Clover Y puts Bible in day care
After-school faith club rents public school space
By Deborah Hirsch, The Charlotte Observer, December 17, 2006
Clover elementary school students enrolled in YMCA-sponsored after-school programs will soon be able to incorporate Bible study into their activities.
Starting in January, the local branch of the International Child Evangelism Fellowship will host the "Good News Club" once a week.
During the hourlong club sessions, volunteer teachers will tell missionary and Bible stories, teach Bible verses and lead the children through related games and songs.
A group of 18 teachers who went through training this month will start at Crowder's Creek and Bethel elementaries. After recruiting more volunteers, the club will include all six after-school sites for elementary children -- the five public elementaries and a church. It won't cost anything beyond what parents already pay for the after-school care.
"We're hoping that the children will be able to develop good morals and ethics based on sound biblical teachings," said Judy Buis, a retired school speech therapist who is coordinating the program for the Catawba River chapter of the fellowship, which includes York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
Buis said the YMCA contacted her after hearing from a parent who wanted more religious instruction. Although the YMCA is a faith-based organization, the after-school program does not include religious education or worship other than occasional devotions or blessings, explained Linda McCallum, director of the Clover YMCA.
Good News Clubs have been started around the world since the fellowship formed in 1937. At first, community groups such as day cares or churches ran most of the clubs. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the clubs could rent public school facilities just like any other outside organization as long as they were not sponsored by the school. Clubs at schools took off after that.
Last academic year, there were about 5,800 clubs in the United States, a little more than half of them in schools. South Carolina has about 200 clubs, 160 of them in schools.
Richard Summerford, the S.C. fellowship director, said that number increased quite a bit over the past two years and he expects to see more growth after Jan. 1. "Principals, the education system, (are) asking us to come," Summerford said. "There is a sense within the school systems in South Carolina that we're in trouble, so they're looking for any and every opportunity to impact the children's lives -- not only from the standpoint of education, but also spiritually."
For the most part, he said, parents seem supportive and those who aren't can opt not to participate. Buis plans to send permission slips to the Clover parents. Children who wish not to be involved will be able to continue working on homework or doing other activities with a YMCA staff member when the club meets, she said.
The set-up is much like the "release time" program that has been operating in the Clover school district since the late '90s, where students with parent permission leave campus for religious instruction during the school day. Last year, more than half the district's students in grades 3 to 6 left school grounds once a week for the Bible study.
Despite the similarities, Buis said she doesn't expect the Good News Club to compete with release time. In fact, she said, if the program becomes popular, Clover could end up with the largest clubs in the region.
About 360 Clover children attend after-school programs this year. Clubs in Lancaster started about three years ago, but only at a couple of schools. Don Miller, director of the Catawba River Fellowship branch, said Chester schools are also considering adding the program next year.
If the Clover community responds well, Buis said she'd like to bring the clubs to other after-school programs in York County.
"In our world, we have such uncertainties and our children are exposed to so many things that are fearful," she said. "We teach that God, he's here, there is someone who loves them and he is there to help them in time of need and he will never leave. And that in itself is a lot of times a real comfort to children."
Want to Know More?
Interested in teaching a Good News Club? Coordinator Judy Buis is still looking for churches to "adopt" schools and volunteers to teach. Call 803-366-3771.
Fair Use Statement: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.