At the request of the Russian Baptist Union, Child Evangelism Fellowship, the largest Christian ministry to children in the world, has begun assisting the denomination with the development of a children’s ministry. Officially known as the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia, the multiethnic denomination has over 250,000 members in over 2900 churches. CEF Russia will train teachers and their helpers from all of these churches in the CEF model and curriculum.
Asked why the Russian Baptist Union selected CEF Russia for this important role, Mrs. Raisa Andreeva, the Director of CEF Russia, explained that all Christian churches in Russia know about CEF and its effective curriculum because of the CEF Mailbox Club, a Bible club through the mail, now known as the Truth Chasers Club. She went on to say, “Forty years ago, CEF missionaries came to what was then the Soviet Union and spread Bible lessons from the Mailbox Club. This was the only opportunity to teach people about the Bible. ” By 1989, Mrs. Andreeva, herself, was giving out these lessons. In 1990, the Soviet Union fell.
CEF Russia will train the Baptist Union teachers about children’s ministry using a CEF course called, “Teaching Children Effectively,” which has been used all over the world. The course includes such topics as the effective explanation of the gospel to children, preparing and teaching a Bible lesson, teaching through singing, and scripture memory. This training will be used by the teachers in Sunday school as well as in Good News Clubs, which are after school Bible clubs CEF Russia will help the churches establish.
With just forty full-time workers and sixty volunteers, it will be a challenge for CEF Russia to reach all of the Baptist Union churches in a timely manner. Mrs. Andreeva tries to make the most of her small staff by holding seminars at one location for many churches at a time. It is not uncommon to find church members who travel over 100 miles to attend. So far, CEF Russia has been able to train teachers from 28 churches. Besides a small staff, distance and money are great obstacles. Russia is vast and getting around can be expensive and difficult. Mrs. Andreeva recounted her trips from Moscow to far away Siberia on the one road that exists to the region. Travel must be made when the roads, which are mostly unpaved, are frozen; in the summertime, she says, there are virtually no roads.
In addition to the Baptist Union, CEF Russia partners with other denominations and independent churches. Each year, the ministry trains an average of 7000 people, with various religious backgrounds including Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and Charismatic. The need is tremendous and growing. Recently, the Russian Orthodox Church requested assistance from CEF Russia with its children’s ministry. “We would like to have sixteen more people on our staff to support this training. But it is difficult, our current staff lives month to month,” said Mrs. Andreeva, who has been known to pay the salaries of CEF workers out of her own savings.
In the five years Mrs. Andreeva has been Director of CEF Russia, she has seen the ministry bear great fruit. Last year alone, CEF Russia reached 151,710 children with the gospel. She has also witnessed a growing interest in serving the ministry. “Only women used to be involved in our ministry. Now more and more men are involved. It is great to see men and women of different ages and social positions working together to advance this ministry,” she said. She finds more and more parents interested in the CEF Good News Clubs because they are concerned with the peer pressure their children are facing in society. “We help the children learn how to influence their peers,” she explains, rather than be influenced by them. “Children can reach their peers better than anyone else. We teach them about missionaries so that they will know how to be missionaries themselves.” One of her greatest joys this year has been that CEF Russia is now going beyond its borders to work with Muslim children in neighboring Muslim countries.