After-School Program Trains Thousands to Share Jesus posted by Evangelism Explosion on Oct 15, 2019
Inner city Chicago is known for poverty, crime, and gang activity. One ministry is trying to change that, one child at a time. During each school year, By The Hand Club For Kids does more than provide a safe environment for children after school. They help kids from kindergarten through college and beyond excel academically, provide nutritious meals and medical exams, and teach them about the love of Jesus. Last school year alone, more than 1,000 students learned how to share their faith and 266 children decided to follow Jesus.
By The Hand began in 2001 with only 16 students. Today, they serve more than 1,500 of Chicago’s under-resourced students every year at multiple locations in Chicago. Although parents can opt their child out of religious activities, most students agree to take a class in evangelism, featuring EE’s curriculum: Hope for Kids, every year. By The Hand estimates that approximately 3,693 students have participated in the EE class to date with more starting this fall.
“We always start our year off with EE because it lays the foundation for the rest of the school year,” said Yesania Roman, Spiritual Development Coordinator at their Moving Everest location, where she teaches EE to children as young as kindergarten. “A lot of these children have never even heard about God before. EE is basically introducing God to these kids.”
One girl told them, “My family doesn’t go to church so By The Hand is the only church I have. When I come here, I get to experience God.”
During the weeks when EE is taught, the staff wear large laminated question marks around their necks. When children ask what that means, the staff have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them. As children go through the program and learn the two questions, they receive their own question marks to wear around school and at home. As it is repeated from week to week, the children begin to understand what it means.
“They go from asking, ‘Who is that?’ to ‘Wow, here’s this person who lived a perfect life,” said Yesania. Lessons are often taught with fun songs and easy-to-follow hand motions that help children remember. “They go home with these motions, and they are teaching their parents and their baby sisters and brothers. They are just sharing EE as young as they are. It’s amazing how fervent they become once they know this truth.”
A mother shared that she began thinking about finding a church after her child shared what he was learning at By The Hand. “I wasn’t raised in the church, but he is in the back seat of the car teaching me about God on the way home.”
One third grader stood up her uncle when he tried to debunk God. “He stayed quiet,” said Yesania. “He didn’t challenge her because she was a child.”
Each story excites Yesania and the rest of the staff. “These kids are really doing it. They are receiving it, and they are sharing it. They are not scared to tell their family and strangers how to get to Heaven. There are so many situations like this that happen.”
Yesania believes that these families can be reached through the children. “The little ones are the best evangelists. If we can just get one little one into each of these homes, they can start spreading the Gospel to these families.”