Nonprofit shares Gospel with public school students

by ian

A nonprofit has found a way to share the Gospel with public school students.

Some students at Etna Road Elementary School in Whitehall, Ohio, are opting into a Bible program that takes place at a nearby church during school hours. The program comes from the nonprofit LifeWise Academy, which seeks to bring Jesus back to the public school system. LifeWise teaches kids character development through Bible lessons at no cost to students, and it only requires parents to sign a permission slip. The program functions under a little-known law that allows religious instruction to take place during school hours. 

Since its founding in 2018, the organization has already gained momentum with 300 schools across the nation participating in the program. So far, that has allowed 35,000 public school students to learn about the Bible. 

Conservatives have been the main proponents of the nonprofit, but even deep-blue progressive areas like Columbus, Ohio, are beginning to adopt the optional activity. 

LifeWise founder Joel Penton, a former Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman, says, “A lot of parents want to be able to say to their child, ‘Yeah, you’re going to get science class, you’re going to get math class, you’re going to get English class — and you’re going to have Bible class, too, because this is important to us as a family.’

But the program isn’t without criticism. Some parents and activists complained that it’s unfair to the kids who don’t participate in the Bible class because they feel left out when LifeWise attendees return to campus with prizes or candy. Some have even accused LifeWise of “using” kids to evangelize other students at school.

Overall, however, it seems like LifeWise is making a positive impact. Parents of some of the attendees told NBC News that they have seen a positive change in their kids’ behavior thanks to the program. 

A mom of two boys, Jessica Cappuzzello, says she has seen a change in her kids’ behavior that she did not think possible. 

A former middle school principal, Vincent Coleman, likewise praised the organization. 

Coleman oversees LifeWise programs in Columbus City Schools, where he says the majority of students are black and Latino and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. He said LifeWise helps kids who struggle with food insecurity, mental health, and homelessness. Coleman says the program is filling a gap that the public education system lacks.