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Good News Club

By Clayton Stairs, The Georgetown Times, (Georgetown, South Carolina), December 09, 2006

Singing, dancing and sharing the word of God with children who may not attend church services regularly, the Good News Club meets at Waccamaw Elementary School.

The club meets once a week, after school on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. from October to April in the gymnasium, and the number of children in the club has grown to 185 in the club’s three years. Volunteers start with a prayer to ask for guidance before the children meet in groups separated by grade levels. After a snack, students are asked to recite the memory verse from the week before and to give their group leader any prayer requests.

The volunteer prays with the group and then all of the students come together for the big group session. They sing two or three up-beat songs and do motions with the songs and then repeat the "memory verse" from the Bible.

A teacher will then read a Bible story or just talk about God and the characteristics of God. Then comes the time for the invitation, in which children are given the opportunity to talk with someone about accepting Jesus into their hearts.

On Thursday, Dec. 14, students in the Good News Club at WES will learn about the Christmas Story. In April, they will learn about Easter.

This non-denominational, Christian-based club -- which focusses on teaching children in kindergarten through fifth grade about principles, character and respect for adults through the teachings of the Bible -- has also been started this year at Kensington Elementary School in Georgetown. Laura Burrows, administrator for the club at WES, says all of the 40 volunteers who make the meetings possible believe the Good News Club is a worthwhile ministry. "We feel that this club is going to really make an impact on our community," Burrows said. "If we can teach our children to be good people and good Christians, as they grow older they can find fellowship with other Christians in whatever denomination they choose."

She adds that it is wonderful that students from Teach My People Christian Youth Center regularly attend The God News Club.

According to Joel Akridge, the local CEF district director who has an office in Conway, the Good News Club is an extension of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), International.

Founded approximately 70 years ago by Dr. Irvin Overholtzer, CEF is now represented in about 150 countries around the world. In the U.S., 35 states now have active CEF branches.

In South Carolina, there are six CEF district offices and at least 200 schools which have Good News Clubs, Akridge said. In this district, there are about 20 clubs in public schools. "We have really grown by leaps and bounds," Akridge said. "CEF actively seeks out churches and schools in which to start Good News Clubs."

Volunteers for Good News Clubs are trained by CEF and have background checks through the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). These clubs, which are treated no differently than other clubs which meet on school grounds after school hours -- like YMCA Club and the Boy Scouts -- are sponsored by a local church and materials for lessons are provided by CEF.

Parents must sign a permission slip to notify CEF that they know their child is in a Christian-based club.

Questions about the separation of church and state at one school in 2001 prompted the Liberty Council to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices ruled that these clubs are allowed in public schools as long as it is after school and fully optional to the child, Akridge said. "Parents are welcome to come and visit the club and many do," he said. "Since they sign a permission slip, parents know what goes on."

The volunteer teachers must still be careful to keep their personal beliefs in check and stick to the material provided by CEF, Akridge adds. At a recent Good News Club meeting at WES, a volunteer taught the students a lesson about truth and lies, stating that everything their teachers in school have taught them about evolution is a lie. "As with any subject teachers teach, their personal opinions are going to seep through," Akridge said. "We do teach the children that God created the earth and man, but we only offer that. We do not say you can’t be in the club if you believe something else. We offer what the Bible teaches."

Burrows agrees. She says that she has warned the teacher in the past about inserting her personal beliefs into the lessons for the Good News Club.

"She shouldn’t have said that," Burrows said.

Pawleys Island Community Church is sponsoring the Good News Club at WES and they have also defrayed expenses for snacks each week, a computer, complete with a power point projector, copies of materials and more.

WES Principal John Tester says he thinks the Good News Club is a "great benefit" to students. "It is exciting to have these kinds of after-school programs," Tester said. "I think the Good News Club reinforces good quality-of-life skills, character, personal responsibility and decision-making. They also teach students how to treat and respect others."

Michele Giarratano, a volunteer for the Good News Club at WES, says there are many reasons she enjoys being part of this club.

"The children are so loving and it is more or less a camp hour," Giarratano said. "These kids really appreciate the time we spend with them and they get to hear that God loves them, which will hopefully have an effect on them for the rest of their lives."

She says that she would like to see Good News Clubs in every school and many more children in the club at WES.

"I encourage all parents to send their children to the Good News Club," Giarratano said. "It would be wonderful if all of WES one day attended this club."

For more information about Child Evangelism Fellowship and Good News Clubs, visit the official website at www.cefonline.com. To sign your child up with the Good News Club, call Waccamaw Elementary School in Pawleys Island at 237-4233 or Kensington Elementary School in Georgetown at 546-8511.


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