Release Time

Here in Jackson, MN we still have Release Time.  Kids in grades 3, 4 and 5 have the option of being “released” from school to head to the church of their choice for Bible classes.  Parents fill out a short form, at the beginning of the school year, telling the school if they want their child “released” and what church they are going to.  This year I have 3 fourth graders and 2 fifth graders.  They are an energetic bunch (one of my fourth graders never and I mean never stopped moving).

Anyway…this first half of the year we are talking about the 10 Commandments and today was Commandment #2…”Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain“.  We discussed names and what it means to honor God’s name.  We talked about swearing and how that effects others.  We closed by talking about forgiveness and that because God forgives us, we ought to honor God by honoring God’s name.

Before the kids were “released” back to school to catch the bus we closed with prayer.  I asked them what they wanted to pray for.  They wanted to thank God for the beautiful day, one asked to pray for her little brother to continue healing and one asked to pray for her kittens.  Then one of them said, “Pray that God forgives us of our sins.”  As a pastor…it’s hard to describe what that means to hear one of your 4th graders say that.

I’m not sure what they are taking away from class today, but it sounds like at least one of them understands that God forgives them through Jesus Christ.  What more can one hope for?


4 thoughts on “Release Time

  1. Eric,
    there’s no doubt that we have a lot to teach kids these days about forgiveness and prayer. Maybe cats need prayer. Maybe a 4th grader really does understand that hitting their sister or being mean to a classmate is sin. Maybe you are teaching that God does care in that hour a week in church.
    The church I served had Tuesday School a 1 hour release time until 15 years ago. Many still talk about how many kids outside the church were coming for Tuesday School and how much they struggled with and enjoyed all the kids who came.
    Today I think our Wednesday nights are pretty similar. We have 20 or 30 kids come for each class from 5th through 9th grade. Maybe 5 or 10 in each class worship regularly; but they come still seeking something.
    Keep it up. You may never see the seeds mature into the harvest; but we know that the Word of God never returns empty.

  2. And maybe some will go home and be asked “what did you do today?” And maybe an adult will hear those words and ponder them. And maybe they go home with no real content but a sense that the church and the pastor care about me and so does God. My husband fondly remembers release time, and vacation Bible school. As a child in a home where these were his only exposures to church because the adults could not agree on a denomination, but made sure the kids did the “right things” this was his only foundation until adulthood. But when he met and married a “churchgoer” the seeds that got planted all those years ago matured after lying fallow for a long time.

  3. And maybe they go home and an adult asks ” what did you talk about today and hears and ponders for themselves. And maybe they take home nothing of substance but believe that the pastor and the church care for them and God loves them. My husband fondly remembers release time, and vacation Bible school as the only church he experienced raised in a home where the adults could not agree on a denomination but they did the “right thing” and sent the kids. Years later he met and married a “churchgoer” and the dots were connected. Those seeds that had lain fallow for years matured.

  4. If these kids go home with nothing concrete to tell their parents but have a sense they are cared for by me and the church, that is indeed something. As you said, Unlikely, God’s word does not return empty. Thank you.

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