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BCM Canada: Championing Intentional Ministry to Children
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By Haydn Jensen


Do you like kids? BCM loves them. Unofficially, they say their ministry is “Because Children Matter”. Officially, BCM stands for Bible Centered Ministries (International, Canada). When they first started well over 70 years ago BCM stood for Bible Club Movement. They began in Philadelphia with one returning missionary starting up local Bible clubs based on clubs she organized and ran in her overseas work. Today, BCM has grown to effectively serve children and churches in 50 countries on 5 continents, through more than 700 BCM missionaries. BCM Canada actually began here in London in the '40's, and was based in Central Baptist Church (which later became Stoney Creek Baptist Church). At one point they even had a radio broadcast here in London. Although cultural values, government education policies and social priorities have definitely shifted over the decades, BCM sees reaching children as important as ever--perhaps more important--and they welcome you and your church to learn more about opportunities through their ministry.

The ministry has observed and firmly believes that God has made children especially receptive to God, His love and His Word. Faith and culture researcher George Barna has found that, by the age of 13, moral compass foundations are pretty well set. So, reaching people in their formative years as children really makes perfect sense.


Canadian BCM Executive Director Phil Whitehead with London BCM Missionary Fay Johnson
BCM Canada Director Phil Whitehead says, "Our Mission at BCM Canada can be summarized in five words, 'reaching children...serving the Church'." He feels that reaching children reflects, "not only our heritage but also the urgent need in our society. BCM began by reaching out to the children of Philadelphia and sharing with them the good news of the Gospel. We continue that mission through our Bible Club Ministry and by God's grace will expand this aspect of our ministry in the days to come." "'Serving the Church'", Whitehead explains, "recognizes that the Church is God's 'Plan A' for reaching this world. He doesn't have a 'Plan B'."

Here's a quick overview of BCM's ministry activities in Canada:
  • Preschool Bible Clubs: weekly for ages 2-5 in homes, day care centers and churches.
  • Elementary Bible Clubs: weekly for grades 1-6 after school or early evening in homes, schools or churches.
  • Backyard Bible Clubs/ 5 Day Bible Clubs: preschool to grade 6. Usually held in the summer for 5 days at a time in backyards or in churches.
  • Mailbox Bible Club: for children ages 4-12. Children receive, complete and return free age appropriate Bible lessons by mail. NOTE: similar introductory Bible courses are also available geared for teens and for adults.
  • Summer Camp: Mill Stream Bible Camp & Retreat Centre (near Peterborough) offers a variety of modestly priced summer camps and year round retreat facilities.
  • Ministry to Children and Adults with Physical and/or Developmental Disabilities: Several specialized ministry programs are offered, including summer camp (Handi*Camp Canada), worship experiences, workshops and church training to help churches better serve those with disabilities and also their families.
  • Children's Missions Conference available to run parallel to a church's regular Missions focus event to help kids gain an early appreciation of mission work.

To get a better sense of what's happening in the London area, local BCM Missionary Fay Johnson provides this list of schools with either an active BCM Bible Club or a known interest in having one. It should be noted that an expressed interest in having a club is a crucial first step. Interest matters! Although some of these schools now have active BCM staff or volunteers, all of these locations need additional adult volunteer support. Fay herself has been well-equipped as a volunteer trainer and is more than ready to help new volunteers get up and running comfortably. Here are the schools and situations:
  • Bishop Townshend Public School (Quebec St.) NOTE: Students from Lorne Ave. Public School will be transferring here pending renovation completion this fall or early 2016, so they would love help to prepare for more students.
  • Hillcrest Public School (Fuller St.) Has a new teacher but needs 2 volunteers to help.
  • Evelyn Harrison Public School (Tewksbury Cr.). Recently stopped, but there is interest in re-starting. Volunteers needed!
  • Aberdeen Public School (Grey St.). Interest in starting a group. Volunteers needed!
  • Lester B Pearson School for the Arts (Trafalgar St.) Interest in starting a group. Volunteers needed!
  • J.P. Robarts Public School (Bow St.) Teen volunteer interest. Adult volunteer needed!
  • Wilfrid Jury Public School (Lawson Rd.) Interest expressed. Volunteers needed!

To help churches connect more easily with their neighbourhood schools, BCM has recently launched an "Adopt-A-School" program for churches. It starts with intentional, practical service at a local public school. This builds relationships and can open the way to introduce an entire after-school program. BCM offers its assistance through the vision and planning process, volunteer training, and providing access to resources and materials. As the school-church partnership grows, BCM also offers follow-up support and encouragement.

Census data tells us that fewer and fewer parents claim any religious affiliation. BCM is concerned that so many children are growing up with little to no familiarity with the basics of the Christian faith. So, BCM wants to help churches make a difference locally.

At a recent BCM breakfast, Phil Whitehead reminded us of Charles Swindoll's notable comment, "We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations." Many would agree that a growing social distrust of organized religion in general has created what could be seen as an "impossible situation” in helping public school children gain a solid understanding of Christian basics. Religious groups' access to public schools has been increasingly restricted. To further challenge the BCM ministry, they have also been frustrated by reduced volunteer and church participation in recent years. With so many parents from single-parent and two-parent families busy working outside the home, churches and ministries like BCM are unintentionally competing for ministry volunteer time from church members.

And yet, BCM remains hopeful. They believe in the value of ministry to children, and have a strong and well-respected history of effective ministry. They also enjoy positive partnership with other children's ministries like Key Bible Clubs and Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). BCM is excited about the upcoming joint effort this August with CEF and their Celebrate Kids London program during the week of August 17-20. You can learn more here.

Fay Johnson is herself both a product of BCM ministries from when she was a child and also a clear example of the dedication BCM has in reaching children. As a missionary for BCM, she mostly supports herself as a part-time stockbroker for TD Ameritrade. She says it's hard to get volunteers, but she keeps praying. She trusts God as "the god of the impossible" and is ready for Him to provide. She has ample skills and training to help volunteers gives thanks for how God continues to provide for her in her work. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want to explore further? For more information on BCM and to find out how you or your church can partner with them:

BCM International (Canada) Inc.
www.bcmintl.ca
1-877-272-9262
Head office: mission@bcmintl.ca

To contact or even support London BCM missionary Fay Johnson:
519-453-2823
ffaayyccjj@gmail.com