KITTANNING, Pa. (BP) – Harvest Church is one of the newest congregations in Pennsylvania to partner with local elementary schools to host a “Bible2School” program designed to teach children the Bible and the gospel during the school day.
Every Wednesday, Harvest volunteers drive nearly 50 children from West Hills Primary School to the Church campus during the students’ consecutive lunch and break times.
The hour-long program includes a large-group class time while students eat lunch, a small-group time with arts and crafts and lesson review, and a concluding worship time with memory verses.
Megan Caporali, director of children’s ministry at Harvest Church and overseer of the Bible2School program, told Baptist Press that the outreach is for children who may not be familiar with the Bible or the gospel.
“We targeted the families where the children may never go to church but could attend during the school day,” Caporali said.
“We don’t expect the kids to come knowing what we’re teaching, so it’s a little bit different than a Sunday school in that we start out easier.”
Caporali teaches during the program’s large group time, which focuses on fundamental theological truths such as what the Bible is, what the Bible is about, and how God created the world.
She explained to most parents who noted on their child’s registration that the family did not attend church regularly. That didn’t stop the kids from eating up the lessons.
“The kids seem to be really enjoying the program and they’re learning a lot,” said Caporali. “It was really cool to see these students who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible or been to church before and now they love to come here.
“During our recaps of the past week, I first noticed that very few students would raise their hands to respond, but now it’s like I don’t know who to turn to because everyone raised their hands , to answer. It’s been really cool to see them grow and become more confident and know things about the Bible that they didn’t know before.”
Bible2School began in Lancaster, Pa. and aims to provide biblical materials designed to teach the gospel to public school children.
The program is made possible by a Pennsylvania time-off statute that requires schools to allow students 36 hours of religious instruction during the school year if requested by a parent.
The guidelines for the law state that the organization providing the instruction must not be funded by taxpayers’ money, the program cannot take place on school premises, and student participation must be entirely voluntary with permission from a parent or legal guardian.
Caporali, who has been Harvest’s children’s director since late 2021, said one of the pastors told her about Bible2School and suggested she look into it.
After months of research and training with the materials, she began meeting with the principal of West Hills Primary as well as the local superintendent.
She then gathered about 15 Harvest volunteers and the program was launched in September 2022.
The program’s first 24 spots filled up quickly, so the organizers began hiring a bus to transport the students. They now reach 48 children every week.
Bible2School has a syllabus for second, third, and fourth grades, but Harvest initially focused its program on only second grade, hoping to add the other grades in the near future.
Caporali has noticed an increase in the number of students attending the Harvest Children’s Sunday meetings as several Bible2School families have begun to attend.
Additionally, Caporali has used her relationship with the school to promote other events and harvest services. She sent flyers to the homes of nearly 600 students to promote the church’s January movie night.
Attendance for the movie night doubled from the same event last year, and most of the nearly 250 attendees had never been to the church before.
In addition to her own fundraising and Bible2School support, Harvest also received an evangelism grant from the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania-South Jersey to fund the program.
“It’s so nice to have people, maybe even hundreds of miles away, who believe in what you do and support you in your quest to reach children for the gospel,” Caporali said.
Ultimately, the goal of the organizers of Bible2School is to fulfill the commission.
“A successful program would be if children were excited to come and learn about Jesus, even if it’s just one child worth doing the program, and we hope their parents will start too Loving Jesus,” Caporali said.