Christians: You Can Actually Solve the Problems of Public Schools in America
How many times have you seen Christians offer prayers and thoughts on social media in response to a tragedy, with a tone of “God help us. I wish there was something we could do!”
How many times have you heard a Christian pastor or leader moan the fact that prayer has been taken out of public schools?
How many times have you heard a Christian leader say, “Things are getting bad in this country.” He or she goes on to argue that secular people are in control of the media and the schools, asking, “But there is really nothing that we can do?”
How many times have you ever heard someone offer a solution? Like a real, practical solution; something that you can do today that will actually make a very measurable difference?
I am writing this article to offer that solution.
This solution is so practical and so effective that if Christians across America would take action and take this offer seriously it would dramatically change not only our public schools, but also our culture in general. What if I told you that you could teach the Bible in a devotional way to public school students, during public school time, for public school credit? You would think like I once did – there is no way. That is impossible. They took God out of public schools.
If you thought those things, you would be wrong. You can, in fact, teach PUBLIC school students the Bible in a devotional, gospel-centered way during PUBLIC school time for PUBLIC school credit. This is all possible through a Supreme Court protected program called Released Time Education. The basic premise of Released Time is that a student can take an elective course that trains him or her in religious education. These programs can be sponsored by any group, but of course, my hope is that Gospel-centered churches all across the country would begin sponsoring such programs.
Released Time Education was initially developed in 1914 and has been challenged twice all the way to the Supreme Court. Each time, the Supreme Court has protected the right for these programs to exist as long as the courses are privately funded, do not take place on school grounds and enrollment of students is done with parental consent. In the 1952 decision Zorach v. Clauson, the Court concluded that it would not stop such programs as that would “hostile to religion” and it would limit the students’ “free exercise of religion.”
Today, there are about 1,000 Released Time programs across America, but there should be one in every single school district – 13,000+ school districts. Imagine if every public school student in America had access to a class where they could be discipled towards Christ? Keep in mind that this isn’t a before-school program or an after-school program. This is series of credited classes that are offered to the students during school, where the teacher can teach in a devotional way from the Bible. The teacher can assign homework to the student. Remember, Released Time Education allows us to offer Gospel-focused classed to public school students, during public school time, for public school credit.
One example: In 1997 one of these Released Time Programs was founded in Greenville, SC. Since then they have served 15,000 elementary, middle and high school students in their classes. This year they are in 37 public schools in Greenville and have 1400 students taking their classes. So far just this school year they have had 137 students come to faith in Christ, and most of these students had not been to a church until they started taking the Bible class. Since 1997 they have had 2,100 students come to faith in Christ through this ministry, averaging around 100 students coming to know the Lord every year.
While some programs have raised money to build a free-standing building, most Released Time programs offer the class in a church, private school or another private building that is near the public school. Some programs have grown to the point where they have hired a full-time staff, but most of the programs begin with a part-time director and a part-time teacher. Programs can begin with an annual budget of less than $15,000. The point is, this is very attainable for Christian leaders like you. Starting a Released Time Program in your community can be spearheaded by just a handful of committed Christian leaders.
All eyes are on the public school system right now. Everyone is looking for answers. Christians, you have the ultimate answer in the Gospel – God is renewing a lost broken world through the perfect life, atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question is not: “What is the answer?” The question is: “How do you answer to a broken and confused world?”
School Ministries certainly isn’t the only answer, but it is an answer that applies the Gospel in a compelling way to, perhaps, the most influential component of American culture. Christians, quit just making comments on Facebook, and start doing something. This could change our towns and cities, the whole country and, ultimately, it could add countless souls to the great multitude around the eternal throne of the living God.
If you are interested in learning more about Released Time Education or what to do to begin a Released Time Program in your area, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in the Atlanta area my wife and I are hosting an informational event at Christ Church Presbyterian 1740 Peachtree St NW, Atlanta, GA 30309 on Wednesday May 9, from 12:30-2:00pm. A Chick-Fil-A lunch will be provided. Feel free to register here.