By Aaron E. Ziebarth
I have visited almost twenty of Joy El’s Released Time programs this year. I am grateful for the volunteers who are committed to fulfilling the great commission through this ministry. Even more so, I join the volunteers in being inspired by seeing children excited to come and grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Following are some of the excellent practices that I have seen in the different Released Time programs.
1) Volunteers are committed to memorizing God’s Word. This impacts their hearts, and sets a great example for children.
2) There is a feeling of community as volunteers care for and pray for the needs of each other and for the children in the program. God’s love is evident between the volunteer team and for the children.
3) Persistence. The RT team knows that things can get in the way of children coming and learning about the Lord. Rather than being content with all students remaining at school for PSSAs, one coordinator shared, “I asked the principal, can all the students who are not taking the test still come to RT?” Many RTs persist in numerous attempts to invite children to come and attend RT.
4) Attitude of affirmation and encouragement. A volunteer shared, “My student told me, ‘I have never memorized anything and I can’t memorize scripture.'” The volunteer responded, “We will do it together.” The boy now has Psalm 23, 120 and the Lord’s prayer memorized.
5) Commitment to the mission. Many Released Time staff meetings begin by sharing (from memory) our mission, “Providing opportunities for people to experience life-change through personal encounters with God.” And then they do their part so God can do His.
6) Power of God. In the Released Time’s that I have visited, I found the power of God most evident where prayer was most prevalent. Sometimes it is extended time as a group, sometimes people pray in small groups. There are many with prayer warriors who pray during the Released Time hour (perhaps in another room at the church or occasionally in their homes). Prayer is recognition of our dependence on God. Praying Released Times unleash God’s power in unpredictable ways.
This is only a partial list. What are some practices you have seen that make Released Times excellent? Feel free to email me at [email protected].