Dennis Township eighth-grader Chloe Selover doesn’t check her faith at the middle school doors.
Selover is one of about two dozen students who meet each week before school as part of the Dennis Township Bible Club for fun and fellowship — and the donuts aren’t bad, either.
“I go to church each Sunday, and I thought this was a way to expand my faith,” she said. “It’s fun, too.”
The club was started eight years ago when then seventh-grader Evan Reef transferred to the Dennis Township School District from Cape Christian Academy. Shortly after he arrived, he and his friend Marti Hammell decided they wanted an outlet for their faith.
Dennis Township schools require a club to have a parent sponsor, a faculty sponsor and a student sponsor — and between the two students, those were easy to find. Evan’s parents, Amy and Scott, volunteered as parents, while Marti’s dad, middle school gym teacher Lance Hammell, volunteered as well. The teens served as the first student sponsors.
The group meets Thursday mornings at about 7:15 a.m., shortly before the start of the school day. The club is forbidden from meeting during school hours, but it is otherwise able to operate largely as it pleases.
Each meeting starts with a 15-minute recreational activity led by Hammell, followed by a brief Bible lesson and prayer. This lesson is taught by a guest, who is usually a member of the local religious community or a former member of the club.
They don’t delve too far into the intricacies of Scripture, instead focusing on the simple, universal lessons of the Bible, such as loving your neighbor and loving oneself as God does. Often, lessons focus on typical teen and pre-teen issues such as bullying and fighting among friends.
“We’re trying to touch where they are in their life,” Amy Reef said. “A lot of times they’re dealing with just their relationship issues between friends. We have four kids of our own; I know what the junior high years are like.”
Thursday’s lesson was taught by former club member Mike Krieg, who graduated from Cape May County Technical High School in 2012. Krieg joined the program in its second year while in eighth grade. He first spoke two years ago while a senior and has come back each year since.
Krieg focused his lesson on the Parable of the Talents, in which Jesus tells the story of a master of a household who entrusted money in a currency called “talents” to three servants as he embarked on a trip. Two of the servants invested the money in his absence and saw their share increase. The third hid his in the ground. Upon the master’s return, he praised the first two servants and scolded the third.
Krieg related the story to the modern meaning of the word “talent,” encouraging the kids to persevere past fear of failure and pursue their interests.
“You can’t give them something too heavy,” he said. “I’m hoping somebody would feel like, ‘Hey, maybe I can try sports, Maybe I should work on my art.”
While many of their peers might scoff at waking up any earlier than they have to, the members of the Dennis Township Bible Club do it willingly.
At the end of every school year, the advisers ask the students whether they’d like the club to come back the next year — and they always do.
“They want to keep it going,” she said. “It’s a student-driven club. We’re here because they want to be involved in this club.”
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