Ornery child finds salvation through school’s Good News Club
The young troublemaker had been sent to the principal’s office again. Though arguably not the worst-behaved child in the elementary school, this juvenile delinquent was nevertheless becoming a proverbial thorn in his principal’s flesh. And his parents had all but given up on curing his orneriness.
The principal decided to attempt an as-yet untested solution: sending the boy to the school’s Good News Club. A ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), Good News Clubs provide after-school Bible lessons, worship songs, Scripture memory and other Bible-related activities in order to expose children to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, the clubs also provide instruction on moral behavior, such as respecting one’s parents, thus making the clubs an enticing program even to non-Christian families.
The principal—herself having come to know the Lord at a Good News Club as a child—called the boy’s parents and explained to them how sending the boy to this club could help him. Reflecting their own exasperation, the parents responded, “Whatever you say, Principal. Whatever might work.”
With the parents’ permission thus obtained, the principal brought the boy to the club, where he was welcomed by David Nigh, chairman of the Greater Fort Worth chapter of CEF and leader of that particular school’s club. Nigh swiftly discerned the boy’s reluctance to be there—clearly apparent to even the least observant in the group—and the boy sat down and grumpily lowered his head.
Despite this blatant lack of confidence in the group’s valuation, the boy continued coming to the group’s meetings in the weeks that followed. “I don’t know if the parents made him or the principal or how that played out, but he became a regular at the club,” Nigh says of these events, which happened roughly a decade ago.
Because all the club’s activities revolve around the key components of the Gospel, each time the boy attended, he was exposed to the life-giving message of Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection on behalf of sinners. Gradually, the walls that the boy had built up around himself became weaker, and eventually, they crumbled entirely. One day, when Nigh and his fellow CEF teachers extended their weekly invitation to respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith, the boy came forward and made known his desire to give his life to Christ.
“When that happens,” Nigh says, “we talk with the child to see if he’s understanding his own sin; if he’s sorry for it. To see if he understands about Jesus’ death, ‘Why did He die?’ ‘What is that for?’ ‘How does that impact your sin?’
“We also see if he’s at that point of making a commitment; if he’s thought this through. We go through the ABCs of ‘admit, believe and choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior.’ We ask him open-ended questions to see if he’s understanding those components. If he isn’t, we say, ‘It’s great that you’re coming; you’re learning. Let’s keep on learning.’”
But in this case, Nigh says, the boy did understand. He answered the questions correctly, reflecting his certain comprehension of the Gospel message. So, with his heart unmistakably touched by the Holy Spirit, the young troublemaker admitted he was a sinner; believed that Jesus lived, died and rose again; and confessed Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Years later, the principal moved from the elementary school to a nearby high school. While monitoring students in the hallway, she quickly recognized this former delinquent, now a teenager.
“She went over to him, and, of course, he knew her—he had been in her office a lot,” Nigh says. “She asked what had been happening in his life. He shared with her that, ever since elementary school, when he made that decision for Christ, his behavior has changed. He’s on the honor roll now, he’s helping in a Bible study—just a total transformation of behavior and the way he thinks about life.”
When the principal excitedly shared this anecdote with Nigh, she said to him regarding this change in the boy, “I know what it is. The fact is he gave his life to Jesus, and it was at that Good News Club. That’s what changed him.”
For Nigh, this story excellently illustrates a significant truth of Gospel ministry: that God wants all people, even children, to come to saving faith in Him. As chairman of CEF for the Greater Fort Worth area, Nigh leads an organized effort to share the Gospel with 12,000 children in more than 100 schools across 17 counties in Texas (and CEF is trying to get into more area schools as well). Though evangelizing and discipling children certainly requires wisdom and discernment, Nigh nevertheless sees this ministry as crucial for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
“God cares for [children], and there’s only one way that they can be with God, and that is through Jesus Christ—His death and resurrection, and then putting their trust in Him alone for salvation,” says Nigh, a three-time graduate of Southwestern Seminary. “We want to make sure that children hear that message and that they can hear it in a way that makes sense to them so that they can have the opportunity to be part of God’s family.”
Read more about Nigh’s ministry, as well as other evangelistic ministries of Southwestern graduates, in the summer 2018 issue of Southwestern News, available online here.