About Us

Our History

In 1980, leaders in a small United Methodist Church along the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania sounded off at a Vacation Bible School planning meeting. "If we have to do VBS like we've always done it, we quit!" After the shock wore off, the group spent two hours brainstorming their idea of a perfect week in summer children's ministry. The result was a meaningful yet fun and easy Vacation Bible School (Close Encounters of a Biblical Kind) that caught on throughout Western Pennsylvania and eventually the United States. It proved to be only the beginning.

Who We Are

Ellen Bunnell has been a church educator since graduating from Edinboro University with a B.S. in Secondary English in 1971. Teaching children, youth and adults the basics of the Christian faith has always been Ellen's joyful priority. Mix the desire for teaching about Jesus with the urge to make the Bible come to life and the seeds for a lifelong ministry were planted. Ellen possessed a perfect laboratory to test new Christian Education ideas when her three children were born and eagerly took part in experimental activity centers at every level of their childhood.

David Bunnell is a United Methodist pastor who graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL in 1979 with an MDiv from the School of Christian Education. He contributes his expertise in computers, advertising and printing.

The ministry moves with the Bunnells as church assignments change. Each parsonage has served as offices filled with equipment for publishing. Vacations and late nights provide the opportunity to publish materials for churches across the nation.

We are a personal ministry to churches who want something unique for their church and community. Leaders telephone our home any time of the day or night and find someone to answer questions and motivate hesitant leaders to establish amazing ministries to children in their local church.

The materials are published in a simple, ease to use notebook format and are written and produced by Ellen and David.

Our Mission

Close Encounters Ministries is a Christ centered ministry dedicated to making children, youth and adult programming exciting and fun! We translate the message of God's love through Jesus Christ into action packed, visual experiences.

Our Statement Of Faith

We believe there is one God and creator of heaven and earth, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His death at calvary, in His physical resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father and in His personal return. We believe the work of the Holy Spirit is a gift given at the moment of salvation and allows God to work within and through the lives of Christians all over the world. We believe the Bible is the inspired, authoritative Word of God.

We believe that the purpose in life is to know and glorify God and to gain eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The only way to God is through His Son, Jesus. Each human is confronted with the claims of Christ. To accept or reject Him as Savior and Lord is a personal decision. Accepting Jesus is God's only requirement to avoid judgment of sin and gain entrance to heaven for eternity. It is our responsibility to reach out to as many people as possible with the Good News of the gospel of Christ.

We believe that children are a heritage from the Lord and a true blessing. We are accountable to Him for raising, fashioning and preparing our children for a life of service to His Kingdom and to people of the world.

We believe that all human life is God given and sacred. Whether a person is unborn or old, in a family or single or widowed, physically or mentally handicapped makes no difference to God and must not affect the way we deal with any person from the cradle to the grave.

Our Philosophy Of Christian Education

Since students learn in a variety of ways, we believe we must present the gospel using an assortment of methods Our programs focus on the value of interaction and personal attention from the teaching staff. Building in chat time provides an opportunity for friendship and casual questioning of serious issues. Bringing the Bible to life is central to our goal of teaching students about real people and real events from long ago. Our "Live It" themes capture the imaginations of the youngest students and challenge the older students to think about today's life in terms of their faith in Christ. Quick, hard hitting learning/activity centers make learning about God's Word relevant.

Part of the job of teaching children is teaching and encouraging the adult staff. Making each Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Kid's Club, camping program and holiday presentation enjoyable for volunteer teachers is vital to the success of a local church Christian Education program. Happy, fulfilled teachers make happy, fulfilled students.

Contact Us

We work with a small staff and try to be personally available to all our Close Encounters churches. Help us to continue providing resources useful to your ministry by contacting us at 888-236-5433 or dave@cemlife.com.