Flannelgraph and Rapid Growth
In 1942, Mrs. Finley Hodgson and students from Callum Wilson University launched Child Evangelism Magazine. Each magazine issue included a bible lesson with flannelgraph cutouts, including flannelgraph figures. These vivid and memorable teaching materials fueled demand by fundamentalist churches — many of them lacking any denominational Sunday School resources — for the magazine. CEF also gave the magazine away to foreign missionaries, introducing CEF “to practically all of the fundamental foreign missionaries of the world.” Hodgson, The Children’s Home Bible Class Movement, at p.29.
CEF also converted these flannel graph lessons into a massive collection of Good News Club “Biblegrams.”
By 1967, that collection included 16 of the 20 lesson books that are still part of (in slightly revised form) the current 2012-2017 Curriculum Cycle, including Beginnings, Daniel, David, Volumes 1 and 2, Elijah, Elisha, Joseph, Joshua, Judges, Life of Christ, Volumes 1-4, Patriarchs, and Moses, Volumes 1 and 2.
Only a few sketchy statistics regarding CEF’s growth are publicly available. For example, Mr. Hodgson’s short biography of CEF reports that in 1946-1947, there were 968 classes in Southern California, 147 clubs in St. Louis, and as many as 600 clubs in Chicago. A 1950 Newspaper article from Reading, Pennsylvania, a relatively small Pennsylvania city, reported 118 clubs in Berks County. A 1961 St. Petersberg Times article reported 40 clubs in Pinellas County, Florida. A 1963 Pittsburgh Press article reported 51 clubs in the Pittsburgh area. A 1996 Eugene Register article reported 250 Good News Clubs in existence in Oregon state.
Searches of NewspaperArchives.com suggest that CEF’s national influence peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by a rapid decline. CEF has since enjoyed a modest resurgence since it began focusing on schools.
Fastforwarding to 2002, a New York Times article reported 4759 clubs across the United States, 1000 of them in public schools. By 2008, CEF’s Moises Esteves reported 3410 clubs in public schools across the nation, reaching about 119000 children per week. At the end of 2011, CEF’s David Olsen reported that 186000 children were reached every week in U.S. Good News Clubs. CEF also reports that in 2011, there were 3560 public school Good News Clubs reaching 133,647 children.