School’s Out—For Bible Lessons

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FILLING A PUBLIC SCHOOL NEED
It snowed the week Janet Magee launched her character education
series. Her goal was to bring 200 children with disabilities from a
local public school to her church for a special Christmas program.
But in Texas, snow’s a big thing. It was bigger than Magee
anticipated. With the school closed, the principal sent all 2,000
students to her church!

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Fourteen years later, Life Vision is thriving with 32,000 kids
attending in Harlingen, Texas, and a startup with 3,000 students in
neighboring Brownsville. Magee, a children’s ministry veteran and
retired executive director of Life Vision, is writing a workbook so
communities across the country can use this program under the
protection of time-release education.

“This is a fabulous way to bring children into God’s house,” she
says. “Instead of being someone they fear, we have an opportunity
to be their best friends.”
Magee describes Life Vision as “an umbrella.” Several ministries,
including a Christmas program, drug prevention programs on school
campuses, and character education, take place under the same
outreach. “We may have events where we never quote a Bible verse,
but we’ll certainly present biblical principles,” she says.

Slowly establishing trust with local schools, Magee strove to be a
blessing to the public system. Feedback that Life Vision requests
from school authorities keeps its leaders aware of how they can
support the school. “Find out what the needs are and build a
program around it,” encourages Magee. For example, she wrote a
lesson plan on character development after a school requested
one.

Not only is Magee working within a public system, secular groups
support her financially as well. The local hospital and newspaper
as well as attorneys, doctors, and plumbers sponsor Life Vision’s
annual Christmas program.

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“They know they’re giving to something good that they can have
some confidence in,” Magee says. “They know that they’re giving to
something that benefits children.”

“Our lowest expectation for our program would be that children are
able to go inside a church building, have a wonderful experience,
and know that church is a happy, fun place,” says Magee. “Even if
they don’t go to church as a family, they’re going to have good
memories. We hope that when it’s up to them to get themselves to
church, they’ll want to go.”

“Our highest expectation,” Magee continues, “is that the students
will go home with an element of character education, and that
they’ll also go home with the real meaning of Christmas.”

Magee attributes her program’s success to paying strict attention
to the law’s limitations and the will of the Holy Spirit. Instead
of looking at partnering with schools as a one-time opportunity,
she worked on building a good relationship with the schools. She
says, “The downfall for a lot of ministries that have lost favor
with public schools is that these ministries have gone in with
their guns loaded. They think, Well, this is our one shot, so I’m
going to give them a big dose of Christianity. Really, you’re there
to plant seeds. Someone else is going to water, and someone else is
going to reap that.”

-Lidonna Beer

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