By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
November 8, 2019
Wouldn’t it be great if Bible-believing adults, trained and supported by an internationally recognized nonprofit, could reach out to children in public schools and share the Gospel weekly?
Good news: They can, and they are thanks to the growing number of Good News Clubs, a ministry in which Child Evangelism Fellowship partners with local church volunteers to provide weekly Bible lessons, songs, Scripture memory, games and other lesson-focused activities. The clubs meet after school and are giving children life-changing and in some cases, life-saving, hope.
“Suicide rates among children ages 10-14 have tripled in the last decade according to a recent CDC report,” said Lydia Kaiser, CEF’s corporate communications specialist. “Children today are in great crisis. Learning how to connect with a forgiving and loving God has helped millions of children to find peace with God, with themselves and with others.”
CEF has encouraged children ages 5 to 12 in learning, spiritual growth, and moral development since 1937. Its goal to reach “Every Child, Every Nation, Every Day” means the secularization of America’s schools does not dissuade its leaders.
“We don’t expect public schools to be pro-Christian, but we also don’t expect them to be anti-Christian,” said Bob Fowler, CEF’s state director. “When we approach a school to offer a club, we expect to be treated the same as any other group.”
And that’s often what happens, especially since the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Good News Club v. Milford Central School District. The Court said that Bible clubs must be given the same access to school facilities accorded any other non-school-related outside group. In other words, public schools that allow secular groups to use their facilities may not discriminate against religious groups.
“Allowing religious-based groups to use public facilities is not and never has been a violation of the separation of church and state. I am so thankful that these clubs are exercising their rights,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “We are thrilled to read recent media reports about the growing number of Good News Clubs in public schools here in the Tar Heel State.”
According to CEF, the number of clubs worldwide has grown from 17,000 to nearly 100,000 in the past 19 years. There are about 5,000 clubs in the United States, 185 of which are in North Carolina.
Watch the short YouTube video: What is a Good News Club
A Nov. 5 article in The Asheville Citizen–Times said the clubs are becoming popular in western North Carolina with groups in Transylvania, Buncombe and McDowell counties, and six new clubs starting in Henderson County over the last four years.
Fowler declined to discuss the exact location of any clubs, and Kaiser released the following statement to clarify the CEF policy:
“The reason location information is not given to media is that it has resulted in disruption of NC clubs by those who oppose the free exercise of speech and religion guaranteed in the First Amendment. Our highest priority is the protection of the children entrusted to our care by the parents who signed a permission slip in order for their children to attend the GNC.”
Fowler said the clubs are advertised within the schools where they are located just as any other after-school activity would be. Still, the most effective means for spreading the word about GNC is their positive impact on students. Principals responded to a CEF survey about the clubs with words of praise.
“The students who are in the GNC rarely receive discipline referrals to the office. Undoubtedly, the club has been a successful part in curbing bullying and classroom disrespect from children,” one principal said. Others praised the ministry for providing great role models and “a safe haven to enhance children’s academic and spiritual growth.”
Phillip Allen, president of the Western North Carolina chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, conceded that the clubs are “an ingenious idea,” but told The Citizen-Times that they are influencing young children by blurring the line between official school time and after-school periods, an argument that other opponents of the clubs have also used.
However, according to the landmark Good News Club v. Milford Central School District ruling, the danger that children would believe the school to be endorsing religion is no greater than the threat that they would perceive hostility toward religion if the club were excluded from the public forum.
Another concern that some Christians have over the Good News Clubs is that their presence in a school might open the door too wide, encouraging atheists or Satanists to demand their own clubs.
“The idea that ‘if we let you have a Good News Club we will have to let them have a club’ bothers some people, but the fact is they already have that right because of equal access. It has been our experience that when there has been an effort to set up those types of clubs, it hasn’t been because of true beliefs but as an attempt to disrupt our clubs. And even if they are offered, if parents don’t sign their kids up, they don’t materialize,” said Fowler.
Fowler added that it’s important to be able to take the message of Christ to children where they are rather than having churches wait for them to show up on Sunday morning. He said some families who don’t take their children to church will sign for them to attend a Good News Club.
When churches step up to help sponsor a club, CEF takes care of contacting the school, providing liability insurance, and conducting background checks. The organization also trains volunteers so that each club includes a clear presentation of the Gospel and an opportunity for children to trust Christ as Savior. According to CEF, every club also includes discipleship training and character building. Children in the clubs are encouraged to attend a local church.
If you are interested in helping with Good News Clubs or would like to start one in an elementary school near you, please contact: