Bible Education For Public School Students

Joel Penton of Stand For Truth explains an exciting opportunity for Bible education through Ohio public schools’ Release Time Bible Education.

“There’s Ohio legislation in place that students in public school can leave school to receive Bible education every single week! There’s a law protecting this!”



The Full Transcript

(Ken Harrell) A couple months ago, well, more than a couple months ago, Joel shared with me of the possibility of a new branch of ministry, different from what they’re doing now. They still have Stand for Truth, going to schools, but was the door opening for this?

And Joel, would you share with the folks about this? It’s exciting.

(Joel Penton) Sure, yeah. I am excited about this, and I’ll try to make it concise because it could be a long story, but I heard, and Adam mentioned it, I don’t know how many of you caught it, this thing called Release Time Bible Education.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with that concept. It’s this little-known thing, there’s Ohio legislation in place that, if there’s a program available, students in public school can leave school during the school day to receive Bible education every single week, there’s a law protecting this, and there’s federal court cases deciding in the favor of this, provided that it’s held off-site, it can’t be on school property, it needs to be funded with private dollars, not tax dollars, and they need parental permission. You meet those things, and students can go and be taught the Bible during the school day.

This is incredible to me that I had no idea this was a thing. Well, I came to find out about it, not just through my conversations with the Johnsons, but also because my very hometown, there’s a group of people not connected to me in any way, although I knew some of them, they started one of these Release Time programs. There’s not very many of them across the state. People just don’t know about it.

So, they bought a house adjacent to the elementary school, renovated it, started holding classes, doing the permission slips. Within a few years, and this is not a joke, 95% of Van Wert Elementary School students receive an hour of Bible education every single week.

(Ken Harrell) How about that? Amen!

(Joel Penton) Only 30% attend church, and 95% receive Bible education every single week. Well, when I found out that, for one thing, through just the process of discussion, this is the same vision as Stand for Truth, as we go, our vision is to reach un-churched students in public schools with the Gospel. And it’s been very event-based up to this point, but this is a very complementary angle of the same vision.

So, we began a conversation with that organization in Van Wert, Ohio, that they’re called Cross Over the Hill, but they have people in leadership that they said, hey, we wanna see this thing spread, people don’t know about it, so let’s build a model that’s replicable, and multiply this thing across, not just Ohio, but across the nation. And Stand for Truth is positioned well to expand this type of thing, because we’re already in hundreds of school districts every single year, as we travel, and connect with school administration, church leaders, that type of thing, and so we have contacts, and we continue to make more communities that could do this type of thing.

And so, we’re in the midst of putting together the initial pieces with the intention of launching a model that could be adopted and replicated the same type of thing all across the country.

We have a video, did you want to roll it? We have a video that will kind of illustrate this. This video is kind of, it’s never really been shown to an audience. It’s almost a secret, we want to get ready, but we want to show it to you this morning!

(Tim – Cross Over The Hill Board Member) Seven years ago, my wife came home, after she saw an ad in our local newspaper. And she basically said this. Our school is going to start a release program that allows kids to study the Bible during school hours. And I said, no way, you can’t do that.
(Clark – Pastor) When people think of missions, traditionally, it’s usually in a global level. Going overseas somewhere, helping in a foreign country, and a lot of times, local missions get overlooked.

(Myrna – Former Public School Teacher) I always thought as the public school system as kind of my mission field. However, because it was in the public setting, I knew that I had limitations. I couldn’t actually spell out the Gospel message to them.

(Tim) Kids can study the Bible during school hours. It has to meet three criteria. One, it has to be voluntary. Two, the cost has to be paid for with private dollars. Third, it has to be off school property. You meet those three criteria, any child in America’s school district has the opportunity to study the Bible.

(Myrna) As I learned that it could be done, and it was legal, just got really excited to think about all the students who could actually hear the Gospel story as they’re released from the public school setting into a facility like this.

(Sarah – Cross Over The Hill Teacher) It’s a joy to them to learn the Bible, and it’s a joy to see them learning the Bible. It helps them to take it to the community, to the school, to their families.

(Tim) We’ve had pastors tell us, people have shown up at our church because kids go home to their parents and say, “Hey, I wanna learn about the Bible.”

(Sarah) Auston came into Cross Over the Hill two years ago as a first grader. He went home, and he said, “Mom and dad, we gotta go to church, mom and dad, let’s go to church.” Until he got them to go to church. They ended up coming to my church, and they stayed. And Auston’s knowledge has just boomed, and he’s real excited about everything that he learns.

(Auston – Cross Over The Hill Student) It just makes me feel like, it just makes me feel happy that people are learning more and more about God.

(Lance – Pastor) They’ve been in our church for about two-and-a-half years now, and they’ve gotten involved, and the mom just recently got baptized and gave a great testimony, and the church applauded and cheered.

(Matt – Cross Over The Hill Teacher) It’s been fantastic to watch these kids engage the Bible. These guys are asking questions, they’re really thinking deep about some of the stuff that’s going on in the world today, and I think that’s a huge win.

(Mackenzie – Cross Over The Hill Student) I don’t go to church, so this is kind of my church. I get to learn more about God, and the Lord, and the whole experience of the Bible. When I was younger, I didn’t really have a thought of God and who He was, so now I have a deeper love for Him.

(Myrna) Phew, it is so rewarding. The time that you can put in, the money that you’re willing to donate to something like this, you’re changing lives, you’re changing hearts.

(Tim) If we’re doing it here in Van Wert, Ohio, what would America look like if every church in America said, we’re gonna go into our public school district, we are gonna commit the time, the resources, the money, what would this nation look like if we all got together and said, we’re gonna do this?