Keys for Kids Ministries started in 1942 when a young girl asked her uncle Gil, Rev. Gil Cosselman, "Why are there no radio programs for children talking... Jesus?" This was the genesis of CBH. One uncle led to a meeting of four pastors which led to a group of ten that launched the Children's Bible Hour that same year. Their first broadcast was aired in November from the studios of WLAV in Grand Rapids, Michigan. CBH is famous for having "uncles", most notably Uncle Charlie narrating the broadcasts, but when CBH first started, there were four uncles, Carl Bihl, Morry Carlson, Mel Johnson, and Malcolm Cronk. The first office was in the Keeler building, in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Children's Bible Hour's first director, was "Uncle Mel" Johnson, who served from 1942 to 1946. Dr. D.O. Fuller, pastor of Wealthy Street Baptist Church, served as chairman of the CBH board from the very beginnings in 1942 for thirty-three years.
One of the first two aunts, "Aunt Dorothy" Boli, described the radio program as "... an hour long divided into four sections - Bible Question Time, Chorus Time, Bible Memory Time, Bible Story Time, each having fifteen minutes. As to the script, there was little written out... most of the program was ad lib. But the spontaneous response and harmonious spirit made it a lively and profitable program."
By 1943, CBH was now being heard world-wide via HCJB Radio. That year, a printed communication with their listeners and donors was started with the "CBH News". They also started printing yearly calendars to encourage people to pray for them regularly. Nineteen years later, the "Cheery Chats" newsletter was introduced as a bi-monthly contact with contributors. It was changed twenty-seven years later to "News And Notes".
The year Children's Bible Hour went global, 1943, the one year anniversary celebration was the beginning of a 56-year series of annual rallies. The first rally was held at the Welsh Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids.
From 1944 to 1999, the song "Boys And Girls For Jesus" was the rallying cry for CBH. Beginning in 1945, Mr. Trover wrote many of the radio dramas aired, and when CBH needed a new office manager, he recommended his sister Bertha Shooks, from Canton, Ohio, and she later became CBH's third executive director until 1972, and became well known as "Aunt Bertha". For many years, starting in 1958, Aunt Bertha gathered many interested ladies every month to pray for the ministries. That same year, the future "Uncle Charlie" at age nine was picked out of a studio audience to read, and he joined CBH two years later in 1947 and after college graduation joined CBH full-time as an assistant director to Aunt Bertha. Uncle Charlie still serves the ministry today as Ambassador-At-Large.
In 1949, CBH began a television ministry that was broadcast live and produced in a 13 program series for several years. In 1958, "Search The Scriptures" correspondence Bible course was launched, eventually over 7,000 were enrolled in the course. In 1970, a lending library was started where cassettes of the broadcast were made available to missionaries, military and others that weren't able to access the program on radio. In 1971, recognition for CBH's growth came from a future US president, Gerald R. Ford. Around that same time, a "Phone-A-Story" ministry started in Tucson, Arizona, where children could phone in and hear shortened stories. Eight years later, it was being used in over 170 areas of the United States. In 1965, the first foreign language program was released in Russian of the 15 minute story aired on HCJB and continues to air today. In 1981, CBH began broadcasting in Chinese, and eventually in Spanish, Romanian, Russian, and the Ilongo dialect in the Philippines.
In January 1982, the idea for a devotional for kids was incubated at CBH, and the first run of 5,000 copies of Keys for Kids was in the mail. Demand was so great, there was an immediate reprint of 10,000 more of the first issue. In September 1984, the Keys Radio program was started as a 4½ minute broadcast six days a week hosted by Uncle Charlie based on the Keys for Kids devotional, and continues to be printed, posted online in text and audio files, and emailed. In 1986, a Spanish version, Tesoros Para Ninos (Treasures For Children) was first released, stories adapted to the fit the culture and language. Keys for Kids was also translated into Romanian, Portuguese, and Arabic, among many other languages throughout the world. In 1988, Tyndale House began publishing the One-Year Book of Devotional line using Keys For Kids. In just four years, over 100,000 were being printed yearly, and it continued in print for nine editions.
A full broadcast singing group began touring the United States and Canada every summer for 10-day music concert tours in 1976, and every month through the rest of the year in Michigan. Also, along the line of music, "Mr. Paul" Storm sang in 1940s programs, and played guitar on the program starting in the 1960s. Ken Louis also served as the music director for 39 years.
In 1996, CBH launched their first website, as one of the first to be part of the www.gospel.com work. In 2006, CBH's second website won the award for "Christian Broadcaster Website of the Year".
In 1999, Uncle Charlie was promoted from Director to Ambassador-At-Large and travels to this day with his wooden friends Wally and Chico, and bag of magic tricks illustrating the Gospel, throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Jamaica, Fiji Islands, Europe and Africa with his ministry.
Randy Hekman served as Director from 1999 to 2003, and helped develop "Down Gilead Lane" as well as starting a radio ministry called "Parent Minute". A former juvenile court judge, as well as father of twelve children, he had a strong desire to reach children with the Gospel. In 2002, CBH partnered with Tyndale Ministries to publish seasons of Down Gilead Lane in Christian bookstores.
In 2003, Mrs. Terre Ritchie stepped in as Executive Director after thirty years in children's ministry, and thirteen years on the CBH Board of Directors. By 2004, over 45,000 Keys For Kids devotions were being printed and marketed around the nation. In 2005, the first two booklets of a new Bible Study called Camp-Be-Yon-Key was printed to give children a more in-depth study beyond Keys For Kids. By 2007, CBH was up to 95,000 Keys for Kids every month. Ritchie retired in August 2015.