After 16 years of planting seeds and watering young soil in the Greater New York City area’s Northern New Jersey public schools, Navigator Ernie Scalabrin and his wife Judy still marvel at all God is doing. Along with a faithful team of volunteers, they now run Bible clubs in eight public schools—soon to be 10.
“Over the years we have seen scores of young people come to Christ,” Ernie says. “Last school year alone, 71 students trusted Christ as Savior. We’ve even seen school staff come to Christ and grow as disciples. As we train volunteers from local churches to lead the clubs, they become disciplemakers. This is a community approach. It’s churches, it’s workplaces. And it’s thrilling.”
Ernie says this ministry reaches young people at a critical time.
“According to Barna Research, worldview is developed by age 13,” Ernie says. “This ministry is absolutely critical to the advancement of the gospel. We have an incredible opportunity to share Christ with kids at the time in their lives when they are most likely to respond to Him.”
The kids—and the parents—are responding.
A mom of three Bible club regulars, Haydee Lopez says the club gave her kids a spiritual home.
“My children have been attending their school for about seven years,” Haydee says. “As a parent wanting the best for her children and knowing that the greatest asset I could ever give them is knowing about God, I was stoked to hear of the club. My kids have both become disciples and are helping spread the gospel to the younger children. It has truly been a blessing.”
It’s tough being a kid—and being a kid of faith can be especially alienating. Bible club builds bridges between students desperate for connection.
“I have seen children of different ages, who normally would more than likely never speak to each other, come together and worship, pray, and laugh together,” Haydee says. “This club reminds them of their most important identity. They are sons and daughters of the highest King, and they are not alone in those hallways. They have brothers and sisters to pray with them in times of need.”
Marie Dinaro’s daughters have been involved in their school Bible club since last April. She sees their involvement as life enhancement.
“I hope they will stay with it throughout their high school years and college, and let it guide them through their life,” Marie says. “[Faith has] helped guide me—a reminder to turn to God no matter what. That’s what I hope and pray they’d take out of this—that even if they can’t physically see God, He’s there, guiding them.”
Imparting Truth to Kids & Adults
Bible clubs also provide an incredible opportunity to reach and disciple adults. Ernie and his wife have discipled teachers, custodial staff, and parents too.
Recently retired high school custodian Gary Pangione is one of those adults deeply impacted by Bible club and Ernie’s example. Gary even asked Ernie to officiate when he remarried his ex-wife Carol last year on St. Patrick’s Day.
“We kinda hit it off,” Gary says. “I never sat in the club meetings because I was at work, so after Ernie got packed up, he’d stop by and we’d have conversations. He got me looking at things differently. It was a nice thing getting together with him. I would read and we would chat about things. I’d be cleaning classrooms and I’d listen to him teach. When I was younger, I was dragged to church … it kinda wiped me out for a while. He brought me back in to reading the Bible again.”
Since global pandemic closed schools and changed the way we all do business and ministry, Ernie hasn’t skipped a beat, hosting weekly Zoom call meetings with the children. On a recent call, one of Ernie’s clubs discussed how their devotions had been going the previous week, shared what God had spoken to them, did a devotional together, watched a video about Joseph and his brothers, read Scripture, and spent time in prayer. Kids mused about what heaven is like, wondering if there would be video games, clothes, or sickness. Ernie pointed them to Scripture, smiling at their innocence, clearly enjoying their questions.
“We are blazing a new path, and learning as we go,” Ernie says. “It’s certainly a new adventure with God. One exciting development is that with this technology, friends of our students from different schools can also join us. Zoom has no geographical limits. Parents have a clearer window into the clubs, as they are home while the meetings are going on. We also look forward to meeting with students via Zoom in the summer—something we’ve never done before. This crisis has just made virtual meetings a real part of their lives.”
Whether schools reopen in the fall or virtual learning continues for a season, Ernie has God-sized dreams for the future.
“My dream is to see a Navigators Bible study in every school in America,” Ernie says. “Schools are the heart of every community. Everyone is connected in some way. By impacting public schools, we’re imparting truth to families and communities—involving churches, impacting workplaces and neighborhoods, and even sending off our discipled students to college ministries.”
Ernie welcomes others to join him in the hallways of this exciting ministry—physical or virtual.
“I have developed a curriculum for leading a club and training volunteers,” Ernie says. “I want to help others troubleshoot any issues that come up. We’d love to see more people get involved.”
Pray for students across the nation who are walking through an unprecedented and stressful time at such a young age, separated from their friends and needing encouragement.
Pray that disciplemakers like Ernie and Judy will find ways to reach young people even in this new reality, and that God would speak truth and peace to them.
Amen Amen Amen! Best news ever!!!! Thank you Jesus and thank you all involved in this awesome outreach!
I am very much interested in Ernie’s curriculum.’I’m trying to start a Neighborhood KidZ club during summer. Please have him call me at 337-263-0302. Thank you.
So exciting to see how the Lord is working through this ministry. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you so much Carole!
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Cried tears of thankfulness to the Lord for His great love and faithfulness to you and Judy and to the many saved souls. Thankful for the humble example that the two of you are and always have been to us.
We love you both.
Excellent and uplifting article. Thank you for publishing an article highlighting the Lord’s work in young people through the ministry of His servants of the Gospel.
Thank you so much Rita!
Need more Ernie’s and Judy’s.
This is such an encouraging reality happening in the midst of chaos, crime, & instability in our country. Thank you Ernie for investing in these young people & their parents. Bob & I are thrilled to see how God is using you.
Can you send me a copy of the curriculum you have developed for leading a club and training volunteers? We hand out creation gospel tracts after school to kids in 12 high schools in northern Illinois. We have done this for three years with a great response (about 8-9,000 tracts handed out each year) and I’ve wondered what to do if students wanted to develop a club and how to disciple them. I’ve had a lot of Navigator training from the military to college and some in the community as well. Ralph
Ralph, please call me at 201-615-9057 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to discuss this all with you!!
I have been a first-hand witness of Ernie & Judy’s passion for ministry to kids in public schools for over 25 years – from Ernie’s days as an English teacher, through his pioneering efforts at creating Bible Clubs in public schools, to his current efforts of multiplying Bible Clubs far beyond his own personal capacity by training and inspiring others to do the same. These Bible Club ministries are among some of the most fruitful grassroots
outreach efforts I know of in The Navigators and are laying effective disciple-making foundations at an early age. May their tribe increase!
I too, would like to get a copy of your curriculum, Ernie. My wife and I minister to youth and college students as well and want to see how you approach students, and compare notes.
I grew up in northern New Jersey. So encouraged, even excited, to hear what God is doing through you there! I would like to help in some way, at least through prayer. Thanks!
Hi Walt! Please either call me at 201-615-9057 or email me at email@example.com
I am so happy that this is taking place; what a blessing to our kids and to our Lord!
Thank you Ruth Ann!!
I would like a copy of the curriculum. I would love to start a Bible club in my community.
Please call me at 201-615-9057 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to show you how!
How can I learn more about this wonderful ministry?
Call me at 201-615-9057 or email me email@example.com
I would love to take a look at your curriculum and training!
Call me at 201-615-9057 or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love to talk with you!
We have had the privilege of watching Ernie, and later Judy, grow in their gifting for evangelism. They have faithfully followed their calling to young people and God has faithfully blessed! We rejoice with them in this special, needed ministry to young people. May the Lord continue to multiply laborers for His kingdom through the Scalabrins.
Larry and Brenda were one of my first spiritual mentors and the impact on my life and now Judy’s is also in our Bible Clubs! Thank you Larry and Brenda!
Hey i know you!! Well done, good and faithful one. Keep looking up!
Thank you so much Lisa!
I can’t believe it’s been 16 years. I’m so grateful for your heart and vision for these children, and for all the lives you’ve impacted!
I am so lucky to get the bible club in my school.
It’s amazing God’s plan to move here.
I will pray for your ministry and the list of yours.
Thank you Judy. If you would like to know more contact me at email@example.com
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