The Good News Club Gives Children a Chance to Hear the Gospel in Schools
By Jessica Wyndham
Every Friday afternoon at Roebuck Elementary School, over 150 children gather in the cafeteria for singing, reading, mentoring, and to hear the gospel: this is all a part of the ministry of Roebuck Baptist Church and “The Good News Club.”
The Good News Club is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship and involves trained teachers meeting with groups of children in schools, community centers, churches, and other designated locations to share the message of the Bible. Parents of the children give their consent to allow their child to participate in the club, just as they would for any other after school activity. Roebuck Baptist has been involved with the Good News Club through their local chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship since 2003.
While there is a legal separation of church and state, a court case in June of 2001 made organizations like the Good News Club meeting in schools legal. In Good News Club v. Milford Central School District, the Supreme Court ruled that a public school that allows use of its facilities to secular groups after school hours could not discriminate against religious groups. This was of huge importance to the ministry and opened the door for a presence in area schools.
Dr. David Satterwhite, minister of music at Roebuck Baptist Church, serves as the coordinator for the Roebuck Elementary Good News Club. He has been involved since the start of the ministry and is also the primary leader for Club meetings. “I’ve been at this church for 27 ½ years, and this is probably my favorite thing to do,” he said.
The children that enroll in the Good News Club find out about the organization and enroll just like they would for any extracurricular activity. “At the beginning of the year, when they’re signing up for clubs, we have a Good News Club,” said Satterwhite. “The parents have to fill out a consent form so they know we’re a Christian organization. We unapologetically preach the gospel.” Over 200 children are enrolled in the Good News Club at Roebuck Elementary.
The group meets every Friday during a ten-week semester, and there are two semesters per school year. The children gather in the cafeteria after school on meeting days. When the children arrive for a meeting, they sit at lunch tables, where an adult volunteer is waiting. “They are our Table Shepherds. The Shepherds go over the memory verse from the last week and review. That time between 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm, they can really get to know these kids. They share prayer requests. It’s a very special time. Over the years, these kids get very special to these adults, and it’s a really good relationship for them,” said Satterwhite.
After the time spent in small groups, the children and teachers gather on the other side of the cafeteria where they meet as a large group. Satterwhite leads the music, and they spend time singing together before hearing a missions story. They also learn a memory verse together that usually includes a game the children can play to help them remember the verse. For the lessons, they use curriculum provided by Child Evangelism Fellowship, and they end every meeting with an invitation. “I don’t know the exact number of children that have received Christ this year, but it’s a bunch,” detailed Satterwhite. “I had a little boy last week who goes to our church, but he’s been coming to Good News club for three years. At the time of the invitation, as soon as I asked if anyone would like to put their faith in Christ for the first time, his arm shot up. He told me ‘I had this feeling in my stomach, and I just had to become a Christian today!’ He’d been thinking about it. At VBS last summer, he said ‘I’m going to become a Christian, but I’m not ready.’ However, at Good News Club last week, he was ready to go!”
The relationships formed between the children in the club and the mentors are often lasting. Satterwhite sees children around town that have been a part of the club, and they often come up to him to talk about the impact the ministry had on their lives. “I had a kid the other day that saw me at a gas station. We were both pumping gas. He said, ‘There was a kid named Mikey; that was me. I trusted Jesus at the Good News Club.’” Many of the children in the club do not attend church with their families, with about half of them having no church affiliation; so this ministry may be the only opportunity they have to hear the gospel.
Satterwhite encourages other churches to get involved with the Good News Club ministry, as it has a big impact on the community and doesn’t take many resources from the church sponsor, aside from providing volunteer teachers. The church provides refreshments for the children during the meeting, but the budget for the entire year is under $1,000.
There are currently schools actively looking for churches to sponsor them and start a Good News Club. “We have several schools begging for churches to adopt them. I wish I could do other schools, just because I feel bad GNC isn’t going on in these others. There are 400 churches in the Spartanburg area, 100 of them Southern Baptist. We should be able to do that. It’s not about building our church,” finished Satterwhite. “It’s about building the Kingdom of God.”
Dr. Tim Williams, senior pastor of Roebuck Baptist Church, said of the ministry, “We are thankful that our Good News Club enables us to share the Gospel with children in our community, many of whom have absolutely no other connection to a local church. It is our most direct evangelistic outreach.”