Local schools incorporating Bible-based character education
LIMA – LifeWise Academy started in 2018 in Van Wert, Ohio. This is where “Free Time Religious Instruction” was reinvented.
Seventy years ago, the United States Supreme Court decision, Zorach v. Clauson, determined that the practice of “religious instruction in leisure time” was constitutional and therefore legal in all states. Judge William O. Douglas wrote for the majority in a 6-3 Of Zorach v. Clauson decision in 1952:
“When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities in adjusting the timing of public events to sectarian needs, then it follows the best of our traditions, for it then respects the religious nature of our people and adapts services public to their spirituality. Needs.”
More than half of the states in the United States now have specific release time laws. Specific state policies vary. For example, the Ohio Liberation Time Act (ORC 3313.6022) was passed by the Ohio Legislature and signed into law by Governor John Kasich in 2014, allowing public school students to receive optional religious instruction. during the school day, under certain conditions, including: it is off property of the school, funded by the private sector and authorized by the parents.
Although legal for decades, Released Time remained almost completely ignored by the Christian church. LifeWise Academy changes that by providing a model that could be implemented by any community nationwide. For three years, LifeWise has built and refined this model to capitalize on this opportunity.
In 2019, five schools were involved in LifeWise Academy. In 2020, academies were added to Payne, Grover Hill and Pandora. The goal was set to create 25 academies by 2025. However, in 2021, there were 36 LifeWise academies. LifeWise Academies are in the planning stages in Ottawa, Shawnee, Allen East, Spencerville and Bath.
LifeWise Academy uses the basic structure and focus of The Gospel Project, a program originally produced for Sunday School and small group applications that has been licensed by LifeWise and reformatted to meet the needs of a free-time religious education program. The LifeWise curriculum is designed to guide students through the entire Bible, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation, over a five-year period. Each lesson reviews a Bible passage along with a “Living LifeWise” character trait. There are twenty-five character traits taught, including responsibility, respect, gratitude, and obedience. The order of lessons and activities is flexible and can be changed if the teacher deems it necessary.
LifeWise does not interfere with classes during the school day. They do not interfere with compulsory children’s lessons or extracurricular activities. The class schedule is established by school staff in consultation with LifeWise representatives. Usually, LifeWise courses are scheduled as part of the “specials” rotation or at times when other electives are offered.
A local steering committee first coordinates program details with school officials, then identifies a program director and council to lead the program over the long term. The principal and board recruit and hire qualified teachers with the resources and coaching of the LifeWise Support Center. A number of volunteers are also recruited to help transport students and help in the classroom. Students walk under the supervision of volunteer chaperones or are driven by bus or van to the offsite LifeWise classroom. The cost varies from program to program depending on paid staff, facilities, transportation, tuition/membership, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs. Our numbers indicate that a program can operate within a cost range of $100 to $300 per student per year, depending primarily on local decisions regarding paid staff, facilities, and transportation. The LifeWise Support Center provides proven strategies, training, and materials to local LifeWise leaders to effectively raise the funds needed so there is no cost to participating schools or families.
Several schools in the area are beginning to incorporate “religious free time instruction,” in which students and parents can voluntarily opt for an offsite, privately funded, Bible-based curriculum.