CORBIN, Ky. (KT) - The big blue-and-white bus pulls in front of a public elementary school and children march out to greet them.
They get on board the retrofitted bus – made to be a portable classroom with the seats taken out and rows of bleachers constructed on each side - and the children are taught truths from the Bible.
Sound too good to be true?
It’s happening, right here in southeastern Kentucky, with support from Kentucky Baptist churches among a dozen or more churches that have collaborated with them including Central Baptist and Immanuel Baptist in Corbin and Williamsburg Main Street Baptist for the BREAK ministry.
“It’s a tremendous ministry,” said Central Baptist Pastor Chad Fugitt. “We support them out of our budget. It has been a blessing for our church to be involved with them. A lot of our people are volunteering.”
Central Baptist Children’s Pastor Josh Pollitt is a teacher and BREAK board member.
“Here’s our children’s pastor and he’s connecting with a lot of kids that would never come to church,” Fugitt said. “Their parents are not going to bring them to church, but they will let them go to the BREAK ministry.”
Elementary age students from three school systems – Corbin, Williamsburg and Whitley County – have been participating in the BREAK program during the past school year. BREAK is an acronym for the Bible Release-Time Education Association of Kentucky that has been operating since 2006.
Released Time Bible Education gives public school children the opportunity to receive Bible-based moral instruction as part of their education during the school day. It’s a federally approved program that has even withstood Supreme Court challenges.
BREAK is legal because students only attend at the request of their parents or guardians, classes cannot be held on school property and it’s not supported in any way by the school.
If they can cross those three hurdles, it’s game on for the gospel being presented to the participating children.
“We are in the Bible Belt,” said John Lowder, who started the BREAK program with James McDonald. “We are strengthening things that still remain. Trying to do this in San Francisco probably wouldn’t fly.”
Volunteers join with three difference teachers to cover five schools a month. They have been meeting since September and finished in April and the results were astounding.
Almost 300 BREAK students expressed an interest in being saved and 201 genuinely understand the gospel and the need for salvation. They prayed to ask Jesus into their heart.
The next step will be connecting those 201 children to the local church, McDonald said.
Enter the churches sponsoring the program. Fugitt said Central Baptist would help in following up with the 200 children and get them connected to a local church.
“When they hear of baptisms, they’re going to those places,” Fuggitt said of the BREAK volunteers. “This is a ministry outside the local church, but the missionaries and volunteers are all very connected to local churches in the area and most of them are Kentucky Baptist churches.”
Lowden and his wife, Judy, are members of Central Baptist. McDonald is a Mission Service Corps missionary and pastor of Callihan Baptist Church in Knox County. They met in 2005 at a Bible camp in Richmond, Kentucky.
The curriculum is based through the Children’s Evangelism Fellowship with Lowden selecting some of the work. Classes normally last less than an hour with about 20 to 25 students per session. They have Bible lessons, fun songs, challenging Bible memory verses all in a Christ-centered environment – and only a few feet from the public school.
“This year we did the Ten Commandments,” Pollitt said. “In the last month, we purposely presented the gospel and we’re telling them about Jesus all the time. In the last session we gave them the opportunity to respond to the gospel.”
They also had to choose between playing the games and responding to the gospel call, McDonald said.
“I have no problem telling you that we have done everything we know to do to keep from giving these children a false sense of salvation. We had over 300 respond but there were over 10 we didn’t pray with” because they weren’t ready, he said.
“We set up a game time and make it clear to the students if they choose to talk to the adult about salvation, they don’t get to play the game,” McDonald said. “If it’s not important enough to give up game time, it’s probably not that important to them.”
McDonald said he’s been in the ministry for more than 20 years and nothing has been more rewarding.
“There’s a good chance that you’re going to lead five or six kids to the Lord on any given day is almost unheard of in any ministry situation and I wasn’t the only one doing it. That’s why we say the public school system is the largest untapped mission field in the country.”
Lowder said that BREAK “cherry-picks” because of limited resources. They have chosen to work with students in grades three to six because “we want to put our resources in the most effective ground. That’s where truly the fields are white for harvest.”
Lowder said the children are old enough to understand the gospel and being convicted by the Holy Spirit but haven’t yet succumbed to a lot of peer pressure.
“I believe that the public elementary schools in the United States are arguably the richest mission field in the world,” he said. “It is largely unreached. Worldwide only two countries, China and India, have more unbelievers than the United States. These kids are in a most impressionable time. We bring them together.”