CEF’s Teacher Training Programs

CEF places heavy emphasis on teacher training. Through multiple courses of training, CEF trains teachers to deliver the “Wordless Book” and weave its themes into every Bible lesson. The repetitive and intensive training desensitizes teachers to the darkness and severity of their message, to the point where teachers learn to easily recite the “dark heart” script with a bare minimum of conscious attachment.

CEF’s headquarters in Warrenton, Missouri, hosts a campus, the Children’s Ministry Institute (CMI), that offers diplomas for completing a 12 week, 8-course, program in child evangelism. Completion of this program is required for all CEF state and local directors as well as all full-time ministry staff. CMI has graduated over 4,500 students at its US location since its 1945 founding.

CMI’s program includes two “Teaching Children Effectively” (TCE) courses. All paid Good News Club teachers, whether or not they seek a CMI diploma, must complete the TCE courses, either on campus, online, or “at one of over 280 extension sites” — i.e., local CEF chapters — “across the United States.” Unpaid volunteers are also strongly encouraged to take at least the first TCE course, and must at a minimum attend shorter training sessions.

Reflecting the dark gospel emphasis of the Good News Club, the Syllabus for the 30- hour TCE Level 1 course states that “Attention is focused on the lostness of the child without Christ” and that “[s]pecial emphasis is placed on methods of evangelism, such as the Wordless Book and the evangelistic Bible lesson.”

To graduate from the course, a teacher-in-training must pass tests that evaluate their “effectiveness” in presenting an “evangelistic Bible lesson” (45%), the “Wordless Book” (40%), and a visualized memory verse (15%). The Grading Guide for the “Wordless Book” programs the teacher-in-training to emphasize each concept of sin, punishment, and atonement represented by the “Wordless Book.”

With respect to mentioning “sin,” CEF specifically trains volunteers to “make it personal,” evaluating teachers on their effectiveness in getting children to internalize a sense of inherent and pervasive sinfulness, lostness, and worthiness of punishment.

“The Bible says our hearts are dark with sin,” [CEF instructor Miss Carolyn] says in a singsong voice, demonstrating how we might grab and hold the attention of a young audience. “Anything you can think or say or do that goes against the laws of God that makes him unhappy. Even a little baby is a sinner. Within a few minutes of being born, he’s squalling and crying, because he wants his way. Punishment for sin is to be separated from God forever.” I’ve heard this all before, in exactly the same words—the squalling baby, the “separation from God forever”—from Deborah, the auburn-haired mother teaching a CEF class at the Missions Fest in Seattle. It’s like hearing a comedy routine for the second time. There isn’t an ounce of spontanaeity in the program’s curriculum. Everything is scripted, down to the last punch line. Katherine Stewart, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, p. 235 (2012)

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