Lancaster nonprofit seeks statewide growth

Bible-study group adopts franchise model

A volunteer for Bible2School engages with fourth grade students. - (Photo / Submitted)

A Christian nonprofit that provides Bible instruction for public school students in Lancaster County wants to expand its business model to school districts elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

But it instead of running its programs in other areas, it is hoping to find local organizers who would operate on the nonprofit version of a franchise model.

Leaders of Bible2School, which was founded in the Manheim Central School District in 1979, have developed a model program that others interested in starting a similar ministry can follow in their areas.

They have developed a model that can be duplicated anywhere, the officials said, in which qualified organizations can buy a membership and use Bible2School’s curriculum. The cost is $499 per year.

“We can teach you how to do it yourself,” said Bible2School’s executive director, Kori Pennypacker of Lititz.

This past year, roughly 600 second-, third-, and fourth-graders took part in Bible2School’s weekly classes, held from late September through April during the students’ lunch and recess time.

A key to the program’s success, Pennypacker and others with Bible2School say, is that kids who already attend Bible2School invite classmates to come. More than half of Bible2School students have not attended church in the past, according to program leaders.

“We recognize there’s no way that our Bible2School program team, who work out of our homes and have the curriculum, crafts and audio-visual tools in our (vehicle) trunks, can serve kids in Pittsburgh or Bethlehem,” Pennypacker said. “So we’ll give people in those communities the program.”

Bible2School receives support from individuals, businesses and church donations, plus a small amount from grants and foundations, Pennypacker said. It has a $450,000 budget and 12 employees on staff, most of them part-time.

Bible2School provides an hour of free Bible instruction per week, off-site, to public school students. Laws require that parents give permission, that classes be held off school property and that no taxpayer funds are used.

For its partners outside Lancaster, Bible2School will offer copyrighted curriculum, a system for getting and training volunteers and completing other aspects of its program, plus consulting services to those hoping to organize a similar series of classes elsewhere.

“We want to play a supportive role” and set them up for success, Pennypacker said in an interview with the Business Journal.

“There just seems to be a real need,” she continued. “Kids today don’t hear about the Bible. They don’t hear about things like David and Goliath and Noah’s Ark, so we come and give them this information, then we tie it together with morals and Biblical values and purpose for their life.”

While attendance at religious services is generally on the decline in the U.S., kids remain as curious as ever and ask questions about God and where they come from, experts say.

Pennypacker added, “Kids want to know three things – where did I come from, what’s my purpose, and what happens after I die? And the Bible answers those questions.”

Bible2School operates in five Lancaster County school districts. In addition to Manheim Central, they are Conestoga Valley, Elizabethtown Area, Manheim Township and the School District of Lancaster.

Bible2School development representative Doug Hall, a former community banking official in Central Pennsylvania, said there are some similarities between the nonprofit’s plans and a business that offers franchises.

“It’s the same case of, ‘We’ve developed a scalable model, so let’s go repeat it over in that town, but with other people.’ We’re just providing the curriculum and the procedures” and letting them run with it, Hall said.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com.

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