Employee Volunteerism: Spreading Hope in Schools
Employee Volunteerism: Spreading Hope in Schools
Featured Organization: Bible2School
We are living in tumultuous times. Political and socioeconomic unrest is at a record high. Depression, anxiety, physical ailments, and mental illness plague our society. It seems everywhere we turn, we face more bad news – a precarious economy, wars, division, rising crime, and strife, just to name a few.
With additional growing financial burdens at home, children often suffer the most, their physical and emotional needs taking a backseat as parents try to stay afloat. Young ones may struggle in school and face loneliness, abuse, or neglect. And social media often adds to the stress of it all.
But what if these children were given a hope and a future, just as Jeremiah 29:11 promises?
That’s just what Bible2School offers: Hope! Let’s journey together as I share with you the wonderful history and impact of this amazing organization led by my good friend CEO Kori Pennypacker. My desire is that, after hearing about her program, you’ll be inspired to support volunteerism through your employees so you too can impact your community for generations to come.
Bible2School was started in 1979 by a group of pastors in Pennsylvania known as the Manheim Ministerium. The group decided to utilize the then newly amended Section 1546 of the state school code, which allowed children to be released from school for training. In recognition of the demand for Bible study in public schools and the opportunity arising from the changes to the amendment, over 100 fifth-grade students were allowed to legally leave school during learning hours and attend Bible study.
This is through the concept of Released Time, which actually began in the early 1900s and has been upheld over the years by the Supreme Court as being protected by the Constitution. Released Time allows children attending public school to receive religious education of their choice during the school day. The only requirements are that it take place off school property, with parental permission, and it can’t be funded by tax-payer dollars. Students are then permitted to leave school grounds and spend school hours in Bible study classes.
Pretty amazing, right?
As the program grew, the Manheim Ministerium offered bus transportation to children who couldn’t walk to a participating church. This helped it become a major success and grow into a nationwide movement, delivering the word of God to communities across the state.
Forty years later, Bible2School has expanded nationwide, thanks to its subscription-based franchise model. Community members interested in offering a Bible2School program can work directly with the organization’s leadership team for access to resources and curriculum implementation. Bible2School has perfected the onboarding process using a proven four-step system. Community leaders are offered a Christ-centered curriculum, over 450 tools and resources, a customizable website, ongoing training, coaching, and live support to get involved.
As we know, public schools have been under attack ever since in-class prayer was removed; and spreading Christian teachings has become an uphill battle. Moreover, Christianity as a whole has seen significant declines. Fifty years ago, 90 percent of Americans self-identified as Christians; today, that number has sadly dropped to 64 percent and continues to fall. At this rate, the Christian majority is at risk of disappearing by 2070.
These rates are reflected in the classroom, where children are often subjected to inappropriate curriculum and messages. But this is where Bible2School comes in, filling the significant void in the public school system. The organization recognizes that there is an urgency to introduce children to Biblical truth at a young age when the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain is developed. This usually occurs between 2nd and 4th grade.
During this short time, from ages seven to 11, logical reasoning begins to take shape, providing the foundation for morals and values. This could explain why 63 percent of Christians accept the Lord between the ages of 4 and 14. In other words, we have a small window of time to make a critical, lasting impact on children and change their lives forever!
Bible2School’s impact has yet to reach every community. However, it is spreading and already offers incredible resources for parents who don’t have in-person access to it. This includes a weekly podcast that provides parents with essential information centered around ways to share God’s word in everyday life. Teachings like “Discovering the Lord’s Hebrew Calendar in Real Time ” and “Two Things Kids Need to Know About Intruder Alert Drills” are just two examples of powerful episodes.
Bible2School also offers a regularly updated blog filled with relevant articles. And the Bible2School website features dozens of craft ideas like a family prayer-request box, pretzel sticks, and God’s promises project boxes. Though it’s the CBA Cross that’s been deemed the most popular resource for children to share the gospel. A CBA – which stands for confess, believe, and ask – gives children the opportunity to engage with Jesus through a free cross project, complemented by an easy how-to video.
What an amazing tool!
Recently, I had the opportunity to have lunch with CEO Kori Pennypacker. Though we’ve known each other for over a decade, we hadn’t had a chance to catch up for years. Since our last meeting, both of our organizations in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, have spread nationwide. (Never limit God!) Kori is a continued inspiration to me, as I hope she will be to you!
Mark: Kori, great meeting with you today! I’m excited to share with readers what you’re doing. My first request is simple: Describe in your own words what exactly your organization does.
Kori: Bible2School is a public-school ministry that equips passionate moms, dads, grandparents, and communities to teach the Bible to children attending public elementary school DURING their school day: DURING school hours – typically over lunch and recess. And it’s legal. About 60% of the children who come to Bible2School have no church home, so kids are being taught about our amazing Savior, Jesus, for the very first time.
Mark: Thank you for speaking to us from your heart. It’s always good to have your narrative down so succinctly. My next question has to do with impact. What impact have you seen in the lives of the children your teams have been working with? Do you have any especially meaningful stories to share?
Kori: We have seen many transformed lives for Christ! The biggest question children ask regularly is, “Who’s God? I’ve never heard of him.” In this post-Christian world, this is sadly common. We’ve seen such relief in children’s faces when we tell them that God made them, God loves them, God has a plan and purpose for their life, and Jesus Christ died for their sins so they can believe in Him and be in heaven with Him someday. This is such a burden off their shoulders.
One little blue-eyed, curly blond-haired boy named Gabriel, who lived with his grandmother, really sticks out to me. He didn’t know anything about God, and he was so eager to learn every week. He ended up accepting Christ as his Savior during a large group lesson, which was incredible, and skipped back to my table.
When I asked him to tell me more about it, he had an unforgettable answer that brought me to tears. He said, “I’ve always wanted to know how to get to heaven, but no one ever told me.” These kids live near our homes and near our businesses, and we need to tell those like Gabriel who God is. Bible2School makes it easy to do that.
Mark: We work with employers all over the country. Many are looking for programs to help their employees engage the community. Do you think this approach would help not only advance your organization but also give employers an opportunity to support it through their employees?
Kori: Yes, it would help the employees and their organizations, and the children and their families. We take a community approach and, honestly, our programs can’t do this without the support of Christian businesses. And we want to support our local businesses. Our Business Partnership Program – that I encourage all employers to consider whether you’re working with Bible2School or another great non-profit – makes a lot of sense. Henry Blackaby said in his best-selling book Experiencing God that we need to “find where God is working and join Him there.”
We love to cultivate relationships with businesses that have a passion for spreading the Gospel to children and who want to help impact the next generation in their community. Our business partners inspire their employees through:
- Volunteering – Some employers offer flexible hours or PTO time so their employees can be small-group leaders for our Bible classes. That is a huge help for our children to have positive role models from these Christian businesses.
- Matching – Some employers also come alongside employees to encourage generosity by offering to match the employees’ donations to Bible2School. A lot of times, this is an awareness thing. Employees want to be generous but they don’t know where to give.
- Giving Back – Employers can discount their service/product programs tithing a percentage of the profit that goes to Bible2School. We have an electric company that offers a special program where a percentage of the proceeds go to our Bible2School kids.
- Introducing Someone – This is so valuable to us! Business leaders know other business leaders, so we ask that they introduce us to ONE other business leader who we can start building a relationship with. We’ve even given presentations at company events as a way of inviting people into our mission!
Just like any partnership, we want it to be mutually beneficial. Ministry is a team sport! So our Business Partnership Program has the ability to unlock company culture excellence and unite your community. In fact, 89% of businesses believe that partnering leverages their ability to improve their communities. And the employees love it! We spotlight our partner businesses in our monthly e-newsletter, on social media, our website, and at events. And we in turn share all the impact stories on a regular basis so we can all celebrate what God is doing through the employees and Bible2School. It’s a win-win!
Mark: Our readers, like our employers, are national. Are they still able to use your materials and process? How does that work?
Kori: Yes, our Bible2School program can equip leaders in any state to reach their local public school with the Word of God on a weekly basis. We don’t want anyone to reinvent the wheel. So we’ve developed a subscription-based franchise model with a small cost that provides all the proven Christ-centered curriculum, over 450 online tools, expert coaching, a robust website, team-building, and sustaining support that’s needed to make it as easy as possible.
Mark: We have readers from Christian higher education institutions. Any suggestions on how they might engage students or expose this program to faculty?
Kori: Students looking for volunteer hours can use our website to find a program in their area to offer their volunteer services. Bible2School is an excellent example of community ministry, and we’re happy to be a resource for Christian colleges looking to enhance their curriculum in this area. Having experience working with children out in the community with a topnotch Bible program is a great addition to a student’s resume.
Mark: If someone is interested in learning more about your program, what is the best way for them to reach you?
Kori: The best way to reach us is through our website, Bible2School.com.
Mark: How has Bible2School impacted your own personal and spiritual life?
Kori: I see God working here in our public schools through this program. What a gift to join Him! People tell me that God was taken out of public schools, and I tell them they’re wrong. God is being brought to the children through Bible2School – I see it every week! And children, like adults, are hungry for the truth. That’s how we recognize counterfeit: We study His Truth.
As a leader, I just keep taking one step forward and He makes things happen. Things only He can do. So He gets the glory. Whether it be funding or volunteers, both of which we need this year, He provides. It’s not about me. It’s a humbling, challenging, and joy-filled leadership journey.
Mark: Thank you so much for your time today, Kori. Do you have any final thoughts you want to share with readers?
Kori: There are 64,000 public elementary schools in America, and there Bible programs available in less than 10%. Wouldn’t it be great to reach the one near your business?
We had a public-school teacher share with us that her school was in lockdown for an active shooter. And as far as they knew, it wasn’t a drill. The children were so scared, crowded against a wall, crying and writing goodbye notes to their parents.
She said she looked up and heard them before she saw them: three little Bible2School girls praying out loud for their class, their school, and their teacher. It calmed the class and gave her the courage to do her job to protect these precious children.
These girls didn’t know about God before coming to Bible2School. Thankfully, this was a drill and the children were safe. But the teacher said that these girls’ pure faith inspired her and their class.
Who do you know who would be passionate about reaching the public-school children in your community for Jesus? I would love to be introduced and start a conversation. One introduction can make an eternal difference.
I appreciate this opportunity to share today!
Mark: Thank you, and God bless you and Bible2School!
Programs like Bible2School are wonderful ways to get involved in your community and make a lasting impact. If you’re looking to boost volunteerism among your employees, consider taking that next step! For more on Bible2School, visit Bible2School.com
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