The curious allure of child preachers


An 11-year-old boy in the US has been ordained as a minister in his family’s church, and also preaches at a number of local churches. He is the latest in a long history of American child preachers – so what is the appeal? 

Ezekiel Stoddard’s head pops up only just above the lectern as he stands to deliver his sermon.

He turns the pages of his notes with a flick of the hand and a flourish, and speaks quickly and insistently, punctuating his words with a regular “Amen” or “Hallelujah”, as he hops from verse to verse.

He’s 11 years old, but dressed like a gentleman.

“Are you ready?” he says a few minutes in, looking up at the crowd of eager faces. “I said ‘Are you ready?'”

He repeats the question five times, before booming: “Are you ready for the resurrection of Christ?”

And with that his whirlwind of a sermon is over.

But the show goes on. Ezekiel moves over to join his older sister Corrine, 15, and brothers Hezekiah, 13, and Micah, seven, who – together with 10-year-old Jasmine – form the gospel group, God’s Blessings, No Chains Holding Me Down.

Standing in line, in order of height, they sing, swing, and click their fingers.

It’s fun, catchy, foot-tapping stuff, and the congregation at Christ Centered Missionary Baptist Church, in the east of Washington, DC, sway and clap to the beat.

Ezekiel is the frontman and, from time to time, breaks into a little rap.

Then the blessings begin.

One by one, members of the congregation – anything up to seven times Ezekiel’s age – bend down to his height, and whisper into his ear. Ezekiel commands the devil to leave, or calls for healing.

One woman hunches down and begins to sob for a few minutes, before clenching her fist and summoning the strength to get back up.

“He’s a remarkable young man,” says Rev Hercules S Jones, who invited Ezekiel to his church to preach. “When he delivers the gospel, it’s inspiring.”

Written By: Cordelia Hebblethwaite
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  1. Not really that curious, the whole setup of religion is based on intellectual infantility, emotions and gullibility. It fits perfectly.

  2. That this kid’s parents named him Ezekiel suggests that his destiny was already determined long before he was born.

    Poor little sod.

    By the way:  Hercules S Jones. As Comic Book Guy might say, “Best Name Ever.”

  3. meh. as curious as the allure of people watching a dancing bear.

    we’ve already seen Michael Jackson draw crowds as a child star. turns out there was an old man cynically manipulating him all the way as well

  4. 11 years old?  That sounds about right for the mental age of this sort of congregation!


    Katy Cordeth
    By the way:  Hercules S Jones. As Comic Book Guy might say, “Best Name Ever.”

    He has probably studied the video evidence of the faith and miracles of his Uncle Indiana Jones!

  5. Someone should just reveal the good news to that kid…
    then again,a gig’s a gig,but mom n pop might find it hard to start 
    paying him properly when he gets older,due to a habit of holding 
    onto it,for what?not his college fund anyway,why would he need it,
    he’s got the holy spirit happenin’ and more magic powers on the way…
    Can I have telepathy for Christmas god? PLEASE!!!!!!

  6. Cordelia Hebblethwaite – now that’s a name 🙂  Would never hear that in my neck of the woods.

    “appeal of a child preacher is a novelty –  carnival side show”
    BINGO.  All that’s missing is a ticket booth. 

    “…he’s being led by the holy spirit”. Pure conjecture, my good woman.

  7. what better way for the church to gain more followers or keep the ones they feel are slipping away.the christian public can obviously see that religion is falling off in a deep way and with everyone coming out and showing what a gross book the bible is,gimmicks like this are all they seem to have left.maybe it falls in to a sub conscious feeling of the want for purity. making them think of the story when the child jesus was left behind and was found preaching later in the temple.trying to make their bible seem pure again,holding on to the little stories that haven’t been decimated.who knows but it seems to work for them……sad for the children to be abused in that way though because they really believe what they are doing is right and all they have are the parents to look to for conformation…truly sad.

  8.  @ bluebird

    “All that’s missing is a ticket booth”.

    You may not be able to see it, but it’s certainly there – kerching!

  9. Clergy are actors and storytellers, basic simple entertainers.  I think they all implicitly acknowledge this.  The boy is a child actor.

  10. Theater of the absurd, by the absurd, but for relief of genuinely occupational quandaries will come to an
    end when science and technology BRING these occupational quandaries to an end. 

    Please note, however, that it will forever be possible to “mock up” an evangelistic healing scene, just as today,
    one could call up a Hollywood producer, and “mock up” a stagecoach scene out of the 1840’s. Acting, even BAD ACTING, is forever;—however, the actual need for anyone to feel that they have to have evangelistic church “treatments”  such as “hands laid on demon removal”  are  quite transitory within any future context of human civilization.

    Geez, what are all those unemployed evangelical “shepherds” gonna do when THAT day comes????????

    As the wise old Indian Chief said in the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Don’t put money in Show Business”!!!!!!

  11. Child preachers….

    I don’t want to live on this planet any…

    Waitaminute… I like this planet!
    YOU get off!

  12. Thank you for the reply.

    I need to clarify – the old site, and other websites, have a ‘read more’ icon.  Citing the source instead gives the impression of a dead end; to wit, the article is done.

  13. Child preachers with biblical names…I hope no one angers “he who walks behind the rows”

  14. Child preachers are popular for the same reason children are popular in advertisements.  They have credibility.  They don’t know they are lying.

  15. Wasn’t Jesus like 12 years old when he would go out and challenge the priests in the church? That’s pretty young.
    This young lad has some precedence to work off of.

    All Ezekiel now needs is to go off into the woods for some days, grow a beard,…

    As someone else noted, Marjoe, the documentary, is worth mentioning and watching.

  16. Click the link at the bottom, labelled “from bbc”

    (edit to break link, because my link won’t work)

  17. When the children become the teachers, then what do the parents do when the kid acts out?  Do they punish him or does he hold rank over his parents.  If he doesn’t listen to his parents then he isn’t honoring his mother and father.  Hell News Line:  Preacher admitted for breaking Commandment # 5.  Hell’s South side complains of his continued preaching.

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