Big Picture

Child Evangelism Fellowship’s mission: to empower young hearts around the world

‘In 1943, The first CEF U.S.-sent missionaries arrived in Mexico, advancing Mr. Overholtzer’s ministry of world evangelism,’ says CEF Acting Vice President of Administration Fred Pry

For Immediate Release

June 24, 2024

St. LOUIS Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is marking 87 years of reaching children with the Gospel.

CEF was founded by a pastor, Jesse Irvin Overholtzer, in 1937, as a U.S.-based ministry. Growing up in a religious family, Jesse was convicted of his own sin at the age of 12 and sought counsel from his mother. But she told him, “Son, you are too young.” It wasn’t until Overholtzer was in college that he heard the Gospel and trusted Christ as his Savior.

Serving as a pastor, Jesse was deeply convicted of the need to reach children when he read a statement by C.H. Spurgeon; “A child of five, if properly instructed, can, as truly believe, and be regenerated, as an adult.”

 “Mr. Overholtzer began ministering to young children and saw amazing results; seeing children themselves lead their peers to Christ,” says CEF Acting Vice President of Administration Fred Pry.

Overholtzer went to Chicago, where Moody Bible Institute helped him establish a new ministry to children in 1937 that became Child Evangelism Fellowship.

 “Jesus Gave a Global Commission”

In the summer of 1939, despite the threat of global war, Overholtzer began his plans to evangelize children with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in South America. He wrote during this time, “Jesus gave a global commission, but we are so provincial, so self-centered, so sinful that we use our time, our talents, our money in such a way that we are blind and callous regarding the precious children who literally sit in darkness.”

Overholtzer himself traveled across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Cuba, the Caribbean, and South America sharing his passion and recruiting workers. He prayed for a gathering of child evangelists that would encircle the globe.

The First U.S.-Sent Missionaries

A few years later, following their graduation from Moody Bible Institute, Rev. Arthur Phillips and his wife Velva, who had worked in the Chicago CEF office, left the States to become missionaries to Mexico.

“In 1943, The first CEF U.S.-sent missionaries arrived in Mexico, advancing Mr. Overholtzer’s ministry of world evangelism,” Pry says. “Through these missionaries and the heart of Mr. Overholtzer in mind, hundreds of millions of children around the world have been reached with the message of salvation by grace through faith.”

 Since its founding, CEF’s aim has been to ensure that every child is reached with the Gospel, as well as spiritually nurtured and integrated into a local church. In 2022, CEF trained nearly half a million teachers worldwide. The purpose of CEF’s U.S.-sent missionary program is “To serve cross-culturally, coming alongside national leaders and missionaries to strengthen CEF ministries internationally and carry out the mission of CEF to help develop an established, thriving, indigenous CEF ministry in every nation of the world.”

 In recent years, 97% of CEF staff worldwide were national missionaries, living and serving in their own country. The goal of a U.S.-sent missionary is to come alongside national missionaries to support and develop various areas of ministry.

 Leading the Way in Mexico

In 1984, Velva Phillips recalled how the newly launched levels of training, later known as Teaching Children Effectively, were brought to Mexico City and quickly spread to many other cities around the country. They used it to lay the foundations for the ministry and train workers in Mexico.

CEF’s Mexico ministry is flourishing, reaching over 270,000 children last year. The movement has spread rapidly to other countries.

“With chapters in all 50 American states and in most countries around the world, we see no reason to slow down, and every reason to expand our outreach,” Pry says. “We thank God for giving Pastor Overholtzer the mission to bring the Gospel to God’s children and to allow CEF to embody his ministry foundations every day.”

 Child Evangelism Fellowship, which was founded 87 years ago, has been establishing the Good News Club® in countries around the world for decades. Clubs are thriving worldwide, in countries including Australia, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda and many more.

In 2023, through CEF’s combined ministries, more than 25.2 million children worldwide heard the Good News. More than 577,000 teachers were trained around the world.

For more CEF news, see the ministry’s latest edition of the online magazine Impact.

 Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is an international, nonprofit, Christian ministry that has been dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church since 1937. CEF is located in all 50 American states and in most countries around the world, with over 3,500 paid staff and tens of thousands of volunteers around the world.


To interview a representative from Child Evangelism Fellowship, contact [email protected]Beth Bogucki, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Daniel Moyer, ext. 104.

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