Everyone loves to receive good news, and this being 2020 people need it more than ever.
For a dedicated group of people from Highland Baptist Church, spreading good news has become part of a Tuesday afternoon routine. These men and women hold weekly Good News Club®️ meetings to spread the Christian message of God’s love to 5-to-12-year-old children in and around Vicksburg.
Good News Club is a weekly interdenominational Christian program featuring a Bible lesson, songs, memory verses, and games. It is the leading ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which creates the curriculum, translates it into different languages for use around the world, and trains instructors to teach it.
According to LilyAnn Gerhardt, Ministry Coordinator for Southern Delta CEF of Mississippi, Good News Clubs were around in the 70’s.
“I think they ran a few years in private homes. But there were no after school Good News Clubs being conducted in elementary schools until I came to Vicksburg in August 2015.”
Getting Good News Club established in Vicksburg was not a quick, simple process. Gerhardt said she conferred with VWSD officials for approval to hold after school meetings in public school facilities. She then met with individual principals to explain the program and get permission to use their school buildings to conduct club meetings. During this time, Gerhardt was also met with many local preachers.
Gerhardt said, “I met with pastors to let them know what the Good News Club was all about. I also asked if any of them would be willing to adopt a school and partner with CEF to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the children in their own backyard.”
The next step is among the most important- getting the children for the weekly meetings. There are no fees or membership dues, and every child from 5-12 is invited. Children must have their parents’ or legal guardian’s written permission in order to participate. CEF maintains a strict policy about getting written documentation to ensure parents understand that the content of the club is taught from a Biblical worldview.
Once approval was granted and meeting sites secured, Gerhardt turned her focus to the people who would be involved in making Good News Club successful.
“I am the only CEF staff person here in the Southern Delta Region. The rest are volunteers,” Gerhardt explained. “The initial training is around five hours. This is when various aspects of the club are explained, and the volunteers learn how to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that an elementary school child will understand.”
The volunteers must also be energetic as an exciting Bible lesson using colorful materials from CEF is presented every week. This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson’s theme.
In order for the club meetings to run smoothly and effectively, the volunteers then do a practice Good News Club in the elementary school where the club will be held. Gerhardt said they like to run through all of the parts of the club two times on a practice day about a week before actual meetings.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Highland Baptist volunteers held club meetings at South Park Elementary School. Now they hold virtual meetings on Tuesday afternoons in the fellowship hall of the church.
Judy Wooley, Mary Gordan, and Betsy and Wayne Jones have been active in youth programs at Highland Baptist for over 40 years, and it is no surprise they are involved with Good News Club, too. The Joneses make sure there are no technical issues and transitions between the different parts of the meetings are smooth. Judy Wooley leads the introductory segment, reminds the children of the rules and leads prayers.
Volunteer Tim Floyd, the father of twin daughters who are club members, presents entertaining Bible lessons and helps lead the musical part of the meeting.
Hunter Lynch, music minister at Highland Baptist, also leads the students in singing Bible songs and playing guitar.
Volunteer Jackie Richardson is a favorite of many of the children because of her alter ego, “Bible Grandma”. Richardson leads the group in activities and weekly Bible verses.
Keith Gordon, Mary Gordan’s husband, is another popular and entertaining volunteer. Gordan also leads activities and teaches Bible stories. Like many of the other volunteers, the Gordans have been instrumental in teaching God’s love to countless children dating back over 40 years.
Anquinet Moore said the Good News Club has been “beyond beneficial” for her 10-year-old son, Trentarious.
“Children today face an increasingly dangerous and seemingly hopeless world. Lots of kids don’t know about God’s love and the club teaches it in case it’s not taught at home. They need to know that things aren’t hopeless. God gives us hope.”