After hearing news reports of school shootings last summer and fall, Christian County resident Carol Gibson wept and prayed to God for a way she could help local students.
"I prayed 'God, you've got to get back in the schools,'" she said. "When I was in school, we read a Bible verse, we prayed and pledged allegiance to the flag every morning before school."
Gibson shared her concern with her pastor, Mike Humphries of Sinking Fork Baptist Church. Humphries recently had returned from a seminar about the Good News Club, a ministry of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, the world's largest mission agency for children.
Kari Ash, state director Child Evangelism Fellowship for Kentucky, visited the church on Princeton Road one Sunday last fall to share information about the Good News Clubs across the country and the world.
"With their parents' permission, children hear the gospel through Bible and missionary stories, songs and activities, and are encouraged to have daily quiet time with God. Evangelism and discipleship are our primary goals," Ash said. "Worldwide there are over 75,000 Good News Clubs. Last year, 22.8 million children heard the gospel worldwide. It's huge."
Eight Sinking Fork Baptist Church members volunteered to start a Good News Club at Sinking Fork Elementary School. The club launched Oct. 25 with 22 students from kindergarten through sixth grades participating. Now, the club meets at 2:30 p.m. every Thursday with 40 students registered and 12 adult volunteers.
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"It's presented us with a really good opportunity to reach out to young people," Humphries said. "This is something to share the message of the Good News with children. It's been one of our greatest blessings."
"We are nondenominational," Gibson said. "We are not teaching Baptist. We are teaching God and Jesus."
This action-packed program includes songs, scripture memory, a mission story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson's theme.
"I compare it to vacation Bible school - the interaction with the kids, the way the lessons are, the songs," Humphries said. "They seem to really enjoy it as well."
Sinking Fork Elementary second-grader Emery Jennings and first-grader Leighton Wilson became friends at the Good News Club. Both said they like the singing, memory verses and Bible stories.
"I've learned all about the true God," Emery said.
"I learned about wisdom and God and Jesus," Leighton said. "I love the teachers and the music."
To volunteer at Good News Clubs, adults are asked to sign the CEF Statement of Faith and agree to abide by the policies of the organization. Adults working with the program are screened according to the CEF child protection policy.
Julie Garnett, who is a member of New Work Fellowship, volunteers her time with the Good News Club at Sinking Fork.
"We all have the same goal. It doesn't matter what church you're part of, Jesus wants us to share his love with others. If you have that desire and gift, then anybody can do it," she said. "The blessing is that God uses us despite ourselves to pour into children who so desperately need to know they're loved. (It is a) blessing that I can be used to do that."
Angela Moody and Jill Dixon work at the school. Both agree that the Good News Club has been a welcome addition to after-school programming.
"I have seen absolutely nothing but positive responses from both parents and students," Moody said. "I think it's made a positive impact on students' behavior. I think it's helped students to have something fun to do after school. It makes them feel involved, and they have a fun group that they can relate to."
Humphries said the key to the Good News Club is "developing a relationship with kids."
"I think you have to establish that you are genuinely concerned about someone and that you have a Christ-like love for them before they take you serious," he said. "We know we can meet physical needs here - if there's one who needs clothing or a backpack or they need food for the weekend. We can meet all of those needs, but if we withhold the good news - the greatest treasure we have within us - we've done them an injustice."
As of December, there are 31 Good News Clubs in Kentucky, 25 of which meet on public-school campuses. The clubs reach 755 children enrolled across the state.
"We're still small and growing," Ash said. "Kentucky is one of our later states to be officially chartered."
The Sinking Fork Elementary Good News Club is not the first in Christian County, but it is the only active one at this time. Currently, there are three active Good News Clubs in Todd County, Ash said.
"I'm really excited about this team, and the commitment of the church to get this club started," Ash said of Sinking Fork. "Praying that it will expand and additional churches will have a vision to reach out in the public schools."
Ash said Child Evangelism Fellowship relies on local churches to grow Good News Clubs.
"Partnership with local Bible-teaching churches is very important to the Good News Club ministry because our ultimate goal is to establish the children in a local church for obtaining knowledge of God and growth in Christian living," she said.
As the Sinking Fork Elementary group grows each week, Gibson and Humphries hope that other local churches will start more Good News Clubs in Christian County. More information is available at www.cefonline.com/ministries/goodnewsclub/.
"If the opportunity is there, there's no reason there shouldn't be a Good News Club in every school in this county," Humphries said. "We're going to invest our time in something every day. There's nothing greater than investing in the lives of children."
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or email@example.com.