From the desk of WFA president Julaine Appling:
Last week we received a handwritten note in our office from a lady who had read an article in our September “Church Connection,” a monthly bulletin insert we make available to Wisconsin churches. This lady said she had read the article entitled, “Equipping for the Harvest Field.” After thanking us for bringing Gateways to Better Education to Wisconsin for a seminar designed for Christian teachers serving in the public schools, this dear lady wrote, “The public schools are truly an open mission field. One opening the law gives us is to hold Bible studies in the public schools in an after-school program both during the school term and during the summer.” “All we need,” she continued, “is committed Christian workers.”
As I read this letter I was reminded of the very program this friend was talking about—Good News Clubs. These are indeed programs that allow the Good News of the Gospel to go directly into the public schools. And there is a US Supreme Court case that clarifies the law regarding these opportunities.
In 2001, the US Supreme Court heard a case known as Good News Club v. Milford Central School. Good News Clubs are a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship and are weekly after-school programs designed for children 4-12, held at the school. In these Clubs, the children sing songs, hear a Bible story, play games, memorize Scripture and in general have fun while hearing the message of salvation.
In fact, at each meeting, the children are given an opportunity to accept Christ as their personal Savior. Attendance is voluntary; no coercion or compulsion is used. Parents need to give permission for their children to attend the Club, but there is no charge for being involved. The Clubs are led by volunteers and are typically sponsored by a local church.
In this particular instance, a Good News Club had applied to Milford Central School to use the school lunchroom for its after-school program. The school district denied the request saying that such a club in a public school facility would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The case worked its way through the court system, with the US Supreme Court ultimately determining that Good News Clubs must be treated just like any other community group that would seek to use the public school facility. The Court found that the school district had violated “the Club’s free speech rights and that no Establishment Clause concern justifies that violation.”
This case cleared the way for Good News Clubs all across the country. In Wisconsin, from the contact I’ve had with Child Evangelism Fellowship groups in the Milwaukee and Madison areas, I find that these are very popular and very successful programs. Sometimes elementary school principals even request the Clubs because they know how good they are for their kids.
What is so often missing in getting more Good News Clubs into other public schools is, as our letter-writer notes, “committed Christian workers.” The public schools are truly a mission field white unto harvest. Just as we need to be sure that Christians teaching in these schools are equipped and prepared to legally and appropriately teach the truth about Christianity, the truth about the founding of America, and Judeo-Christian principles and values and more in their classrooms, so we need workers, prepared workers—individuals and churches—who are willing to take advantage of this legal opportunity to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to students in our public schools.
A quick online search shows that there are 8 Child Evangelism Fellowship offices in Wisconsin, located in Green Bay, Hudson, Brookfield, La Crosse, Plover, Madison, Wisconsin Rapids, and Portage. That means there’s an office somewhere relatively close to you. Perhaps you need to be involved in this ministry to the mission field of our Wisconsin public schools. Perhaps your church could sponsor a Good News Club in one of the elementary schools in your area. Why not call your area Child Evangelism Fellowship office and get the details?
Instead of complaining all the time about how bad our public schools are, we need to start taking advantage of the opportunities we do have to legally take the Gospel to the more than 800,000 students who enter the door of a public school in Wisconsin each school day. Good News Clubs are a great way to do just that. Let’s not let it be said that while these fields are white unto harvest, we had no laborers to reap the harvest of young souls that so desperately need to hear the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ.