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It’s Summertime: Beware of Evangelical Attempts to Evangelize and Indoctrinate Your Children


It is summertime, a time when school children spend their waking hours in leisure pursuits. I have many fond memories of the warm days of summer, three months of freedom from the rigors of the classroom. I spent countless hours at the swimming pool, riding bikes, playing baseball, going to Kings Island/Cedar Point, overnight camping, and aimless hanging out with friends. I suspect children today do many of the things I did half a century ago.

Evangelical churches know that they will have numerous opportunities over the summer months to — through coercive means — win boys, girls, and teenagers to Jesus. Church members are encouraged to scour their neighborhoods in search of children to invite to their church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS), Backyard Bible Club, or Day Camp. Non-Christian parents, unaware of the ulterior motive of Evangelicals, readily allow their children to attend programs that serve no other purpose than to turn children into Evangelical Christians.

Evangelical churches are quite savvy when it comes to methods used to attract children to what can only be described as indoctrination camps/meetings. Years ago, Vacation Bible School was the main tool used by churches to evangelize neighborhood children. While many churches still use this method, other Evangelical churches use day camps to draw children to their lair. These camps are fun-filled weeks sure to thrill most children. Some of these camps focus on sports. Regardless of the theme or focus, the end game is always the same — evangelizing children and teenagers.

Most of the time at these events will be spent doing fun activities. Fun! Fun! Fun!, says advertising material. What’s never stated is that the fun is a means to an end — making sure every attendee has an opportunity to ask Jesus into their heart/get saved/become a Christian. Some churches even baptize youthful converts at special services at the end of the week.

Sadly, many non-Christian (and Christian) parents are way too trusting. If Evangelical neighbor Susie stops by to invite their children to VBS or day camp, many parents quickly say yes. After all, the events are being held at churches, parents think. What harm could possibly come from allowing my children to go? As those of us who follow closely the machinations and shenanigans of Evangelical churches know, churches are NOT safe havens for children and teenagers. I would never advise parents to send their children to church unattended. The risk is too great, especially now that we know that sexual predators and child abusers are often fine, upstanding church members, pastors, deacons, youth group leaders, and Sunday school teachers. No parents in their right minds would allow their children to spend time with neighborhood registered sex offenders. Doing so would warrant a visit from child protective services. Yet, these very same parents don’t think twice about letting their children attend church activities that are magnets for predators. (Churches rarely do criminal background checks on summer program workers or the ministry teams that go from church to church holding camps/meetings.)

Evangelical churches should state very clearly their motives when inviting neighborhood children to VBS or day camps.  Imagine what the response would be if advertising material contained the following:


We are Wonderful Baptist Church
666 Salvation St Defiance, Ohio 43512

Come Join Us
June 13-17
6:00-9:00 P.M.

Lots of Fun and Games
Crafts and Snacks Too

And while your children are with us we plan to use coercive means to evangelize them. We plan to scare the hell out of your children, teaching them  that if they do not repent, they will spend eternity being tortured by God.

We plan to use workers who have not been thoroughly vetted. It’s too darn expensive to do a background check on everyone. Besides, we are Christians. Everyone knows Christians would never hurt children.

Something tells me that doing so would drastically reduce VBS/day camp attendance. Maybe not. Surely the fine folks down at First Baptist Church would never, ever do anything to harm children, right? People need to open their eyes and pay attention to the nefarious methods used by Evangelical churches (and some mainline churches) to evangelize and indoctrinate unchurched children. Just remember, it’s never just about  fun, food, and fellowship. The ultimate goal is always to win wicked, sinful children to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

In any other setting such methods would be roundly criticized and condemned. Churches, however, get a free pass because they are considered depositories of morality and ethics. Until people realize that churches do not warrant such trust, children will continue to be targeted for evangelization and indoctrination.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    I remember going to Vacation Bible School as a kid. It was fun, but there were a lot of kids who weren’t already part of the church who attended. I do remember the one time I definitively defied my family was regarding Vacation Bible School. I was in 7th grade, too old for VBS, and my grandparents signed me up to be a VBS volunteer to help out with the younger kids. I refused to go. Short of physically putting me in the car and dragging me into the church, I was not going to go. They backed down in the face of my adamant refusal. I didn’t even get punished. I don’t remember why I refused so strongly, but I was 13 and wanted to have my summer to myself. I was in a fundamentalist Christian school that I despised, had limited access to going anywhere, wasn’t allowed to see friends except for prearranged dates, and felt like I had zero control over my life. It was a major stance. To this day, I am proud of my young self for taking a stand.

    I think more people are aware these days that churches are not exactly safe havens for children, but there’s still an air of “not my church – it’s safe”. I wonder if churches are still able to recruit kids from outside to come to VBS though – I would think that many Millennial parents who skew nonreligious anyway would say no.

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      I’m proud of your younger self for standing up and saying no and glad you didn’t get punished for it. I was so happy when I was too old for VBS because I wanted the summer to play outdoors and watch cartoons. I would have cringed at the thought of being volunteered to be a helper at VBS. I was always an introvert anyways.

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      Ministry Leader

      Very sad. That’s one of many scenes that will be replayed when you stand before the great white throne judgement if you die without Jesus Christ.

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        I suspect you have much more to fear from your god than OC has to fear. She has openly chosen her position with god. You, however, might have issues. Based on this comment, you seem a little bit at odds with some teachings of jesus.

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        I look forward to that! However, I think the evidence shows that when I am dead, I will be like the other millions who have already died – just gone. The end. Finis. The ex-living.

        Check out Bruce’s blog for my guest post on the Great White Throne Judgment – I think you’ll enjoy it.

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    Gotta admit when I first read this I thought Bruce is worried about nothing because I never remember kids other than church members ever being at vacation bible school when I was a kid. Course I was a kid in the 70’s. Not 2-3 hours after reading this darn if I didn’t just see an advertisement for a bible school summer camp on the town’s Facebook group. And $125 a week at that! So I guess it is a thing now. They make it look fun and wholesome with pictures of kids playing outdoors and no doubt parts of it may be fun. But no doubt there will also be indoctrination and any gay kids will be made uncomfortable as with all the Christians hyper-focusing of late on anti-glbt stuff the teachers will have to make sure to condemn all gays to hell during the daily indoctrination sessions …err I mean bible studies.

    And just like you said leaving one’s kids with complete strangers or really even any other adult is always a big risk because you don’t know if they are pedophiles, abusers or just bat-shit crazy. I recall years ago stopped at a traffic light in front of a church that also operated as a daycare for working moms and seeing a little boy go down the slide only to be jerked up by a woman who then started flailing on his behind. What could he have done that bad to deserve a beating? Maybe he hurt himself on the way down and let a cussword slip that he had learned from adults or maybe he was being inconsiderate and jumped ahead of another kid in line? Well that’s why you are suppose to explain to kids when they do wrong what they did wrong and why it’s wrong and how to do better. Adults need to explain to kids. Beating someone doesn’t really teach anything other than how to physical abuse someone when they make you mad which is a bad sort of thing to be teaching.

    Nah, I wouldn’t dare leave my child in the hands of strangers at a church summer camp. Sounds even worse than the few hours I was sent to bible school for a week every summer. I hated and dreaded that because I would have rather been home playing outside than have to listen to hateful, old white women give bible lessons condemning everyone to hell that wasn’t white, straight and baptist and didn’t measure up to their standards be they how they wear their hair, dress, live and these days vote, etc. It never made sense to me even as a child why they glorified all the abuse & rape of women and children and all the killings repeatedly taught in the bible. It was worse than anything we ever saw on tv back then.

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    I wonder if churches with more liberal persuasion are less bad? I wouldn’t know as I don’t even know if the liberal, welcoming and affirming churches even do that.

    Vacation bible schools have been decreasing with moms working. But that probably means it’s the most dedicated (as in, brain-washing) churches are the most determined to continue the tradition.

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      I attended a Unitarian Universalist church for several months and I would consider them a liberal and welcoming church, but they didn’t have anything like VBS.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I wonder whether there was a Catholic equivalent to what’s described in this post. I never heard of anything like it while I was growing up and, if it existed, I’m glad I never had to experience it.

    I did, however, go to a Catholic Youth Organization day camp for one summer. We prayed at the beginning and end of the day, and over lunch. Other than that, there wasn’t any religiosity that I recall. Mainly, we spent our time with arts and crafts, sports and games and the occasional field trip to a park, beach or ballgame. It actually wasn’t bad.

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    I was a bible school teacher when I was a christian. The kids’ questions got me to thinking about how truly idiotic what I was teaching was.

    These cults claim “free child care”, aka indoctrination into the cult.

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      MJ Lisbeth

      Club—Some parents may actually want a “Christian experience “ for their children. I have to wonder, however, how many parents use those camps just to get their kids out of the way. I saw many campers in that situation during the one summer I spent as a counselor in a non-religious camp.

      If my perception is accurate, an Evangelical matriarch is more likely than a non-religious mom to be a stay-at-home mother. I think if I had to see my kids (I’ve never had any) or just about anyone 24/7, it would drive me crazy.

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    Karuna Gal

    I always thought that these Vacation Bible Schools were also a way to lure parents into joining a church. Parents who were Christians but not active might be impressed with the church’s VBS and how nice the church people were. So they start going to the church because of that. And/or because little saved Jen or Sean are insisting that they go. (Sunday School is another way to attract families who could become members of a church, too.)
    I read an article some time ago about how slick the VBS business is, that churches buy themed VBS programs from companies that specialize in producing them. There was a particularly tasteless VBS program advertised by one of my local churches, which had a space exploration theme but you were exploring not with Captain Kirk but with Captain Jesus. 😆

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      I either witnessed as a parent or participated as an adult volunteer (sometimes both), at many VBS’s over the years. Just about all I can remember in the last 20 years or more were packages purchased from organizations like Group Publishing or Answers in Genesis. Ignoring the motivations, some were goofy fun like time travel, knights and castles, or wilderness themes, others were of a more questionable content, particularly noticeable after removing the evangelical lenses.

      The AiG Noah’s Ark/Flood program is my best example of the latter. It was a little uncomfortable at the time and quite chilling when I look back on it now. There were slick video presentations, ark decorations, skits, catchy songs, dancing, and VBS mascots in the form of undersea life. I helped put together a whole undersea hallway for the kids to walk through between activities (it looked pretty good and I was rather proud of it – sinful of me I know). Why was everything underwater? Oh yeeeaaaaahhh, right….. now I remember.

      One of the catchiest songs was about “the water is rising”. I’m pretty sure most of the kids did not put cause and effect together and Ken Hamm’s team thankfully didn’t include drowned corpses in the material they published, but really, was that the best choice for VBS aged kids – 3 -12 years old? I haven’t seen a Sodom and Gomorrah themed VBS (crossing my fingers that none exists) but it’s pretty much the same story – God kills all the bad people but saves a few good ones, flashy light show included.

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    Karuna Gal

    JW – I vote for a Sodom and Gomorrah themed VBS. Think of the fun the kids would have building a pillar of salt to represent Lot’s wife. And they could participate in a sound and light show for the fiery finale that would be killer! 😉

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      KG – :O You scare me a little bit, but now it’s in my brain. That would be a very “metal” VBS. The singalongs could be like a TSO concert. I think Stryper is still recording. They ought to be able to come up with the music.

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    I did this evangelism in the Uk for decades. Clubs are much less common now. The decline began back in the 1980-90s as more mothers entered the workforce. X-tian mums would say to us that they’d love for their kids to come for our week’s bible bashing club….but they worked and the kids had to be booked into Daycare for the whole of the summer holidays, so could no longer attend. I notice the Beach Mission that takes place by me, get few children. Once lots of kids enjoyed the simple pleasures of building sandcastles, tug of war and beach games with the mission team – who then got out their flannelgraph (who remembers those?) and told a come-to-jesus-or-burn-in-hell story and sang silly songs about jesus our superhero/astronaut/friend. Also, once, if children attended these sessions, they stayed to the end, now kids have the freedom to wander in and out, to talk through the storyteller or opt out of the session of irrelevant tales (aka bible stories) after a fun time of games. But like all fundies, the mission team rolls on….convinced jesus is motivating their failed evangelism. They do community hymn singing on the Promenade every night and a team member told me elderly holiday-makers come specially to enjoy singing the old hymns from their childhood when they used to attend church – and castigated them when for some reason they weren’t there one night! That says in all really, about the state of x-tianity in the UK.
    I also recall a time when churches were the only source of kids ‘fun’ clubs during school holidays. Now there are several others to choose from, a local soccer school offers a week-long soccer club, as does the tennis club. And believe it or not, in my quaint old village, the croquet club has sessions for juniors! With fewer parents not trusting churches not to molest their kids….summer bible clubs are much on the decline.

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    Ministry leader

    It is much better to point these children to Jesus Christ and eternal life than have them March in homo parades and lead them to hell.

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      There sure does seem to be a lot of church people absolutely obsessed with homosexuals lately. It seems to be all they can think about.

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        Ministry leader

        “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea” Mark 9:42.

        The punishment for choosing to reject Jesus Christ and then lead children astray will be unthinkable……. You will will you were never conceived.

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          What are you going to do next, O Utterer of Mythological Threats? Threaten to punch us in the chakras? Tell us that we’re going to get coal in our Christmas stockings? Get us blacklisted with the Tooth Faerie Dental Remuneration Program?

          Stuff your mythological BS and the Holy Spook up your ass.

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          Yep you read the words you liked then stopped. You might want to read the rest of that section, it’s a rather high standard your god is suggesting.

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          INFIDEL IMAM

          That’s the problem right there! Quoting the bible again & again. We don’t follow your god. We don’t believe she exist. Therefore, your holy book has no effect over us.

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      1Peter 3:15-16 – But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

      James 1:16 – Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

      You might consider your audience. Castigating those you want to save, while failing to follow the instructions written in your own Bible, does not make you an effective ambassador for Christ.

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      Ministry Leader,

      Right….I see your point. I agree that a lifetime of struggle, self loathing, guilt, shame, mental health issues, religious abuse, and constant failure is far better than letting someone live as they are created. And then they get to endure judgement, loathing, disdain, and straight out hatred from their supposed brother and sisters in Christ.

      You know – people like you, as you showed in this very appropriate example of of judgment and hatred cloaked in christian love and concern.

      Yep, far better than finding acceptance, support, love and care they can get outside of your version of god. True support that is, not the fake thoughts and prayers of Christian’s, or worse yet, the forced conversion through non stop daily indoctrination of gods fearing

      Tell me, why is it that your god gave us all the right to choose whether we believe, but you can’t? Why is it that your god accepts our choice to not believe and then moves on but you can’t? Why is it that your god lets us live our lives as we choose, but you cannot? Are you better than your god, and therefore can condemn and judge us? Aren’t you even a little bit concerned that you are taking a role reserved for your god?

      A certain mountain based lecture has something to do with this…as a ministry leader I would hope you get the reference

      Maybe you should take a stab at making peace instead of pushing division. Or maybe try to show some mercy instead of judgement. Or maybe instead of bing so aggressive and direct, you can be a tad more unassuming and meek.

      Any chance you can do that?

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      What “eternal life,” ML? Absolutely no credible evidence for such a thing. All the data points to death being permanent and irreversible.

      And a god that would throw anyone at all into hell is a god of infinite evil, and probably also insane too. You’re no safer than we are.

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      ML, I have yet to see any evidence for hell. It’s interesting to read scholars’ work on the origins of the concepts of afterlife, including hell. Quite a few cultures developed these concepts over time, though there’s no evidence that any are actually in existence.

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    Is worse than I realized. Now getting bombarded on social media by VBS advertisements from every church in town offering morning and evening bible school. Pity the child whose mother just wants free babysitting and to get rid of the kid all day they could be forced to go to multiple churches and spend the entire day away from home. One church is also offering adult VBS. This reeks of desperation as their member numbers must be dwindling to put so much emphasis on this along with the slick themed VBS with every thing from space exploration to being a knight battling dragons. But I thought Christians insisted there was no such thing as life on other planets nor dragons and wizards like Merlin?

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Bruce Gerencser