By Kara Witherow, Editor
This semester, nearly 75 of Telfair County’s public-school students are receiving biblical, Christ-centered education during the school day.
They’re not just learning about the Bible as an influential piece of literature or about Christianity in the context of a world religion class, but instead they’re learning about creation-based science, apologetics, and stewardship.
This is thanks to a new partnership between several Telfair County churches that led to the creation of the Telfair Christian Learning Center.
Rev. Jason Dickerson, pastor of McRae United Methodist Church, helped found the Telfair Christian Learning Center and serves as the middle school location’s interim volunteer executive director. The idea was birthed in May and plans were quickly put in place to incorporate, design curriculum, hire teachers, and spread the word.
It’s a community-wide effort, he said, with about 30 churches involved and supporting the endeavor. School administrators, parents, and students also had to be on board for the idea to work, and they have been overwhelmingly supportive, Rev. Dickerson said.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to build into the lives of our children here in the community,” he said of McRae UMC’s involvement with the Telfair Christian Learning Center. “The curriculum can be as explicitly Christian as we want. We get to teach Christian theology, our beliefs and apologetics, and really build into them what’s important from a faith-based perspective.”
Because Telfair County middle and high schools participate in the Released Time Bible Education (RT) Program, each semester students have the opportunity to choose as one of their two electives an off-campus, free, Bible education class offered by the Telfair Christian Learning Center. Students, with permission from their parents or guardians, are transported by church volunteers in a church van to either McRae UMC or McRae First Baptist Church. This semester, the 47 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students are studying “Answers in Genesis,” a creation-based science and apologetics course that helps answer some of the tough questions about the Christian faith. The 27 high school students are studying “Foundations in Personal Finance” by Dave Ramsey, a personal finance and economics curriculum with a Biblical emphasis on stewardship.
Students who complete the courses will receive credit at their school for an elective class, Rev. Dickerson said.
“They come here, they learn, we take attendance, the teachers have tests for them, they’ll get credit for the class, and the school gets to count this as educational hours for their federal funding.”
The Telfair Christian Learning Center receives no funding, however. The ministry is completely supported by congregations, individuals, and community organizations. Their hope is to soon become a fully-funded, self-sustaining organization, Rev. Dickerson said, and continue on as an outreach to the community.
In addition to offering Bible-based education to middle- and high-school students, Rev. Dickerson has seen another added benefit to the Telfair Christian Learning Center in that it’s brought nearly 30 diverse churches together for the first time in years.
“It’s been quite a few years since churches in our community have worked together well,” he said. “It’s been a very good common ground goal that has helped the churches start to work together.”
Rev. Glen Hancock, pastor of Helena United Methodist Church, says that while his congregation has just recently learned of the Telfair Christian Learning Center it is discussing how it can support it and is excited about how it can impact the kingdom.
“The mission field is not just overseas,” he said. “The mission field is right outside the door of the church, and this is an excellent way to enter the mission field and to carry the message and to help fulfill the Great Commission.”
Rev. Dickerson and the McRae UMC congregation see their involvement in the Telfair Christian Learning Center as an investment in the lives of the community’s children.
“We hope that this will be something that will really impact the lives of our kids,” he said. “This is just basic Christian theology, studying the Bible, God’s Word, and that resonates very strongly with parents and the community here.”