This week I am speaking at the European Conference of Child Evangelism Fellowship which is being held at a conference centre close to Stuttgart in Germany. There are over 350 delegates from all across Europe, and at the opening session fifty flags were paraded on to the stage to represent the fifty countries in Europe where CEF ministers.
CEF’s ministry has expanded greatly in recent years under the inspiring leadership of two Ulstermen, Sam Doherty and Roy Harrison. This year, Roy and Ruth Harrison, both members of First Portadown Presbyterian Church, retire after over 40 years of work with CEF in Europe.
At the opening session, the World President of CEF, Reese Kaufmann, reported on the global expansion of CEF’s ministry. Through a variety of activities including literature publication, radio broadcasts, websites, mail box clubs, residential camps and Good News Clubs, he reported that last year CEF communicated the Christian message with over 10 million children in 160 nations.
CEF has a strong base among churches in Ireland, and as well as supporting a ministry to children of every background all across the island, they also support workers in other European countries. The most recent recruit is a young man called Neill, who is going to work in Sweden. His grandfather was a faithful and supportive elder in Kells Presbyterian Church when I was minister there. It is encouraging to make these connections and to see the commitment of a younger generation to developing and resourcing ministries which prioritise the spiritual needs of children.
In the current climate where issues of child protection are to the fore, CEF has put in place an impressive raft of safeguards to ensure that no child is exploited or abused. CEF in Ireland have appointed a full-time child protection officer who relates with all the statutory authorities to ensure the safety of all the children who attend their activities.
Many Christian adults trace the origin of their faith and their Christian commitment to their childhood when they were taught about Jesus Christ and were shown what it meant to follow Him. Those foundations were significant as they matured and as they built their lives upon what they had been taught at a formative stage. The Christian education and spiritual training of children must remain a priority for parents and for the Christian church, especially as it was given such a priority by Christ Himself (Matthew 18:1-6).