Children's Evangelical Fellowship (CEF) will now have a regional office located in Cherokee. Mike McCray of Cherokee has just completed a 12-week intensive course of training at Children's Ministries Institute in Warrenton, Mo. and was named as the Regional Director of NW Iowa which includes nine counties.
Child Evangelism Fellowship is the world's largest mission agency to children. CEF reaches 4.5 million children a year in over 150 countries. The history of the CMI dates back to 1945 when it officially began as part of a dream of the founder of Child Evangelism Fellowship, Jesse Irvin Overholtzer.
McCray and his family moved to Cherokee from Hawaii to help the Markwith family start the Calvary Chapel. Although the Markwiths have been called back to Hawaii, McCray and his family have become attached to Cherokee, the community and its people. He says their hearts are here. He and his wife Suzy have three children, Elijah is 8, Sarah is 5 and young Joshua is 3.
The Sioux City director of CEF informed members of the Calvary Chapel know that there was a need for a NW Iowa director for CEF. The catch is, the person taking on the endeavor becomes a missionary which means no income and relying on the church for support.
Florence Seavey a former resident of Cherokee who retired to Florida also loves the town of Cherokee and has a heart for youth. She stated that who ever became the director would be given her home in Cherokee to live in, rent free, and some monthly support. She also paid for the training course at CMI.
McCray has 13 years of youth ministry experience and after he and his family meditated about the possibilities, they decided this would be a good thing to do and took Seavy up on her offer. McCray said he thought he knew all he needed to know about youth ministry with his own experience but the training he received at CMI showed him otherwise.
He is enthusiastic about what he has learned and what he will be able to offer the Cherokee community and communities of NW Iowa. His first goal is to put together a 5-10 member board to help oversee the operations of the ministry. Basically he is looking for his own bosses. Raising support for a general fund for the ministry is also something that needs to be worked on.
With the CEF ministry in NW Iowa, McCray can and plans to offer what he has learned in training to area churches, youth leaders, and Sunday school teachers. What he has learned will better equip them to minister to the youth they are working with. The techniques used are geared toward teaching to all learning styles and shows those working with youth how to include all types of personalities.
He says the best part of the CEF is how it applies to all denominations because it sticks with the basics and doesn't venture into the differences in worship traditions. The curriculums he is able to purchase for churches at cost help teach abstract concepts in a child's language without sugar coating or watering down the information.
In youth ministry the ages of 4-14 are the most receptive but they are also the most unreached group. This age group is one third of the world's population with 40 million in the United States. The advertising industry recognizes this age group as its number one target market because they know how easily influenced the age group can be.
CEF recognizes this information and also knows that a child's spiritual and moral values are set by the age of nine. Their goal is to reach this age group in cooperation with churches and people who minister to youth. McCray says if we wait until youth are twelve we have a higher risk of "losing" them. It is important to reach children while they are young.
There are several programs that the CEF sponsors for youth. The Good News Club is an after school bible club that McCray is anxious to begin at schools in NW Iowa. On June 11, 2001 the Supreme Court ruled that the CEF was a para-church organization and is allowed the same access as any other after school programs in schools. There are over 70,000 schools in United States and since beginning in 2001, there are over 3,000 Good News Clubs with over 100 more being added each month.
The Good News Clubs are becoming increasingly popular across the country. Aside from the biblical aspects of the club schools are seeing less fighting, better grades, and more positive attitudes of those who participate in the clubs. The clubs incorporate fun with learning and in the process help develop self esteems.
In order for a Good News Club to begin in a school, McCray needs to train a minimum of four people for the club. Churches have an opportunity to adopt a school for a Good News Club. The clubs are designed for all youth regardless of the church organizations they may or may not belong to.
CEF is also a progressive organization making use of the Internet with a web site designed for youth. The number one web design company in the United States designs and maintains wonderzone.com for free because it is not only a Christian owned company but believes in what CEF is doing for youth around the world. The web site has resources for families and youth. It provides fun and learning for all ages.
Summer Urban Missions (SUM) is another program through CEF in which youth ages 13 and older, with adults, get some training on how to minister to youth and then go to a preorganized city to minister to youth for a summer. From Jan. 27-28, 2006 a winter retreat is already set up at Twin Lakes Christian Camp in Iowa for anyone 13 and older who is interested in SUM. There will fun, training, and an introduction to Christian Youth in Action (CYIA).
CYIA is also responsible for a spin off of vacation bible school called Five Day Clubs. They are clubs take place in neighborhoods. A family may host the club by providing their home or back yard and a snack. Those who are CYIA are in charge of providing the fun and programs for the youth. Following the Five Day Club there is an opportunity to host a weekly club. Youth in the CYIA have a 95 percent return rate because they are able to see the value of their positive role as they grow and minister to other youth.
In training adults to minister to youth, McCray says the information is also helpful for parents to better minister to their own children at home. He adds that CEF is here to help equip churches to minister to their own youth who can then minister in their communities.
Anyone, youth or adult interested in CEF can contact McCray at (712) 225-6199. He is looking forward to helping the Cherokee community and other communities in NW Iowa make positive changes for it's youth.