Reaching Children With the Gospel in Public Schools

After 11 years of ministering with The Navigators NavYouth in inner-city public schools, Judy and Ernie Scalabrin accepted the call to serve with The Navigators in their northern New Jersey neighborhood. With their three young children in public school and local sports, opportunities for connecting with families for Christ abounded.

A group photo of middle school students in a classroom, participating in a Navigators Bible club.
Ernie Scalabrin middle with participants of a Navigators Bible club

Then God surprised them with an amazing opportunity. Their school principal asked Ernie to teach a Bible club after school because two young Christian middle school students asked for one.

Following God’s call, Ernie gave the principal a lesson plan, Bible, and copy of the NavPress Bible study Design for Discipleship Book 1. The principal made a presentation to the Board of Education, and it was approved. In 2003, their public school Bible club ministry was born!

Sharing the Gospel in Public Schools

Since then, everyday disciplemakers from other churches have expressed interest in teaching after-school Bible clubs in more schools. With the help of The Navigators Corporate Affairs and Risk Management (CARM) department to develop and implement a vetting process and child protection training, these partnering churches have been able to effectively onboard volunteers. All of the Bible club teachers are trained to share the gospel and morning devotions, as well as teach students how to memorize Scripture, pray, witness, and study the Bible in ways that are engaging and relevant for grades K-12.

Ernie is especially passionate for this ministry because of the research from Barna Group and the National Association of Evangelicals, which states that 85 percent of people who have put their trust in Christ did so when they were between the ages of 4 and 16. This is a testament to Jesus’ special care for children when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14 (NIV).

After seeing hundreds of children come to Christ through Bible clubs over 22 years, Ernie sees this ministry as essential for reaching generations for Christ, laying foundations of faith to prepare the youth to be everyday disciplemakers in school, work, family, and life as they grow up.

In addition, Ernie is excited about the fact that the ministry has been grassroots and community-led. Partnering churches love the community impact of the Bible clubs, and church-going parents are thrilled their children are learning the Word of God in their public school setting, not just at church. Children are being transformed by the love of Jesus through the gospel, and the impact is rippling out to families and school staff.

A Growing Ministry for Children

Ernie has devoted much of his time to train churches around the nation to start up Bible clubs in their own local public schools with hopes of expanding and multiplying spiritual generations. As more and more churches reach out to Ernie, he continues to help them navigate the logistics of setting up Bible clubs, leading them with Navigator principles.

Pray for the children that The Navigators Bible club ministry will reach and disciple in public schools. Consider ways you may be able to partner locally to help reach children in public schools near you. For more information, contact Ernie Scalabrin at

Discipleship Tip:

Judy and Ernie were already involved in the public school system through his kids when he started the Bible Club ministry, using it as an opportunity to disciple children at his local schools. Look around — where are you already involved that you could disciple others? Whether it’s your workplace, neighborhood, school, or community, you might be surprised to see who you could reach in your networks!


  1. Awesome, awesome article. Amazing things. But, schools and the nation are very dark places (lit up by lighthouses). But, the article misquoted Barna. It should have said that 85% of Americans who trust Christ put their faith in Christ between the ages of 4 and 16. Cumbersome, I know. I know. But, why does it matter? Read the article again. The way it was put (as opposed to what you really meant) means literally that there is a revival going on in schools in America the likes of which we have not seen since Charles Phinney, i.e. that there is a SIX TO ONE (!) ratio (85/15~6) of Christians to non-Christians in American schools. Really, it is probably close to the other way around (Christians are greatly outnumbered in schools). I know that is not what you MEANT and Ernie also knows that it is not even close to 85% of all school children knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior. But, I prayed through the prayer card. Perhaps, with much faith and prayer, perhaps God will bring that amazing revival to kids (and their families). Maybe it is starting now. Maranatha!

    Thanks for the wonderful article.

    1. Kevin, thank you for the helpful feedback. We updated that sentence to make it more clear – “85 percent of people who have put their trust in Christ did so when they were between the ages of 4 and 16.”

  2. The blessings of God continue to rest upon each of you. I think your discipleship programs are just wonderful.!!! I’ll keep your Ministry before the Lord in prayer.

  3. Awesome narrative…The Bible clubs are a tremendous ministry! I’ve been blessed this year to work with older youth through a local high school. It’s completely student led (with faculty advisor). They maintain a number of outreach opportunities during the year with an emphasis of reaching both staff and other students with the love of Christ. Each week they meet an hour before school on Friday for what can only be described as church. It may not be what fellow baby boomers grew up with but it definitely meets the Biblical criteria for church!

    Many today believe that public schools are closed to us. This simply isn’t true; rules have to be followed but thankfully there are still opportunities to carry the Gospel, pray & worship, and disciple within our public schools.

  4. I don’t have finances to donate but I am willing to be part of this by donating my prayers and my time.

  5. What an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to answer a parent’s prayer for their children and to fulfill a child’s desire for more of Jesus!

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