Churches Education Commission Rebrands to “Launchpad” in 2019

Churches Education Commission rebrands to Life Choices - a wolf in sheep's clothingThe report (below) regarding the Churches Education Commission appeared in the 2018 Trinity Methodist Theological College newsletter. The CEC seems to be very much on the defensive in the lead up to the court case against religious instruction scheduled to proceed in 2019.

Edit (July 2019): The CEC seems to have figured out that re-branding to the same name as the End of Life Choice campaign is perhaps not in line with their image of indoctrinating kids in their religion. They have come up with the much more funky and cool “Launchpad”. /yawn. Cynically, I suspect that this is partly to allow the lawyer defending the case against religious instruction to repeat the CEC’s old claim of “Oh but that was our OLD material”. So far, the new Launchpad website doesn’t have any mention of teaching about Jesus or God either.

New CEO Geoff Burton

They have appointed a new CEO (Geoff Burton) who has a strong background in media and marketing. This may be in response to the damning statement made by previous CEO, Stephanie Sewell that the CEC would like churches to “…own your local school…”. They surely realise that they are literally fighting for survival and have brought in someone to try and turn around the stampede out the religious instruction door. The CEC has lost nearly a fifth of their participating schools in only the last 2 years, down from 650 to 520.

I doubt this will do them much good, as Stephanie isn’t the only one to accidentally say what she’s really thinking while representing the CEC. Past CEC National Director, David Mulholland once referred to schools as a “mission field” and said he considered them a “9-3 window” for “evangelizing people”. They’ve also made false claims that their material is “Ministry of Education Approved”, which was ruled against in an Advertising Standards Authority case in 2007 (view pdf) although they continued to make the claim for at least 5 years afterwards. Their member churches and even their own staff often can’t contain their enthusiasm in “winning kids for Jesus” either.  It will be an uphill battle to convince a judge that they intend to educate and not indoctrinate! Come on Geoff, tell us what you really think!

Update 1st August 2019: It didn’t take Geoff long to make his own statements when the new Launchpad website went live. Now bear with me, because evangelists are becoming wise to the fact that clearly stating their purpose of “furthering the kingdom of God” in relation to other people’s children, is not as readily accepted as it once was. So now we have statements like this.

“We are interested in who a person is and who they can become” – Geoff Burton, Launchpad CEO

This seems pretty innocuous on its own but when you connect it to their statement that “…every young person is made for a purpose”, we shift into the Christian-faith view of a God-given purpose for children rather than children finding and choosing their own purpose in life. That is why they are “interested in” who your children can become, ie; A Christian. The bulk of the website doesn’t even suggest this. There is no mention of God or Jesus or that the classes teach children to pray to God and seek answers to their questions in the Bible.

cec launchpad champions religious instruction


Rebranding to “Life Choices” “Launchpad”

In 2019, they are also shifting from the “Churches Education Commission” moniker to a more innocuous “Life Choices” “Launchpad” branding. Launchpad Champions is also the title of one of their syllabuses. You know… the ones that end every class with an invitation to pray with the church volunteer in your kid’s secular school.

They say that the new name “better reflects our place in a more multi-cultural society”. Pretty words but utter drivel. The cultural change in NZ is mostly coming from immigrants who are mainly from countries where Christianity is the dominant religion. The real problems they face are the rapidly declining levels of Christian affiliation and greater awareness of the privileged access they have to promote Christian religious faith in supposedly secular state primary schools. They also claim that sessions are suitable for all kids. More nonsense. How is a lesson promoting the belief that Jesus is the son of God suitable for a Muslim or an Atheist child?

“While sessions are taught from a Christian perspective, the teaching is open, non-judgemental and appropriate for all children in school environments, no matter their belief value.”

I noticed that they seem to have responded to one of my criticisms of their promotional material and changed the “Info for Parents” page (as at 14/12/2018) on their website to make it clear that they teach Christian beliefs. While this change is positive, it makes their claim above that the classes are suitable for all children look silly. They seem to think that as long as their volunteers preface the lesson with “Christians believe”, the lessons are suddenly academic and educational. If schools wanted to teach real education about religion, there is no need for the CEC to enter our schools and we would not want solely education about Christianity anyway.

“CRE teachers teach Christian beliefs: The Christian belief that Jesus is God’s Son…”

“CRE teachers are trained to use language such as “Christians believe…” or “The Bible says…”.”

They are looking for other means of access

The newsletter also talks about their Champions (as opposed to kids who opt out!) programme growing and the initiation of an after-school programme. This creates new challenges for the fight against religious instruction, as schools are technically closed at lunchtimes and religious after-school activities, promoted by the school, are unrestricted in legislation. They also announce a new programme called SHIFT for intermediate schools and are promoting Lifewalk chaplains. The chaplains are especially concerning, due to the mental health crisis that seems to be gripping our youth and support for students will be hard to resist for cash-strapped schools. The hook in the offer is access for a religious group. We should be offering schools funding for unbiased, trained, professional counsellors.

The newsletter from the CEC to the Methodist Church follows…

CEC report in Methodist Theological College newsletter

We appreciate the ongoing support from the Methodist Church towards the work of the Churches Education Commission (CEC) in New Zealand. We value the commitment and endorsement of the Methodist Church towards CEC and our work in schools throughout New Zealand, and appreciate the partnership we have with you.

CEC is currently delivering the Life Choices/Champions programmes in over 600 schools reaching over 60,000 children and run by 2,500 volunteers on a weekly basis.

CEC Rebrand

CEC is undergoing some exciting and great change with the development of our brand. This has been an extensive process and still a work in progress.

CEC is grateful for the 140-year legacy that we are a part of. Although CEC will remain and continue to exist in the background, as of January 2019, our name and brand in schools and with funders will change to Life Choices.

The heartbeat remains the same, to ‘Inspire Every Child To Make Positive Life Choices’. Life Choices comes from our vision, and this name better reflects our place in a more multi-cultural society. As advised about, CEC will continue to remain and exist in the background.

Curriculum Update

Here at CEC we are committed to the continual development of our curriculum so that we have confidence in what we provide our teachers for use in their CRE programmes. The aim of the Life Choices curriculum is to be acceptable to NZ state schools while maintaining the biblical basis of Christian Religious Education. Thus, Life Choices utilises the Key Competencies and values of the NZ curriculum. These specific competencies and values contribute to specific learning outcomes for each session. While sessions are taught from a Christian perspective, the teaching is open, non-judgemental and appropriate for all children in school environments, no matter their belief value. Using a variety of teaching methods, students are encouraged to consider their values in relation to Christian values and develop a sound, ethical framework. Students are encouraged to develop their critical thinking skills and apply the values and teachings to their own lives.

Life Choices adds values by meeting the needs of today’s schools, by ensuring the Life Choices curriculum is relevant, flexible and adaptable to every school community.

We have reached a significant milestone in our history with the creation of our own curriculum including 3 years worth of content, across six different manuals. Completing this multi-year task will put curriculum development into a continuous improvement mode and allow us to start new initiatives.


Our large-group style CRE programme, Champions, continues to grow in a number of schools throughout the country. Champions provides an alternative to the typical Classroom style lesson. A Large Group Presenter or team of teachers combine together to present the programme in a suitable large space, such as a school hall. We present a high-energy style lesson incorporating songs, games, stories and often digital media. Champions now also has its own unique version of the Life Choices curriculum which has more multi-media resources plus a different set of games/activities, all tailored to the large group environment.

After School Programmes

CEC has started its first after school programme in a school in Auckland. This opportunity stemmed from a school not having the time during their school time for our Life Choices programmes, however acknowledged the benefit of it and has given us a space after school on their school grounds. We are looking into ways we can grow this area and implementing it across the nation.

Intermediate Age Group

CEC is currently creating a programme to take into Intermediate Schools.

This programme will be called SHIFT with our first series tackling the topic of Identity. The name SHIFT is inspiration from the idea of shifting and changing the youth culture of comparison, unhealthy self-image, low self-esteem and suicide to an image of self-worth, confidence and boldness. Our goal is to shift and change the social image that has been put on young people as we want them to be the leading examples and figures in our society.

This programme will run for four weeks in an Intermediate School where there will be a presenter & media element. The media element will be of someone in our community, sharing their testimony on how they tackled different issues.

Once our programme is completed, we will offer the school a chaplain who will then commit to 4 hours per week, to journey alongside students and offer support to teachers and staff.

Conferences/regional events

Our National Conference for 2018 (called ‘Invig’) took place on August 10th & 11th in Auckland. We saw over 360 CRE volunteers, Chaplains, Children’s Pastors and Leaders attend. We’ve had great response from delegates who spoke highly of the workshops & keynote sessions that we had. We are looking forward to INVIG 2019 and plan to increase our base from 360 to 450 delegates.

I Heart My Local School

For the past three years, we’ve placed huge time and energy into creating our Life Choices Curriculum. Now that it is completed, our heart is to engage the local church with their local schools.
We firmly believe that local schools are the heart of the community. This initiative will be a collaboration with Lifewalk (our chaplaincy arm), inviting churches to explore in how they can partner with us in building stronger communities by investing in their local school.

CEC National Staff Team

In October 2018, we will welcome our new CEO, Geoff Burton who will be replacing Stephanie Sewell. Stephanie has been a great asset to this organisation and has paved the way in many aspects of what we do and how we do it. She has built a great team at National office and also strengthened the connections throughout our regions.

Geoff Burton comes with a passion to see the children of this nation reach their full potential and to impact their lives for good. He has taught CRE for the past eight years and comes with a strong background in marketing and media.

We are excited about the new developments and initiatives taking place within CEC and we’re looking forward to a bright future. Thank you for the opportunity to present our report to the Methodist Church, and thank you for your ongoing dedication to CEC.


  1. well at least CEC are actively proactive about helping to make a difference. whether you admit it or not Christianity has and does society better. Education, Health, science, government, social justice issues-were founded be Christianity. Civilized New Zealand happened because of Christianity.
    If a person chooses to be atheist and teach their children to be atheist it’s their choice. No one In CEC/Launchpad is making anyone choose to believe in God. But you have to admit that the golden rule, respect for others, are all values that come from the Bible. Jesus never forced any one to follow him, and neither do Christians.
    But if you were in a desert dying of thirst and came across someone who knew where to get water wouldn’t you expect them to tell you? Wouldn’t you think they were selfish if they with hold vital information to your very existence?
    You can dent Jesus Christ as much as you like, but maybe the real question you have to ask is God reveal yourself to me personally? Every person who has had a personal revelation of God cannot help but follow Him and tell others of this Truth, If you don’t then it’s your lose. Being open minded enough to ask God to reveal Himself to you you have nothing to loose.

    • Hi Cat,

      Thanks for commenting. I think that your comments need to be put into the correct context. This is the context of children being taught in a secular state primary school.

      The historic impact of Christianity has nothing to do with whether or not children should be indoctrinated into Christian religious faith in their non-religious school. In other words, I’m not suggesting that religious instruction is wrong because of the torture and terror that Christians spread through the Spanish Inquisition. That would be ridiculous. And likewise, it is ridiculous to suggest religious instruction is appropriate because some other Christians did some good things.

      This issue rests on principles. Either it is principled to promote religious faith in a secular state school or it is not. The word “secular” should really give away the answer. If not, then consider whose religious faith should be promoted? Your version of Christianity? Someone else’s? We have a more diverse society where non-religious people are now the majority, so perhaps we should teach that there is no god? Christians have long called for “votes” to justify a majority of people wanting their religion taught but as Christian affiliation declines, I suspect that a majority imposing their beliefs on a minority would suddenly seem unfair to you! This is why we shouldn’t promote any religious views in schools. Children should be educated, not indoctrinated.

      Saying that “No one In CEC/Launchpad is making anyone choose to believe in God” is misleading, because encouraging belief in a Christian god is most certainly their goal. No, “the golden rule and respect for others” are not values that come from the Bible. They are values that are in the Bible (although some would want to debate that). The golden rule was well known in many cultures long before Christianity got to them. Respect for others is also another Human value. We do not need your religion in order to teach our children values. Ironically, you are insulting the parents who you expect to give you access to their children. Not very “respectful”.

      I have no interest in your god. If you want your children to believe the same things you do, go to church. Do not expect your church to get access to our children while they are supposed to be safe from religious pressures in their school. It is predatory and unethical.

      • “Being taught in a secular state primary school”. The Schools are all officially closed.
        For many it is lunch time.
        Just because the publically funded school building are used to teach this Values education programme does not make it “Part of any schools cirrululum” ?

        You made to statement which are not true Dave
        Those who do not believe in a God are not the Majority.
        and yes in a democracy the majority do rule in the best interests of everybody.

        Next time you or your children are lied to, your car is stolen broken into, your house burgled, your fence graffitied, you are assaulted by a drunk or you go to a funeral where someone committed suicide REMEMBER that you Dave out of bitterness and unforgiveness vermently refused this person the possibility of learning any respect for the others or their things.

        and respect for all knowing all seeing, God who loves and cares about them enough to personally demonstrate the way life should be lived.


        • I would say that it’s extremely disingenuous to rely on a technical claim of “the school is closed”. It’s like seeing someone drop their wallet and keeping it because “technically, they lost it”. Also, the irony of this argument being used to justify a “values class” should not be ignored.

          For some, it is lunchtime. For most, it is morning or afternoon. Regardless, why should any religious group be able to promote their beliefs to children at lunchtime? Would promotional weekly visits by political party members be ok too?

          Regarding majorities, I should have said “non-Christian”. However, your claim that “…in a democracy the majority do rule in the best interests of everybody” is obviously not true. They rule, but not necessarily in the interests of everybody. That is why attention to human rights is important. We should not vote to remove other people’s human rights, which is what happens when a board votes to close a secular school to promote a religion.

  2. The Bible in schools parent based “Out of school time” i.e. when it is officially “closed” programme is second only to Remedial Reading in the voluntary hours of parent teaching involvement in our schools. Many who run the programme are fully trained teachers or church trained Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders. They are in my experience having participated for ten years while full time farming fine examples of kind, caring, thoughtful, inclusive, tolerant excellent adult role models. It is run to a very high standard as there is lots of intense hours of training modules to complete for the churches education commission, done in ones own time and at ones own expense.

    Where else do our children learn to apoliguise, be thankful, to care for others, look at the wonder of life, the universe and everything.
    Where do they learn that life has a purpose and plan, everything is brilliantly and intelligently made and designed.
    I’m loved even if my parents die, I’m loved.
    Why should I not steal?, lie? , covet and desire what others have?
    What helps them deal with violent, hurtful thoughts?, depression and suicidal thoughts?
    How do I deal with Dark music, Dark video games, Alcohol, Gambling, Drugs, Pornography, is Promiscuity God’s plan for us?
    These things which try to get me addicted, High jack my life and ultimately steal my joy for living.

    It is twenty weeks of some of the best wholesome knowledge, spiritual input and life skills that kids can ever get.

    I have been at so many tragic funerals of “Secular” kids who sadly took their own lives, but I have never been at one for a kid that was taught Bible in Schools, certainly not on my watch.

    We can either have a “Policeman in everyone’s head….or one on ever street corner”.
    It’s a lot cheaper and more productive to sharpen and awaken the conscience,
    pay for more police, courts, judges, than to build heaps more prisons and lock up otherwise productive adults.


    I taught it for ten years because I believed it can and did make a wonderful difference in the lives of Geraldine children and our wonderful community.

    What gives a few Rich Secular Athiest Pagan Believers of SEN, the right to steal such a wonderful free voluntary
    “out of school time” programme from NZ parents and their children? Parents should be demanding that these programmers are not only provided but that the state provide a contribution in the interests of community building, Justice prevention and mental health prevention programs.

    kind Regards

    Dave Stanton

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are right that the classes are “technically” out of school time. However, the reality is that most of these classes are run in normal school hours when children would normally be learning the official curriculum. My own girls have to come late to school on a Tuesday to avoid the 9.00am to 9.30 am class. They are then told to walk to the school office to sign themselves in as the school roll was taken just before the bible class. This is one of several ways that children are “othered” by religious instruction.

      I appreciate that some of the bible teachers are ex-teachers or youth workers but I don’t see how that impacts on the principle of the right to secular education. Do you think that these same people would be willing to come and teach a values class without any reference to their religious faith? That way, the classes would be welcoming and inclusive to all children and families and there would be no reason for anyone to opt-out. What a wonderful, truly unbiased, altruistic, community involvement that would be! If you don’t think they would do that, why not?

      We agree that there is a need for values teaching. I’ll go further and say that children should be taught philosophy, civics, critical thinking and empathy. Is there any reason that we can’t teach these things without your religious faith being promoted as well?

      • That is the problem a Secular Society has Dave, there is no basis for saying this is right ? or good ? or why?

        Like You shouldn’t steal other people’s stuff?
        Why Not? ” I want it, They have more than me, I need it, I missed out, I need the money for drugs, I like their stuff, it’s easy, I’m smart, they will never catch me. ”

        How would you feel if they stole your stuff ? “I don’t care”

        Well you wouldn’t like them stealing your stuff,
        “They can go ahead I got nothink, anyway”

        I’ve worked with Maori At Risk kids whose parents were in the Black Power and Mungrel Mob
        and they don’t care a damn thing about what your “Secular Society Values”. But they do have a conscience and they like us all get the conviction of God on them when they steal even if no one was there to see it….and that is the only thing that is going to eventually stop them and turn their lives around for good.

        You are free to deny your kids …. (I just hope and pray you don’t live to regret it) but Dave don’t deny the other kids who grow up with no boundaries, no guidance or no critical thinking, no morals and a strong likelihood they will end up following their parents into prison without them. These are the parents who won’t get around to filling out the form to say they can go and learn those things, and the same kids you’ll be attending the ‘family group conference’ with cause your stuff got nicked or car vandalized.


        • Now you’re veering off into moral philosophy. Your claim is that morality comes from your god. I would say that morality naturally evolved and is still evolving based on an understanding of how our actions affect each other. While you assert that having a conscience is “god”, I’d just say that it’s empathy. I’d far rather live in a society that works out the right thing to do than one that listens to someone who claims to be the voice of a god he can’t prove exists.

          Your typically Christian dire warnings of all bad things coming from a lack of your god are not born out in reality. We could go off on a long conversation where I list all the incidences of child sex abuse within religious organisations and then you can do the old chestnut of claiming Hitler and Stalin were atheists (Hitler definitely wasn’t and Stalin trained as a priest) but that would be pointless. The fact is that there are many more good people who don’t believe in any gods and many more good god-believers than there are “bad” people.

          Also, you didn’t answer my question… “Do you think that these same people would be willing to come and teach a values class without any reference to their religious faith? That way, the classes would be welcoming and inclusive to all children and families and there would be no reason for anyone to opt-out. What a wonderful, truly unbiased, altruistic, community involvement that would be! If you don’t think they would do that, why not?”

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