By: Marc Hoyle
BCM volunteer Yvonne has been teaching Release Time Bible Clubs to second and third grade girls in Warren County, PA, for eighteen years. She admits to slowing down a bit now that she is 89 years old. Every Tuesday and Thursday in two different locations, she arrives two hours early to set up her Bible Club room. The attendance chart is on a table with stars waiting to be affixed. Small prizes for verse recitations are unpacked. Large flags lean on their poles in the corner, ready for the pledges. Oversized blue and red plastic clips hold together several layers of Bible story backgrounds, a Lord’s Prayer poster, and the pledge to the Bible.
Throughout the lesson, the entire group sits on the floor. Little hands shoot up when a volunteer is needed to hold a song poster. A retired school teacher, Yvonne impacts forty-six hearts every week, despite the time pressure of a school day. She hopes younger volunteers will step forward soon to take on the task and meet the need.
In western Michigan, Rick is in his early sixties and still working. Once a week, he picks up a church van along with two other BCM volunteers, Rachel and Sandy, both retired, then heads over to the school. Despite being regulars, they must go through security protocols and sign-in sheets. Then the two women enter the school while Rick waits in the van just outside the front doors. School lunch break is staged in three time slots. When the first one starts at 11:20 a.m., Rachel goes from class to class, rounding up registered Bible Clubbers and sending them to the lobby. There Sandy checks each one in on the official list.
Finally, the front door is opened, and the children eagerly join Rick in the van for the short two-block ride to a nearby church, where they are kindly welcomed by additional volunteers. BCM missionary Mary Lou Heyboer teaches a short Bible lesson. Just thirty minutes later, there is less eagerness to rejoin Rick for the ride back to school.
Meanwhile, Rachel and Sandy stay behind to gather the 12:00 p.m. lunch group, then the 12:40 p.m. group. As one group re-enters the school lobby, the next pack bursts out excitedly to be warmly greeted by Rick for their short ride to Release Time Bible Club. By 1:20 p.m., Mary Lou has taught the lesson for the third time, and the final group is back in the school. Rick returns the van to its church parking lot and goes on with his day.
An after-school Bible club has no need for buses since its home is the school library. Over fifty children sit on the floor while BCM volunteer Bonnie Miller takes pictures of two new participants. Every child has their own attendance card with their picture on the front. The small teaching board holds a picture of a candle with seven squares to fill in around it. The first three are already filled in with the words Obey, Forgive, and Deny. Under the candle is a question: What did Jesus teach us to do?
Sitting upright in a straight chair, Bonnie controls the room with her quiet voice. The children bow their heads for the opening prayer, then hands fly in the air as they compete to recite memory verses. Success is rewarded with a piece of candy tossed across the room. Two girls and a boy are chosen to hold laminated song posters while the group sings a chorus. Then comes today’s Bible lesson. A flannelgraph figure on a white background sheet asks, “What shall I do to have eternal life?”
As Bonnie tells of Jesus’s response to the Rich Young Ruler, the children lean forward to listen. Bible Club ends with every child getting a cookie, putting on their coats and backpacks, then lining up at the exit door to head for their bus. See you next week!
These are just a few examples of BCM Release Time and After-School Bible Clubs as well as the countless volunteers who make this ministry possible. Then there is Philadelphia, not only the birthplace of the United States, but also the birthplace of BCM International. More than eighty years later, BCM missionaries along with dozens of volunteers offer an unusual Christmas outreach to inner-city children who participate in neighborhood Bible clubs during the school year.
Buses pick up the Bible Clubbers at various rendezvous points around the city, then bring them to a church where volunteers have been preparing for hours. Two rooms are set up as stores where beautiful gift items have been priced at a low cost between 25 cents and $2. A dozen volunteers have pre-cut squares of colorful wrapping paper and are ready for the onslaught. More volunteers are in the kitchen preparing a hot supper for a couple hundred mouths. Others are making last-minute preparations for a Nativity performance.
The buses arrive, and suddenly 160 excited children fill the church. While some are choosing gifts for their family members, others are gathered in small groups around two Christmas trees where they are told the story of the Gift of Jesus. Then each child receives a personalized gift of their own. The children also enjoy singing traditional Christmas carols and the stage performance of the Nativity. Time flies, and soon the children are being called by bus grouping. They head off home with their hands full of gifts for their family members to open on Christmas Day.
Today BCM USA ministries reach children in over twenty different locations across ten states, in addition to BCM USA’s six camp and retreat centers in New York, Pennsylvania, and Montana. Over one hundred BCM USA missionaries with the help of hundreds of volunteers are presenting Jesus Christ to thousands of children every year. City children, rural children, disabled children, broken-family children, immigrant children, parent-in-prison children—the more today’s culture claims to care for the children, the greater the need seems to be. Pray that young and old will work together to tell the next generation of the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Participate in making disciples by joining a Bible Club or camp effort near you!
Originally Published in BCM World April 2018