Large Family Christian Homeschooling and Child Evangelism Fellowship

Large Family Christian Homeschooling and Child Evangelism Fellowship February 12, 2013

by Vyckie Garrison

Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Christian Youth In Action (CYIA) is a favorite venue for socialization and mission work for many large-family Christian homeschoolers. Quiverfull teens often attend CEF’s Children’s Ministries Institute or a CYIA summer camp to receive training in “effective and engaging ways to teach children about God.”

Three of my older daughters attended a week-long CYIA camp as teenagers, and for the most part, it was a fun, enjoyable experience which taught them leadership skills and helped build their self-confidence. We believed CEF’s 5-Day and Good News Clubs were excellent ways to spread the Gospel message to unsaved children in local neighborhoods and (the evil, secular) public schools.

Recently, I came across a documentary-style YouTube video titled: Sophia Investigates The Good News Club, which has me re-examining just how “harmless” CEF/CYIA’s children’s outreach ministries are … take a look:

Notice Child Evangelism Fellowship’s “Good News” lesson of Saul’s incomplete genocide of the Amalekites: Partial obedience is disobedience. God commanded Saul to utterly destroy all the Amalekites – men, women, children and livestock. But “hard-hearted,” disobedient Saul spared the King and also kept the prime flocks and herds to be sacrificed to the Lord. When confronted post-mortem by the prophet Samuel, Saul makes excuses and displays a “cavalier attitude toward his own sin” – he does not take God’s commandment seriously enough to obey Him to the letter.

I remember this lesson – and it reminds me why, as strict, fundamentalist parents of more children than we were actually equipped to handle, “instant joyous obedience” was a highly valued character quality in our home. We parroted these phrases: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” “Partial obedience is disobedience.”

As Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, points out, “Pretty much every lesson that the Good News Club gives involves reminding children that they must, at all costs, obey. If God tells you to kill nonbelievers, he really wants you to kill them all. No questions asked, no exceptions allowed.”

This is just one among many of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s character lessons which teach and reinforce the patriarchal ideals of Quiverfull families. The curriculum emphasizes Young Earth Creationism, submission to authority (unless the authority is secular, in which case, CEF material engenders a persecution complex), the Dominion Mandate and a return to a theocratic form of government based on Mosaic Law, and only those who hold to a narrowly-defined fundamentalist world view are truly saved – all others must be evangelized and warned of their eminent danger of judgment and God’s wrath.

When our family was involved in the Nebraska Christian Home Educators Association, I noticed that all those families whom I truly admired – the large families with perfectly obedient, respectful children who adored their many siblings – the godly families whose older daughters felt called by the Lord to forego college in order to stay at home and serve their families by homeschooling their younger sisters and brothers – the respectable families whose adult sons were bold young leaders in the local Republican party – the homeschool graduates who were recently newlywed through the courtship process – these Quiverfull families were all very active in the Christian Youth In Action and Child Evangelism Fellowship programs.

At the time, I did not see my own hypocrisy in homeschooling my children in order to have a high level of control over the ideas/ideologies to which they were exposed – but then sending my kids out to “evangelize” the neighborhood children without any regard whatsoever as to their parents’ wishes and in fact, if those children came from non-religious or nominally religious homes, or if they practiced forms of Christianity which we considered “cultic,” all the better that my kids should share the “Truth” with those poor unsaved children and encourage them to go back home and evangelize their moms and dads.

If your family is involved in CEF/CYIA, please consider the following – pay special attention to the omitted themes of the Good News Clubs curriculum:

For more information regarding “the dark side of Child Evangelism Fellowship,” check out these links:

Intrinsic Dignity: Archive for the “Child Evangelism Fellowship” category

The Good News Club: A Critique


Comments open below

Read everything by Vyckie Garrison!

Vyckie Garrison started No Longer Quivering to tell the story of her “escape” from the Quiverfull movement. Over time, NLQ has developed into a valuable resource of information regarding the deceptions and dangers of the Quiverfull philosophy and lifestyle. Several more former QF adherents are now contributing their stories to NLQ and our collective voice makes these Quiverfull warnings impossible to dismiss or ignore.

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce



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  • seculargal

    This post reminds me of the movie Jesus Camp, in which a young girl (around 9 or 10 years of age) is actively converting a neighbor girl and taking her to church with her. I would FLIP out if I sent my kid to a friend’s house to have a visit and then the family took my child to their church without my permission. I wonder why these people are so spiritually arrogant as to think they know better for someone else’s child? The fount of ungodly expletives that these parents would hear from me would be truly scary. Then of course, my child would never be allowed near that family or their children again.

  • herewegokids

    Thank you Vyckie for the info. It’s important especially for those of still involved in church to examine these para-church organizations critically. A lot to think about there. My kids have enjoyed summer ‘bible schools’ locally but now that I’m Catholic I cringe a bit when they go….just not sure how aggressive the agenda is. I’ve always hated any ‘child evangelism’ b/c it is by nature so manipulative and peer-pressure based. I totally see it in most cases as an ‘end run’ around more savvy and critical-thinking adults in order to get a toe in the door. Pretty low and desperate tactics if you ask me.

  • saraquill

    Certain other sects were considered “cultic,” but the one the Association was in was all right? Pot, meet kettle.

  • I am a regular commenter on this site, and my commitment to choosing the side of those who left quiverful is well known. My opposition to Christian patriarchy is too.
    However, I am a non-American who appreciate my CEF training, gave Good News Clubs for years, and considered teaching one again this year, but decided not to because of circumstances. My first impression from reading some links here is that at least some of the criticism is less than the whole truth, while some are local. (One of the ideas I get at this moment is that a worldwide organization have been hijacked by the American religious right, to show some qualities in America that it does not show everywhere.)

    I will probably comment more somewhere this weekend or after that, but I will first read every link provided here, watch every video, and actually compare it to real CEF material I still have in my possession.

  • When someone here criticize QF parents for not educating their daughters well, would you also say that person is “arrogant” to “think they know better for someone else’s child”?
    Is it possible that you find the one example of “think[ing] they know better for someone else’s child” not arrogant because you agree they know better, and the other arrogant because you don’t agree?
    Arrogance cannot depend on our agreement or disagreement with a view.

  • vyckiegarrison

    Retha – I am very much interested in your evaluation. Please let us know what you think after reading through the links and watching the videos. Thanks. 🙂

  • The_L

    I consider myself lucky that the VBS’s I went to as a child focused more on the actual, you know, good news part of Christianity.

  • The_L

    These videos made me sick to my stomach. I have clinical depression, and the whole “you are evil and deserve Hell, and nothing you do will be good enough for God” idea is basically what the depressed mind is broadcasting 24/7.

    And they’re teaching kids to hate themselves in this way. They’re encouraging it. That’s utterly monstrous and vile. What you teach young children to believe about themselves sticks with them for LIFE.

  • chervil

    No. I don’t agree.

    Religious fundamentalism is the only area in which it’s OK to neglect your child’s education, and raise your children in undignified squalor and ignorance, all in Jesus’ name. Even your precious Republican candidates are always braying on about improving education in the middle east, paying lip service to it, at least. Including the Leveraged Buyout King, Mitt Romney. But to Christianists, it’s better to hide, to keep kids uneducated, all out of fear. Fear that the fragility of your religion and beliefs will be exposed if they step out into the real world.

    I can’t imagine of any good reason not to educate your daughters well. Especially if they’re the ones who are supposed to be educating the next generation. Being so-called “godly” in neglecting your childrens’ education isn’t an excuse. It’s this Christian twisting of language that makes neglect into something holy. It isn’t. Neglect is neglect.

  • In other words, we agree some topics are important enough that one view, which may not be the view of the parents, is actually better. Because you can think of good reasons for only one of the two- and I agree with you on that one – it does not mean someone else cannot think of good reasons for the second.

  • Retha Faurie

    (Sorry that this comment will be long. The advantage of a blog is that you can scroll past if you are not interested.)
    A critic is someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
    Firstly, it seems that the above links actually covers very few original sources of criticism. More than one website (good news club info, Intrinsic dignity) in the above links belongs to the same anonymous (at least, I cannot find a name) person or group. At least some of the video clips here, if not all, also relate to that same person/ group.
    It seems Katherine Stewart, writer of the book, is a separate critic and not related to Intrinsic Dignity. There is also a link to a written lesson of Saul’s incomplete slaughter. The link seems to have no relevance to the topic of Good News clubs, as I see nothing on that lesson page that make me think it is a CEF page.
    Secondly, on the accusation that GNCs are out to influence what is legal in regards to separation of church and state: CEF was founded in 1937, way before the school prayer and church and state controversies in America. There is nothing in CEF material that say clubs should be held in schools and not elsewhere. CEF clubs are held in more than a 100 countries, only one of which has that particular separation of church and state view. Many, if not most, clubs are not held at schools.
    If any American tries to use GNCs that way, it is his agenda and not that of CEF as a whole.
    (To be continued.)

  • Retha Faurie

    Thirdly, I give some value to the complaint that CEF material is one-sided. But the “information” on goodnewsclubinfo and its video clip is even more slanted. They tell us how often (by the count of the anonymous website critic) sin is discussed, but not how often salvation is discussed. It tells how many allusions to hell this anonymous critic rightly or wrongly hears, but not how many references to heaven or to God’s love. Every Good News Club lesson, without exception, talk of God’s love and of salvation. Every message about sin ends with sin being trumped by what Jesus did.
    Still, I agree Good News Clubs are too one sided, with a message repeated disproportionally to all other messages. The one-sided message is bigger than “sin, sin, sin”, though. It is “God made and love us, but we sinned. We can be saved and some of us already are.”
    The one-sidedness is why I have sometimes used non-CEF material in my club (signing a statement that you will only use CEF material is a very recent development for CEF teachers as far as I remember), and why I often taught another main message while relegating the book’s main message to a few sentences. It is also why I sometimes used non-CEF songs in my club (That, and there are not many CEF songs in my mother tongue): Singing should IMO be used to talk to God, not just to repeat the God’s-love-sin-salvation message.
    As I scan my memory, it seem the people I knew who taught me to use CEF material (way back in the ‘90s) felt the same way I do: They all emphasised the kind of Bible lesson with another main message. (CEF also teaches how to give that type of lesson.) I was involved, at the time, in Bible clubs that sometimes used CEF material. But the organization did not choose to associate with CEF or follow their complete lesson plan.

    Fourthly, CEF clearly contrasts with patriarchy teachings in several ways:
    a) Some in P/QF say it is wrong for a non-parent to teach someone else’s children. CEF obviously does not agree.
    b) Where patriarchy emphasise parental control of children and their actions, GNCs emphasize that children can and should make moral decisions, that God’s spirit can help them to choose right.
    c) Where patriarchy does not want women to teach men, I’ve seen several men being taught to do children’s work the CEF way – by women teachers.

  • I’ve heard Retha’s response before. It is to the effect that all the talk of sin, obedience, punishment and Hell are perfectly justifiably as long as it is “balanced” with a 1:1 ratio of salvation, forgiveness, redemption, and grace. Of course, there isn’t an easy way of quantifying the alleged “positives” when they are tied so closely to a put-down. To the effect of: “Even though you don’t deserve it, God’s loves you…”

    But the very notion of “balance” making it OK is a total sham. Is it OK to tear somebody down if you subsequently build them up? There’s a name for this: “traumatic bonding.” It’s how cruel people maintain control over their victims — by alternately abusing them and showing affection to them.

    I don’t expect to convince many CEF’ers that there is something wrong with their methods or message. It’s human nature to think highly of oneself and one’s doings. But most normal non-evangelical outsiders will find the messages given to children to be atrocious. CEF would do well to take that into consideration. Is it really necessary — does the Holy Spirit require it? — to tell children that they “deserve to die”?

  • Thank you for your response. I think the most telling part of your message is: “But the very notion of “balance” making it OK is a total sham.”
    From what you said, I get the impression that you do not just find the CEF methods focused on the wrong things. You seemingly dislike the basis of the salvation message, seeing it as “traumatic bonding.”
    But for traumatic bonding to take place, some abuse need to take place. It is not abuse for the doctor to tell someone that he has a dangerous disease and need a certain medicine. It will be traumatic bonding if the doctor infects him with diseases and heals him from them.
    Likewise, if the teller of the gospel story causes children to sin so they need forgiveness; or if (s)he lies and no sin stand between us and God, then the teller of the message is doing traumatic bonding to herself or himself when (s)he is alternatively nice to the children and alternatively causing them to sin and blaming them. But if the message is true, regardless of what the teacher does, then it is not traumatic bonding.
    Is the message of being made by God (100% positive) in His image(100% positive), loved by Him(100% positive), doing sin(negative, but changable), Jesus thinking that we are worth everything to rescue ((100% positive -He thinks we are to die for), and this rescue meaning that His followers will be sinless again one day with him(100% positive, positive trumping negative), a 1:1 “balance” of negative and positive messages? Not in the least. It starts positive. It ends positive for eternity, which is way longer than the partly negative middle. The middle is only partly negative, because we are still worth the life of Jesus even then. As I said on my Afrikaans blog: “A Ferrari that is not in running condition, and will cost several thousand dollar to repair to perfect, is not a piece of junk. It is something worth spending thousands of dollars on. We were worth spending the life of Jesus on.
    If you see that message as essentially negative and harmful, that makes one of us. If, on the other hand, you affirmed that the message of creation, sin and salvation is good, but the CEF way of telling it is not always wise, we could have agreed.

    You are also the only one, between the 2 of us, who see the message of obedience to God as essentially negative.

    How many of the video clips in the article above can be traced back to Intrinsic Dignity?

  • Retha, there is a profound difference between telling someone that they have a terrible disease and telling someone that they are a terrible person. “Your heart, the real you, is sinful… You were born that way…. You deserve death….” CEF deliberately diminishes children and strips them of their dignity, and then says that they can become worthwhile only if they internalize a sin-obsessed formulaic creed (you know it — the “ABCs of salvation”). This is traumatic bonding, not medical treatment! “Even though you don’t deserve it, I love you. Love me back, or I’ll punish you!”

    As for “negatives” versus “positives,” in CEF’s 659-word script for the “Wordless Book,” there are 19 references to sin, 4 to punishment, and 1 to Hell. That’s pretty concentrated on the negative. Sin, the obsessive focus of CEF and many evangelicals, is at the center. Sin is mentioned in the scripts of each of the 5 colors of the “Wordless Book.”

    Aside from that, if I was married to you, and insulted you once every day, would you be fine with it as long as I complimented you once every day? As long as I threatened you with punishment if I didn’t love you back? As long as I told you that you deserved nothing, but that I was perfect and worthy of your affection?

    Also, it’s common knowledge that it takes multiple affirmations to compensatve for one put down. CEF’s Good News Club curriculum only includes 58 references to “grace.” Compared to over 5000 to sin.

    Your suggestion that I am “the only one” who has a problem with CEF is wishful thinking. Other authors have written about their experiences, as noted on the home page of And there are others too, some so damaged by CEF’s form of indoctrination that it is simply too traumatic for them to speak out.

    The pressure on CEF is going to build. More are going to come out.

  • You seem to make 2 separate arguments, which almost contradict each other:
    The one is the proportional argument, made by comparing the amount of times the word sin appears with the total amount of words, or with, for example, appearances of the word grace.
    The other is the argument that proportion does not count, any mention of sin should be counted as putting down the child regardless of what message surrounds it.

    On the first argument, I find you utterly misleading:
    a) You count the word grace to “prove” there is little positive in the lessons, without admitting that grace is discussed in every lesson, but seldom with that exact word. When grace is then explained in words that does not include the word grace, you count it as a negative. Grace is getting something good you do not deserve, and you will hate the “you do not deserve” part.
    b) You will count every mention of sin, including “David sinned” or “Jesus died so sin can be completely forgiven” and then say things like: “The 5000 mentions of sin is highly personal” – and then quote the most personal ones hand-picked from among those 5000 mentions.
    c) You count obedience as negative. You refuse to count positive things like mentions of heaven or friendship with God. You imply on one place that you have a list of testimonies of people traumatized by the message of CEF, and when I look at the list briefly, only one of them mentions trauma with the message of CEF.

    On the second argument, I flat-out disagree. This is not an argument against CEF, but against the simple message of salvation. Sin erasing or even damaging our intrinsic worth is simply not a Christian idea. We dislike it when a valuable thing is treated badly, because it is a valuable thing. Even more so with sin: Every human has a very valuable life, and some are lived far from right, and in ways that damage other valuable lives.
    And in all those things you cannot see, from the first lecture I had in the first session of CEF-related training (they had me memorize Matthew 18:1-14 before I learned the wordless book), to the practices of the CEF 3 months trained people (starting quality affordable preschools and after-school care centres –in my country schools come out between 12h00 and 14h00 depending on the age of the child, but many parents work to 17h00 or later –, helping a child who was out of school for months to catch up, warning children and parents and speaking to the police about a suspected paedophile in the neighbourhood…) who taught me to work with inner city children, I learned to value and respect children. To put it in your words, the CEF-trained people taught me to respect their intrinsic dignity.