Learning center offers Christian classes for public school students, triples enrollment in first 2 years

In a small Georgia town, a group of Christians got creative about reaching public school students with the Christian message.

“There wasn’t really an option for [public school students] to…

In a small Georgia town, a group of Christians got creative about reaching public school students with the Christian message.

“There wasn’t really an option for [public school students] to have any faith-based education,” Noel Pauley, director of the Stephens County Christian Learning Center, told The Lion. “The state cannot provide that, and there wasn’t an option for families that might want that.”

Pauley and a few others started a Christian Learning Center to host Bible classes for middle and high school students during the school day.

Even though the center only started two years ago, interest in its program has already exploded. 

“When we open registration, usually within a couple of weeks our class rosters are full for at least the first semester,” Pauley says. “Very rarely do we have classes that aren’t full.”

The learning center held six classes in its first year. This year, it will host 17.

Such programs qualify as “Released Time” programs, which allow public school students to receive religious instruction during the school day, with the permission of their parents.

The Supreme Court even ruled in the 1950s that such programs are constitutional since they do not use public facilities and are not mandatory.

“[There is] no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence,” wrote Justice William O. Douglas, for the 6-3 majority.

There are roughly 3,800 students in the Stephens County public school system. This year, around 200 of them will take a Bible class through the CLC.

“They’re going to know how to study their Bible. They’re going to know who God is, who Jesus is, and we have lots of students accept Christ when they come here,” Pauley told The Lion. “We try to instill some core truths to them, that God’s Word is true and that He’ll never leave you or forsake you.”

Christian Learning Centers can be found all over Georgia.

‘The Gospel changes things’  

In Stephens County, even public school officials were excited to have the Christian center, although their official positions limit how much they can publicly promote it.

“We are blessed in our community to have Christians in positions of leadership,” Pauley told The Lion. “Our school system has been excited about it.” 

CLC is funded entirely by private donations from churches, families and individuals. But the community has been so generous that CLC is already working on building their own headquarters. 

“We started in a shopping center,” said Pauley. “[Then] a church bought [a piece of property] for us from a really generous family who offered it to us for a very, very low rate.” 

“We are trying to raise $400,000 dollars to start building our own building,” she continued. “It’s really exciting.” 

She’s hopeful the building will be finished during the 2024-2025 school year.  

“We did not anticipate growing as quickly as we did,” Pauley added. “We were planning to be in the high school by year 5, and we were in the high school by year 2.” 

And Pauley hopes CLC continues to grow. She told The Lion their future endeavors could include after school programs for elementary students, summer programs, or even facilitating dual enrollment options.

A neighboring school district even says its school culture changed when a Christian Learning Center came in.

“And that’s what we’re hoping happens in our community as well,” Pauley said. “We know that the gospel changes things. Our hope is that students carry their faith with them and become better students and better friends … and the fruits of the Spirit are evident in their lives when they go back into the school system.”