On Fire for God: Public School Bible Clubs Spread

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NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- New Bethlehem is a little town as quiet as the burbling Redbank waters flowing close by. It's hardly the kind of place you'd expect to hold the largest group of any kind, much less one that's influencing the world.

But don't tell that to the kids going to the public high school here.

Each Monday in the middle of the school day more than half of Redbank Valley High School's 600 students head to Bible Club, making it the largest of its kind in the world.

They put on an annual Open House that showcases their wild skits, zany antics and boisterous worship that make Bible Club so fun. It's attracted up to a thousand people at once.

These students carry their Bibles in the hallways, openly share the Gospel, and now they're inspiring kids around the country and beyond.

The Difference an Email Makes

CBN News first covered Redbank's club two years ago after a viewer sent an email about its success.

"You made that video clip and we've got all kinds of responses from that," Bible Club President Doug Gundlach told CBN News.  

He said the CBN News story kicked off a cavalcade of inquiries and invitations. "That has sparked interest all over the world really," he said.

Club members even had to elect their own public relations officer, Maggie McCauley, to handle it all.

"A lot of things have happened," McCauley said.  "We've had a lot of outreach projects, as well as people contacting us to see how things are done."

A major spark came from McCauley's CBN News testimony of being just 14 years old at a Bible Club meeting where she led some four dozen students to pray for salvation.

Two years later, she remarked that it might have been even more. 

"I'm sitting there counting and I'm saying 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe it: 48 kids!' And there could have been more, but I had to quit counting so I could pray," McCauley  said.

A Miracle Connection

Treasurer Alaina Kunselmen believes the CBN News story led to a miracle connection.

"After we were on 'The 700 Club' last time, a club from California, Rosamond High School -- they're a Bible Club -- they got in touch with us, said they saw our interview -- which was really cool, I thought. I mean, they're all the way across the country," Kunselmen said.

The Rosamond students shared that they needed exactly 25 Bibles and that's exactly what the Redbank students prayed for.
 
"And not even a week later, someone dropped off 25 Bibles in our office, which was the exact number of Bibles that they needed,"  Kunselmen said.

The donor had no idea he was fulfilling to a tee the prayer for 25 Bibles. Kunselmen recalled, "They were just laying around his office, he said."

Kunselmen keeps the thank you card signed by a couple of dozen grateful Rosamond students who received the Bibles.
 
"I mean, that's definitely a God thing,"  she said.  "Like there's no other explanation for that.  We didn't have any other Bibles donated ever.  And a couple of days after we pray for them, we get some."

After hearing about Redbank's Bible Club, Travis Deans of Teens for Christ began to spread the word.  

Standing outside Redbank Valley High, Deans told CBN News, "Part of my excitement is to share what's happening here with other clubs, just to say 'Look what God could do in your school.'"

'Your School's a Mission Trip'

Deans shared the story on his website 9monthmissiontrip.com, which is aimed right at kids in school.

"We want to challenge students, especially Christian students, to think of their school as a mission trip, that God has put them there for a purpose and a reason," Deans explained. "And God wants to use them to share His love with their friends."

A ministry that wants to aid in setting up a network of 30 or 40 Bible Clubs throughout New York City schools sent observers to Redbank.

"They wanted to organize a Bible Club that would bring in kids from all five boroughs in New York City," McCauley said, "and they came to us for help." 

And the Redbankers have become missionaries in their own way.
 
"We went to a youth convention in Denver and we did a program there," Gundlach said.

McCauley added, "And we had a session called 'How to Start a Bible Club in Your High School.'"

The club's advisor, teacher Joe Harmon, evangelizes for the Bible Club's methods as well on his website School Bible Club and traveling to other Pennsylvania towns, like Curwensville, when asked.

That's where Grampian Church of God Pastor Leslie Bloom lives. She's a friend of Harmon's and knew the youth in her church were keen to start up their own Bible Club at their high school.

"Our kids have such big hearts for other teenagers and they kind of want to pull them in and show them what it's all about with Jesus," Pastor Bloom told CBN News.  "So I asked Joe to come down to the youth group to speak to them.  And some of our other youth leaders were there, and it just set the kids on fire."

On Fire for God

That's what the Redbankers want to do everywhere: set students on fire for God and let them know it's completely constitutional to live out their faith anywhere, including their school.

"There's no law that says kids can't carry a Bible in school, read it in school, pray in school," Maggie explained.  "There's nothing like that."

Deans said kids have every reason to be proud of their God and talk about Him.  

"Let's face it," he said. "God is cool.  I mean, God is awesome."

Many Americans may think the U.S. Supreme Court threw prayer and the Bible out of public schools in the 1960s.  But the Bible Club kids at Redbank Valley High are showing their nation students can have as much prayer, Bible and God in their schools as they want.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.