It is an opportunity that Le Mars resident Lindy Dohman cannot pass up. In fact, it’s more than an opportunity — it’s a calling.
Dohman will serve as the program director for LifeWise Academy in Le Mars. LifeWise is a Released Time Religious Instruction program. It uses the Gospel Project curriculum and is a five-year program that goes through the entire Bible. It brands itself as “Bible Education for public school students.”
In 1952 it became federal law that kids could attend Released Time Religious Instruction programs so long as three conditions are met, Dohman said. Those conditions are:
*It has to be off school property;
*It has to be privately funded;
*It has to have parental permission.
LifeWise started in Ohio a handful of years ago. As it has grown in popularity, it is now offered as an elective. The program is approved to serve 125 schools this year in five states — Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Iowa.
In addition to Le Mars, there is a LifeWise program in Boyden-Hull. A third Iowa program is in the works as well.
According to Dohman, the big LifeWise event of the year will be held in Sioux City, signaling “quite a bit of interest” in Iowa.
“They only pick one area every year to do that,” Dohman said. “So they must feel this area is a good area to expand in.”
First-grade students at Kluckhohn Elementary in Le Mars will be able to participate in LifeWise once a week, for 45 minutes, to learn about Christianity.
The program is not endorsed by the school but is a partnership of sorts. Similar to how the school would hand out permission slips for the YMCA, it will do the same for LifeWise.
The Le Mars group will meet at Rejoice Church. The school is giving them 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoons.
A group of churches has volunteered use of their vans to use for transportation. Churches have also helped by doing presentations to their congregations, handing out pledge cards, distributing bulletin inserts and aiding in the search for volunteers.
A teacher by trade, Dohman said while living and teaching in Minnesota, that school had a Released Time Religious Instruction program. When she moved to Iowa, she realized that option didn’t exist.
“I was kind of surprised there was nothing here for it,” she said.
She heard about LifeWise in February. At the time Dohman had been praying for direction on what her role would be now that her children are in school full-time.
“This fits perfectly,” she said. “My faith is very important to me and I really believe there is a need for reaching young souls for Christ. So this is perfect. It’s still something that partners with the school, but it is teaching the kids about the most important thing — God.”
The program is free for families. The Le Mars group is working on fundraising for the program as well as finding volunteers, who will have to pass a background check.
Dohman is hoping to see at least 20 kids participate in the first year.
“I’d love to see more,” she said. “It’s hard because it’s a brand new program and people are always leery of new things. If people just see the value in it and get behind it they’ll be surprised what impact it can have.”
The program in Le Mars is slated to start in late October. Dohman is hopeful there will be enough community support, volunteers and funding that the program can expand as early as January — either into other buildings or other grades within Kluckhohn.
“I love teaching kids and teaching them about God and I just see the way that our world is and how little faith plays a role in many people’s lives nowadays and how important it is to establish things at a young age,” she said.
Not only will this year be special because the program is just beginning, but one of her own children will be participating.
“I get to see how much they take in going to church and learn and how much they can grasp things when they’re young,” she said. “I feel like the more we can get them grounded in Scripture at a young age, the more likely they’ll stay on that path.”
She pointed to a statement from one of the founders of LifeWise, noting one of the greatest missed opportunities by the church is not getting involved with such a program.
“Can you think of anything more important than teaching young kids the Word of God,” she asked. “And we have an opportunity to be able to do that.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Le Mars LifeWise Academy, visit this link. You can sign up to donate, register a first-grade Kluckhohn or homeschool student and submit your volunteer registration.
For more information about the program in general, go here.