Good news comes from faith-filled club

Church and state might have their differences, but both are cooperating and sharing the same roof these days.

To wit, the classroom doors at public elementary schools are open after hours for Bible study.

"The doors are wide open. We don't know how long they are going to stay open," said Olivia Van Wagoner, who oversees Auburn's Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). "We would like to start other schools. … The only reason we haven't had more schools is we haven't had workers, the teachers."

Auburn belongs to a group of more than 3,400 school-related Good News Clubs held across the nation, reaching more than 119,000 students each week. Whether meeting off campus during school hours or on campus after school, the clubs provide an opportunity for children in the public schools to hear the gospel.

The Supreme Court ruled seven years ago that such clubs can assemble in public schools after regular class hours on the same terms as other community groups. The clubs have proven to be an asset to schools and do not add cost or liability to the district.

Participating children, ages 6-12, stay after school for an hour each week. Students must have a signed parental permission slip. Parents and guardians arrange for transportation home.

The Auburn School District understands the benefits and is willing to maintain the arrangement.

"They have been pretty cooperative, not all areas (of the country) are," said Van Wagoner, 88, who has devoted a lifetime to ministry work.

Thirty children have signed up for weekly Wednesday afternoon class at Dick Scobee Elementary. Many of the kids are in their third year with the program. Another smaller class holds lessons at Chinook Elementary. Nine other schools in the district are available to hold a club.

Club sponsor CEF is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization established more than 70 years ago. The club's program is interdenominational. Classes teach from the Bible, not doctrine, and include creative activities, songs and games, missionary stories and scripture memory.

The purpose is to build character, teach obedience and respect for authority, as well as build relationships.

"It's all about building up their Christian character," said Ron Belcher, a volunteer teacher. "I like it. It's a great program."

Volunteer teachers receive training along the way.

Van Wagoner says the program works because it is accessible after school and exposes children early to the Bible.

"It changes their lives," she said. "We need to teach children early in life to spare them from the pitfalls of destruction.

"Children need exposure to the Biblical knowledge of truths, exposure to gospel truths."

In the wake of so much bad news in society, the Good News Club has made a difference to kids.

"It's very good for people to teach the word of God, and that's what He wants us to do," said club member Elizabeth Bauer, a fourth-grader at Dick Scobee.

In the past, elementary school kids found time to receive Bible study. Students were allowed to leave school grounds on "release time" to receive study at the expense of lost instruction in the regular classroom.

Van Wagoner recalls a boy who was struggling at math. Leaving for Bible study meant losing valuable time in class.

"And the teacher wasn't compelled to help him after class," Van Wagoner said. "So he had to make a choice."

The boy chose math.

That no longer is the case. The good news comes from an available club.

For more information about the Good News Club program, contact Olivia Van Wagoner at 253-833-8245. Volunteers are needed.

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