Documentary shines light on pint-sized preachers
A new documentary looks at young children who preach in church
August 17th, 2011
03:08 PM ET

Documentary shines light on pint-sized preachers

By Stephen Walsh, CNN

(CNN)– They preach, they heal the sick, and they swagger from the pulpit. But these aren't your average preachers, they are children dubbed pint-sized preachers. The viral internet phenomenon is transitioning to TV in a new documentary.

On Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, the National Geographic Channel will air “Pint-Sized Preachers,” a documentary looking inside the controversial world of child evangelists and the families who watch over them.

The hourlong documentary tells the stories of three young boys who have gained notoriety for their explosive sermons and, in one case, a self-proclaimed power to heal the sick with a single touch.

Will the documentary have the same cringe-inducing effect on viewers as, say, TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras”?

That may depend on what they believe.

Consider 4-year-old Kanon Tipton.

Videos of the boy firing up his congregation have been a hit on YouTube . But one has to wonder, is he copying his evangelist father, or is he actually compelled to preach by the power of the Holy Spirit?

“With Terry Durham and Matheus Moraes (the two other boys featured in “Pint-Sized Preachers”), they’re repeating what they’re reading,” executive producer Stuart Clarke said. “With Kanon, it’s slightly different.”

Tipton’s parents have said in interviews that it’s a bit of both: They admit Kanon does mimic his father, but they do believe he’s touched by the hand of God.

Clarke and director Tom Dumican, both British, said they were compelled to work on the documentary because child preachers and American-style fervor over religion do not exist in the United Kingdom.

“I think our audiences will be quite jaw-dropped by this phenomenon,” Clarke said.

National Geographic Channel will show the documentary in Britain at a later date, the network said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • TV • United States

soundoff (794 Responses)
  1. Jolene

    I don't say a child can't preach, one of my grandsons, my preacher's son used to come home and preach the same sermon his dad did at abt the same age this child was. As far
    as if inspired by God, through his earthly father yes. I believe children are sensitive to God at an early age yet his mind has not developed nor is it mature enough to grasp
    the nuances of a deep relationship with God. His environment in a christ led parent, esp a pentecostal father. No one knows the effect his attention well bear on him.
    Since I dont know nor does anyone at this stage in his life we need to keep all these special children in our prayers daily. May God bless us all.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    Just remember, if the child is not baptized and not a member of the body of Christ, he's is a pagan!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  3. Jeanne

    I equate these children and their parents, with the "Toddlers and Tiaras" tv show. Both involve children who are put on display, and adults who live vicariously through their kids. 'Aren't I a perfect and successful parent? See what I've done? I've instilled a love of Jesus into my children."

    Wake up...most of those kids are parroting a script: Doing what their parents put in front of them. They get tired, they want to go out to play..but oh no..Mommy and Daddy have big plans for you. You're going to be their personal statement of Who They Are. People will look up to them, and wish they were them..and their kids aren't nearly as good as us. Yessir, we get an automatic ticket to Heaven because we've produced a child preacher/Supreme Queen toddler! You take your pick of the child version..dressed up pre-pubescent doll, or dressed up prepubescent firebreathing Man of God/Woman of God..hm..don't notice many girls preaching. I guess they're too busy behaving like mini-hos onstage. Here's a thought...let the child preachers 'save' the mini-hos.

    Kids are KIDS..they need to have Kid Lives. They need to explore, play, sleep, eat, and learn life's lessons...not be paraded in front of adults as boy wonders and wondergirls. They need to wear footy pajamas, and tell silly jokes around campfires..or to play dolls or trucks or whatever they themselves want to do...not be shoved in front of an audience with a 'loving' "You're ON" by their parents. I'm betting God has a special place all lined up for the parents of these children..and it won't involve a trophy or a higher seat next to the Divine Throne.

    September 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • brandon

      I agree if the parent are doing it for some kind of gain, but in my case some 18 years ago, I was a pint-size preacher and never was told to preach or told what to say and on top of that played sports had fun and enjoyed my childhood. I was never used to go place to place to get famous, but used by God as a tool. I guess I was blessed to have the parents I did. They were growing in church at the same time I was, they were newer to the faith. Today, I am a youth pastor and a minister and going for my MA in political science and theology.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  4. EnergyBeing3

    CHILD PUPPETS AND INDOCTRINATION AT IT'S BEST ... unlike many of us who were also indoctrinated with Sunday school teaching us kids total made up rubbish. The problem is that these kids will start to create a complex and ego at an earlier age with a " Us against them " mentality for those who aren't believers in the Christian Illusions. OR, it will swing the other way and eventually the kids will realize it's nothing more than made up hype like Santa or the Easter Bunny.

    August 30, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  5. Cyrano

    why did Jesus Christ waited 30yrs before he started his ministry? well, I think the perfect answer to this question ,will be because he wasn't yet mature to express the word of God convincely to his flock.

    August 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jack

      He didn't wait till his 30s. Read the part where when Mary finally found him, he asked why was she worried, didn't she know he would be about his Father's business.

      April 26, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  6. unbiased

    Those of you that are saying that he is just repeating what his parents have told him, this is not completely wrong. How do you expect a 4 year old to be able to read the bible on his own? Look at the bible on the in the picture. It is for children, sure he is doing a lot of what his dad does but he also has his own bible on stage with him.

    August 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  7. Mike P

    A child preaching from the altar is as biblical as speaking in tongues during church without an interpreter - it isn't. The Apostle Paul warned against turning church services into a sideshow, fearing that an unbeliever who walked in would think that the believers were out of their minds.

    August 21, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  8. Faith

    Children should be left to be children. Childhood is God's gift for doing nothing and wondering. Preaching or operating aircrafts is too early for children.

    August 20, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  9. Faith

    Atheists are jealous because they have no tanlented kids like Christians.

    August 20, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Shawn

      As an atheist it would cause me great worry if my young children were doing this.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      "Tanlented", huh? Thank you for an incredibly revealing post.

      That is all.

      August 20, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  10. Reality

    Kanon suffers from the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in the mumbo-jumbo of Christianity!!---

    August 19, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar Almightily

      Bred to be Bullied, Born to be Bigotted and Brainwashed to be Biased,,, The 666 of the B to Deees. 🙂

      August 19, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Reality

      The LWL of The Gods DR Almightily who was Bred , Born and Brainwashed to be Bigotted and Biased.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  11. The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar Almightily

    I see "child-prodigies" for what they may become and not what they might fall prey of. I am an optimist and see pessimism for what it is, just another bruising of an apple in a cart loaded with lemonizered frugalities.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:43 am |
    • John Richardson

      Yeah, any of them might become future Marjoes, exposers of religious fraud. That'd be cool!

      'Lemonizered Frugalities" would make a good name for a bad band. I'm sure you could put together a REALLY bad band. Go for it!

      August 19, 2011 at 7:11 am |
    • The Lambly Winged Lion of The Gods Does Roar Almightily

      My interpritudinalized ramblings are an uneventful pragmatism of leavened breadliness and to you I become but a bandleader,,,,LoL!

      August 19, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  12. John Richardson

    This makes child beauty pageants seem almost borderline civilized.

    August 19, 2011 at 4:36 am |
    • AGuest9

      Sad, isn't it?

      August 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      John Richardson

      This makes child beauty pageants seem almost borderline civilized.

      Hopefully this family gets reported to child protective services in their state.

      August 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Actually, wouldn't it be basically just another face of the same syndrome, parents living vicariously through their kids? What praise these parents must get from the kid's fans (amongst other rewards) and what an ego trip it must be to think of all the value the believe God must have for them for raising such a child.

      August 20, 2011 at 1:18 am |
    • unbiased

      How is this uncivilized? Picture someone you believe to be uncivilized. You don't picture a child and you certainly don't picture a child wearing a suit. Shouldn't a child be allowed to do as they please? If he wants to preach what he has been told then why can't he? Maybe making a tv show about it is a little extreme but this is by no mean the same as "Toddlers and Tiaras"

      August 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.