline Wesleyan pick up children, but the maximum capacity with each is 35. How do you tell kids that you’re full and they can’t come?

    In recent discussions with Foothills Christian Fellowship, some exciting plans are being made that address these issues. With a projected fleet of 13 buses to transport children, Foothills, sold out for ministering to children and their families, is considering the possibility of Saturday church for Good News Club kids.

    Child Evangelism Fellowship is always seeking to equip and send teachers to the lost. The needs of CEF are similar to most other ministries. Besides the obvious need of financial help for ongoing expenses and supplies, the growth of this ministry is only limited by trained teaching teams. We prayerfully await the Lord’s provision for teachers and assistants. We have recognized His hand on this ministry and continue to trust Him with our needs. We covet your prayers and invite your participation in any capacity the Lord is leading. If you have any questions please direct them to Pastor Phil Gale at the local CEF office in Mission Valley at 280-8593.

    Sharon Cochard is a Good News Club teacher in East County.

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