Released Time Bible Education
What is Released Time?
Released Time is a FREE ministry designed to provide Biblical training to the more than 53 million public school students in the United States. Classes are generally one hour in length and are held on either a monthly or weekly basis, during a time that does not interfere with the core school courses. Some secondary schools offer Released Time as an elective for credit.
How does it work?
After local school board approval, interested parents give their permission for children to be “released” from school for a designated time (usually one hour) each week or each month to go to a location off the school property. There they are taught the wonderful truths of God’s Word by CBM workers. (There are also a few other national ministries operating Released Time programs.) Generally, less than 3 classes per day are taught per school.
- Classes are held during school hours
- Classes are held off school property
- Enrollment is voluntary
- There are no associated fees
- Written parental permission is required
- There is no government funding; schools are neutral
- To reach the unreached with the gospel. Up to 50% of CBM’s Released Time children do not attend church. The only time they have heard the message of salvation is in Released Time.
- To teach the Word of God.
- To promote Scripture memorization and give students an opportunity to recite verses.
- To provide an opportunity for Christian adults to use and develop their spiritual gifts.
- To provide opportunity for students to relate to Christian adults in a loving and caring environment.
- How to Start One
Job descriptions (volunteers)
CBM offers an opportunity for committed Christians to use their talents, abilities and spiritual gifts within the Released Time program. The number and type of volunteers needed can vary by location. All are required to complete an application, sign CBM’s Statement of Faith*, and are subject to a regular criminal background check. They are covered by the sponsoring CBM area’s insurance.
CBM Local Board
A group of caring and concerned Christians from the community who oversee the financial and practical working of the ministry.
CBM Area Director
Works directly with the local Board, keeping them informed and directing the work of the ministry.
Director of Elementary Ministries
Responsible for the operation of CBM sponsored Released Time programs. Major duties include: contacting schools and volunteers, setting schedules, oversight of curriculum and enrollment.
Responsible for the weekly or monthly operation of Released Time classes. They are the contact person between CBM and the volunteers.
Responsible to diligently study and teach assigned Released Time classes using CBM curriculum.
Responsible to maintain accurate records of attendance and memory work.
Responsible for listening to students as they recite Bible verses. They encourage and pray for students and help with classroom discipline.
Plan and lead music at the start of each class.
Assist in getting students safely to and from school to Released Time classes.
CBM is a non-denominational work, but we do adhere to the following fundamentals of the Christian faith.
*Statement of Faith that must be signed by all Released Time workers:
- The verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Holy Scripture
- The deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit and virgin born.
- The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only payment for man’s sin.
- Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
- The bodily resurrection, ascension, and imminent return of Christ.
Every effort is made to hold classes as close to the school as possible. This cuts down on the time needed to get to and from the class, giving more time for instruction. Some CBM areas have rolling chapels or mobile classrooms. Other CBM areas’ Released Time classes meet in churches or civic halls. Arrangements are made by CBM in cooperation with the local parties interested in Released Time.
In the event that the meeting place is not within walking distance of the school, CBM either owns. Leases, or hires buses to transport the children. In addition to the bus company’s insurance, CBM carries liability insurance for all of its ministries. Busing is the largest expense for Released Time, but it is worth it to provide safe and comfortable transportation to and from classes.
Students are released for classes either weekly or monthly, depending on the arrangement made between CBM and the school officials. They then determine the best hour for each class, at a time that does not interfere with the core school courses. The hour begins when the students leave the school and ends when they return. Classes begin in late September and conclude in late April or early May.
A general schedule is as follows:
- 10 minutes for travel to class
- 10 minutes of singing and review
- 10 minutes of Bible memory work and prayer
- 25 minute Bible lesson
- 5 minutes for travel back to school
The idea of releasing public school students for devotional religious study off school premises in the United States was first discussed in 1905 at a conference in New York City. The proposal was that public elementary schools should be closed one day a week in addition to Sunday so those parents who so desired could have their children attend religious instruction outside of the school building.
However, it was not until Dr. William Wirt, an innovative educator and superintendent of the Gary, Indiana schools established a program in 1914 in which 619 students participated in off-campus religious education. Dr. Wirt believed that the church, home, playground, library, and school were all components in a child’s education. The public school, however, had and still has no responsibility for teachers, curriculum, conduct, or achievement within the Released Time classes.
Released Time grew and flourished. In 1922, for example, Released Time programs were active in 23 states. 40,000 students from 200 school districts were participating. By 1932, thirty states had active Released Time programs in 400 communities with an enrollment of 250,000 students. Ten years later, in 1942, participation reached 1.5 million students in 46 states. Released Time peaked in 1947 with 2 million students enrolled in 2,200 communities. During this time, favorable Released Time legislation was adopted by 12 states.
Currently, it is estimated that between all of the ministries operating Released Time, there are over 1,000 programs involving over 250,000 students in kindergarten through high school.
In the past, most CBM workers were allowed to teach in the schools during school hours. They went class to class teaching their Bible lessons, encouraging Bible memorization, and giving out awards. Teachers assisted in this process by listening to verses during the month and reported back to the CBM missionary. During the 60s-70s, missionaries were forced out of the schools and after this time of difficult transition, changes were made to Released Time. Now, CBM Released Time meets off-site, either at a rolling chapel/mobile classroom or a nearby church.
Since God was “expelled” from schools (prayer and Bible reading were removed) in the early 60s:
- Teen pregnancy rate has tripled
- Single parent families have tripled
- Violent crimes have increased by 500%
- Total crimes have increased by 300%
- The divorce rate has increased by 200%
- SAT scores have dropped nearly 80 points
- By the time a child reaches age 18, he/she has seen 15,000 murders on TV
- There have been more than 50 million abortions since 1973
- 92 % are receiving no moral or spiritual instruction from the Bible
- Nearly half have no regular contact with a local church
- 1.5 million children have a parent in prison
Every day in the United States
- 8,441 teens become sexually active
- 2,756 teens get pregnant
- 248 children are arrested for violent crimes
- 2,250 students drop out of school
- 16 youth commit suicide
Teachers have indicated that students who attend Released Time:
- Have more respect for themselves and others
- Demonstrate improved academic skills
- Exhibit less at-risk behavior
Other benefits for students:
- Receive a Biblical worldview
- Exposed to a positive peer group
- Interact with positive and loving Christian adults
- Hear the truth of God’s Word and the gospel
- Improved involvement and development in school and in the community
- Improved relationships with family and friends
- Stronger self-confidence and regard for others
- Positive coping skills for a variety of life situations
- A greater connection to God, leading to a stronger understanding of life and a greater self-purpose.
Benefits for churches
- Many parents who will not take their children to church will sign them up for Released Time
- After accepting Jesus as Savior, children are encouraged to seek a church home
- More parents attend church because they go with their kids
- When these students come to church, their knowledge of the Bible is enhanced from what they learned at Released Time
In 1952, the constitutionality of Released Time ministry was tested in the Supreme Court case of Zorach vs. Clauson (343 U.S. 306). The ruling found such ministries not to be in violation of the United States Constitution. The court said, “When the state encourages religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions, for it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not, would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.”
Some states have additional legislation that makes it easier to get Released Time programming started and continue operating:
California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin
For a complete listing of laws and guidelines by state, click here.
It is the desire of CBM, its missionaries, and volunteers to cooperate with the public schools. We make every effort to make Released Time a positive asset to the educational system. It is to be conducted under the following guidelines:
- Parental or guardian permission must be given for each student who participates
- Classes are to be held off school property
- There must be no associated fees
- No public funds are to be used to conduct Released Time
- It is not to exceed 36 hours per year
CBM areas running Released Time programs
Of CBM’s 12 US locations, the following are currently operating Released Time programs:
Stats are as of the 2015-2016 school year
CBM of East TN: Camp Ta-Pa-Win-Go: 52 schools in 9 counties in 4 states; 5,336 students enrolled
CBM of VA: Camp Red Arrow: 18 schools in 5 counties in 1 state; 3,495 students enrolled
CBM of South AL: Camp Victory: 10 schools in 4 counties in 1 state; 3,137 students enrolled
CBM of North AL: Ponderosa Student Ministries: 11 schools in 1 county in 1 state; 900 students enrolled
CBM of Mid-Atlantic: Camp Grace: 24 schools in 1 counties in 1 state; 2,900 students enrolled
CBM of Southwest PA: Cornerstone Ministry Center: 19 schools in 2 counties in 1 state; 659 students enrolled
CBM of the Great Southwest (OK, MO): 15 schools in 10 counties in 2 states; 1,343 students enrolled
“My son attends Released Time. This was one of the best things I’ve ever done for him. He loves it and looks forward to it. He is so much more into the Lord and he remembers what he learns. Praise God for your ministry.”
“This is one of the best things our church has ever done.”
– A Released Time Volunteer
I heartily endorse Released Time Bible Education. At a time when Christian parents fear for the spiritual well-being of their children in public schools, it is so encouraging and exciting to know about the work of the National Released Time Bible Education project. The goal of this unique program is to reach every student in America, K- 12, with the timeless truth of the Word and to counteract the anti-biblical philosophies of the classroom.
– Bill Bright, founder, Campus Crusade for Christ
Our regular monitoring through youth surveys indicates that violence and abuse are so common in our public schools today that dealing with the problem is a matter of the greatest urgency. What’s exciting [to me] is that promoting Released Time Bible education can alleviate this situation, as the answers are brought to children in a relational setting. We can see incredible possibilities when youngsters reach out in love in a trusting relationship with others.– George Gallup, Jr., The Gallup Group
Our young people need to know the Bible if they’re going to resist the world’s temptations and be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ. I believe in Released Time Bible Education as an important option for teaching the next generation of Christian leaders.
– Luis Palau, evangelist, Luis Palau Evangelistic Assoc.
With all of the violence experienced in our public schools over the last few years, it is good to know that God’s Word offers basic solutions to the needs being faced by today’s young people. I am very encouraged that Released Time Bible Education offers the opportunity for public school students to be released during the school day, with parental permission, to attend Bible Education classes. I recommend this ministry to you for your prayers and support.
– Paul A. Cedar, MissionAmerica
With parental permission, public school kids can be released for devotional Bible study, organized off-campus by local churches during the day. It’s that simple. It’s constitutional, and it works. Looking for a program that can reduce violence, truancy, vandalism, and incivility, while increasing caring and ministering to those in need? What teacher or parent in their right mind wouldn’t want something like this that really works?
– Chuck Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship
Released Time is an exciting program allowing children to learn about God during the school day. It is evident that God is using the Released Time Bible Education program in tremendous ways, and I hope that even more young people will enroll this year.
– D. James Kennedy, pastor and author
I like going to Released Time because you get to go and praise the Lord, thank Him, and let Him wash away your sins. And we get to learn more about Him every time we go and know how much He loves us, even putting His own Son on the cross for our sins.”
– Delaynee, 5th grader, Watson, OK, Released Time
I currently pastor a church working with a local Released Time program. Our society desperately needs citizens populating our communities and entering the work force, voting booth, and public office who are peace loving, kind, patient, loyal, honest, trustworthy, self-controlled, keepers of commitments, desirous of working to support themselves, etc. Released Time Education is one of the best ways to teach these qualities. All at no cost to taxpayers!
– Pastor, Hodgen, OK
My daughter, who is now in the 9th grade, cherishes those times when she went to Released Time. Whenever I’d pick her up from school, she would tell me how much she enjoyed Release Time because of the singing and the fellowship with other students. I could tell the difference it made in her life. I believe that Release Time has helped mold my daughter into the wonderful young lady that she is today. How awesome it is to know that Released Time is helping our children grow up to make a positive difference in this world!
– Parent, Berryhill, OK, Released Time
IN STATES THAT HAVE A RELEASED TIME LAW
Contact CBM’s Headquarters to let them know of your desire to start this program. Then, gather as much information as you can about the state’s Released Time statute, what classes, if any, are already being conducted, and how a Released Time program may address state educational objectives (i.e.: self-esteem, values education). Determine who will make the decision whether to allow a program and make an appointment to see that person. If this is not a personal contact of yours, CBM will make the connection for you, and/or will attend the meeting with you. If the principal refers you to the School Board, you would be wise to meet individually with each member before presenting the concept at a School Board meeting. With a carefully crafted approach and with statutory recognition, you should expect success in gaining approval for the program.
IN STATES THAT DO NOT HAVE A RELEASED TIME LAW
Contact CBM’s Headquarters to let them know of your desire to start this program. Many states do not have specific laws regarding Released Time; however, this does not necessarily prohibit it. In fact, it may allow a wider range of Released Time programs. A Released Time program in these states would fall subject to the federal guideposts presented in McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948), People of Illinois ex. rel and Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
1. Pray and ask God to give you the school for Released Time. If you have contacts within a school district, that is a great place to start.
2. Another approach is to pray that God will provide a church that is across from a school, as students could then walk to Released Time classes.
3. If your desired school is not across from a church, locate and contact the nearest church to seek permission to use their building. In this case, transportation must be strategized.
4. Ask others to pray and consider committing themselves to making Released Time a reality.
5. Gather a core of volunteers and a meeting place before approaching the school.
6. Meet with all of your volunteers and assign jobs.
7. Plan promotion.
8. After a favorable ruling from the principal and/or School Board, work with the school and your volunteers to schedule the best day and time for Released Time.
9. Have a training day for volunteers.
10. Start Released Time!
Many of CBM’s locations use Character Building Materials, which runs on a four year cycle as listed below. Other locations use customized material that is approved by CBM.
- Good Samaritan
- Love must be shown
- Jesus shows compassion
- David and Goliath
- Grumblers in the wilderness
- God provides for the pilgrims
- Cain and Abel
- Ten Commandments
- Paul and Silas
- Phillip and Ethiopian
- Birth of Jesus
- Jacob and Esau
- Satan the Liar
- Ananias and Sapphira
- Rewards are earned
- Spiritual armor
- David and Bathsheba
- Ahab and Naboth
- The rich fool
- Parable of the sower
- Nehemiah, part 1
- Nehemiah, part 2
- Saul’s conversion
- 4 wise things
- Joseph, part 1
- Joseph, part 2
- Sheep, silver, son
- Daniel and friends
- David and Jonathan
- The disciples
- Woman at the well
- He can be known
- Nate Saint, part 1
- Nate Saint, part 2
- God’s plan for homes
- God’s plan for hearts
- God’s plan for hands
- Holy Spirit
CBM Ministries is a work of faith, relying on the financial support of individuals, groups, and churches to carry on this vital ministry. Each CBM location operates on a budget established by its local Board of Directors.