What is the history of Released-Time?
However, it was not until Dr. William Wirt, an innovative educator and superintendent of the Gary, Indiana schools established a program in 1914 in which 619 students participated in off-campus religious education. Dr. Wirt believed that the church, home, playground, library, and school were all components in a child’s education. The public school, however, had and still has no responsibility for teachers, curriculum, conduct, or achievement within the Released-Time classes.
Released-Time grew and flourished. In 1922, for example, Released-Time programs were active in 23 states. 40,000 students from 200 school districts were participating. By 1932, thirty states had active Released-Time programs in 400 communities with an enrollment of 250,000 students. Ten years later, in 1942, participation reached 1.5 million students in 46 states. Released-Time peaked in 1947 with 2 million students enrolled in 2,200 communities. During this time, favorable Released-Time legislation was adopted by 12 states.
Currently, it is estimated that between all the ministries operating Released-Time, there are over 1,000 programs involving over 250,000 students in kindergarten through high school.
In the past, most Released-Time workers were allowed to teach in the schools during school hours. They went class to class teaching their Bible lessons, encouraging Bible memorization, and giving out awards. Teachers assisted in this process by listening to verses during the month and reported back to the Released-Time missionary. During the 60s-70s, they were forced out of the schools and after this time of difficult transition, changes were made to Released-Time. Now, Released-Time meets off-site, either at a nearby church or meeting place.