Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is the world’s largest mission agency to children. Last year over 22.8 million children were reached in CEF ministries in over two hundred countries. For more than 80 years CEF has successfully met the challenge of training thousands of Christians to evangelize and disciple children. Children’s Ministries Institute (CMI) is actively preparing leaders for strategic ministry to today’s child.
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 was raised in a church which taught that praying and religion were for grown-ups. Although as a young child he longed to be right with God, the way of salvation was never made plain to him. When the conviction of sin became too much to bear and his questions were not answered, Jesse decided that if he couldn’t get saved, he might as well sin as much as he wanted. The next eight years were filled with rebellion and darkness. Finally, at age 20, Jesse Overholtzer accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
Later, as a pastor, J. Irvin Overholtzer came to the realization that children, if properly instructed, can understand the good news of salvation. Thinking back to his own childhood and those wasted years, he was tremendously burdened for the salvation of children.
Mr. Overholtzer enlisted the help of leading evangelicals of his day, Dr. Paul W. Rood and Dr. Harry A. Ironside. In May 1937, in the state of Illinois, Child Evangelism Fellowship was incorporated.
Leadership was desperately needed in 1945. Calls began to come in for directors and missionaries to develop the CEF program in areas that Mr. Overholtzer had visited in the USA and overseas.
In an effort to meet the challenge of training capable men and women for leadership positions in CEF, the Leadership Training Institute was begun. The charter student body numbered thirty.
“You’re going to see this school big someday,” Mr. Overholtzer told the students. “Other schools will be patterned after it around the world.” His prediction came true.
In intervening years, graduates of that first school set up Leadership Training Institutes in various countries around the world where CEF ministers. Today over 4,500 students have graduated from the USA Institute alone. Hundreds more have received the specialized training in CEF International Institutes which are regularly held in Europe, Latin America, East Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Institute graduates have been found ministering to children, training children’s workers, and leading a children’s ministries around the world in CEF, local churches and other mission organizations.
In 1992, the school became known as the Children’s Ministries Institute. Now, as always, CMI provides quality, practical training for those called of God to take the Gospel message to the most forsaken mission field in the world today – the children.